Notes from the (Virtual) Field: LIS Students on Remote Internships
In 2020, remote work reigned supreme. The adaptation to online learning was swift and unavoidable, but what about the on-site internships and fieldwork students had scheduled?
For her Library and Information Science field experience, Hannah Arnow ’21MA, ‘21MS worked with Ceilyn Boyd ’08MS, the Director of Research Data Management at Harvard Library. Her project was to create a centralized inventory for the Harvard University community to remotely identify the Data Service Offerings available across all of Harvard Library.
Like many of us, Arnow did her work remotely — in some cases, this was an advantage: “We are holding focus groups with staff across all 25 libraries included in Harvard Library – in Cambridge as well as across the country and internationally.”
Melissa Jennison ’20MS, ’21MA interned for the Roxbury Community College (RCC) archives, where she helped prepare and upload digital materials to a digital repository. “I also helped build a new website for the archives as well as participated in and led oral history interviews,” says Jennison. “I already had a good idea about what it's like working in academic archives due to previous experience, but this really opened my eyes to the advantages and disadvantages of working online, and that it is still possible — even for an internship.”
Kerri MacLaury ’21MS worked for the Boston Public Library's Teen Central at the Central Library location in Copley Square. “My fieldwork experience is giving me such an in-depth look at teen librarianship and a large library system's approach to delivering spaces and services for teens,” says MacLaury. “I get to have conversations about real-world situations and approaches, and I get to observe what is actually going on in virtual teen spaces and behind the scenes. I have a much better understanding of what it means to be a teen librarian. I have been pleasantly surprised by the level of engagement with BPL staff while doing remote fieldwork.”
For current students looking forward to field placement, Arnow offers this advice: “Volunteer to take notes during meetings. In an online setting, it creates a clearly defined role for you within the team and a format to engage with your colleagues. It also gives you something to do during meetings when you might not otherwise be paying close attention. Over time you will realize that you understand more than you realize and become a more active contributor on the team.”
Jennison says, “If there is somewhere you want to intern while you are in school, don't be afraid to reach out to them. RCC didn't have an internship opening, but I emailed the archivist since I really wanted to intern there, and we worked out an internship for me. And don't be afraid to try an internship online. You will have plenty of support from professors and supervisors, and you can still learn a lot even in the online environment. Online work may also become more common, so it's a great way to learn new online skills.”
For students who have landed an internship, MacLaury offers this advice: “If there is a particular subject or area of interest that you have in librarianship, do not be afraid to design a project focused on it and submit a proposal for it to your internship supervisor. I’m interested in evaluation and proposed a project to evaluate Teen Central's progress toward their three-year strategic plan goals. My supervisor was excited to have the information compiled, and I got to gain experience in an interest area of mine. It was win-win!”