Why Plan for an Internship?

iStudent Blog

NOTE: This blog post was written by Julia Chambers, a SLIS student and treasurer for the school’s ALA Student Chapter.

I know you’re just getting your feet wet in one of our school’s graduate programs, but I wanted to put in a plug for internships now because I just finished my first one and had such a great experience.

This past semester, I interned at a K-8 middle school library in San Francisco. In the process, I co-designed a new, Dewey-free classification system. I also developed lesson plans and taught a media literacy class.

The internship gave me some pretty impressive experience in catalog development/design and information literacy instruction. More importantly, the internship confirmed my goal of working in a school library. I’m so glad I did it! So are many other SLIS students who have completed internships. You can read about some of them in our Community Profiles.

Incidentally, our school’s ASIS&T Student Chapter sponsored a webinar in which recent alum Anthony Andora talks about virtual internships. Andora served as a student assistant to Dr. Patricia Franks, virtual internship faculty coordinator. Virtual internships typically offer flexible work schedules, which are a great option for students with fixed work schedules or other responsibilities. Virtual internships are also great for students who live in areas that don’t have site-based internships that fit your career aspirations. You can listen to the recorded session for inspiration (forward the recording 18 minutes to get to the punch).

Another SLIS alum, Christy Aguirre, currently serves as an internship site supervisor at the Sacramento Public Library Southgate Branch. According to Aguirre, “Internships are so important during graduate school. Do two internships if you can! Understanding the library environment is crucial in determining whether or not [the setting] is a good fit for an individual. Students needs concrete examples to shine in job interviews.”

I also recommend internships because they can give you a hands-on sense of whether or not a career area is a natural fit for you. For example, I was heading full-force toward working in a public library setting until I began volunteering at a local public library. Within a month, I realized the fit wasn’t right and that working with youth in a different setting was ultimately a better choice for my skillset and ambitions.

Of course, my volunteer work was not an internship for credit, which offers more targeted learning outcomes than a volunteer gig. During for-credit internships, the site supervisor helps you meet your pre-specified learning objectives, and you’ll have SLIS faculty support as well. Many site supervisors have lots of experience mentoring SLIS interns, and they are committed to offering challenging projects that give students hands-on professional learning experiences that will serve to bolster their e-Portfolio and resumes.

Finally, I know internships may not be at the top of your priority list right now, as you get ready to dig into your first SLIS courses. However, if you are an MLIS student with some spare time, you can browse the school’s extensive list of opportunities found in our Internship Database. Browsing the database can give you a sense of the wide range of settings where SLIS interns work, as well as the types of projects they complete while interns.

I wish you well on your learning journey at SLIS, and encourage you to consider an internship.