Business Law

Gearing Up for Your Clever Internship Experience

Or, What You Need to Know About SLA NY's Internship Program
Kaura Gale | Student Internships Chair | | Internships Blog

Our members sometimes forget the benefits to be gained from internships. There are important aspects to be reviewed long before considering one. The problem rests in the best way to emphasize these hidden benefits to the prospective interns and intern hosts. Like New York Times technology reviewer David Pogue writes in his review of the iPad, “no single write-up can serve both readerships adequately.” What is the solution? “Write separate reviews for these two audiences,” in this case the employer and the student.

Let’s start with those who haven’t yet hosted interns, but should (also a good refresher for those who have hosted interns, and should again)

You’re the harried librarian pushed and pulled in at least 18 directions every day. Or maybe you’re the lucky one among us who has time to concentrate on individual projects, but could still use some help or a certain expertise. Whichever you are, or even if you’re somewhere in between, an intern is for you. As interns tend to work for free, or are at least low-cost, you get added value for your time and/or money. Yes, you need to invest some of your time finding one.

As a concrete example, I’m a hospital librarian, and our surgery department has its own small collection that is in a different location than the main library. I don’t have time to look after it to the extent I’d like. So, I invested some of my time in an intern for that specific smaller collection and oversaw her work with collection development, weeding and cataloging, among other things. It was really rewarding to not only help a student learner, but to watch her learn and grow. And the surgery department was very thankful; I was able to make a big impact with less time and effort than performing the tasks myself, at no cost.

SLA NY’s internships blog is available to help you acquire an intern. I suggest you contact me to advertise an internship or practicum a month or so before the beginning of each semester, summer included. Please include specifics such as company name, location and a short description of your company and its background. Include what days and hours you desire, and whether or not there is flexibility or telecommuting available. Keep in mind that a lot of MLS students work full-time and are attracted to hours other than normal business hours. A straight-forward description of the work you expect will help you attract the right person for the position. Again, I’m here to help -, 212.420.2855.

Now let’s talk about why you, the MLS student, should really consider an internship or practicum

An internship is a chance for you to get real world professional experience and skills while you’re still in school. This is really useful if you are changing professions or want to gain professional experience to augment your resume for a variety of reasons. Maybe you already have a lot of cataloging experience but want a position in reference, or if this is a career change, you need library experience; an internship is a way to get it. The tasks you perform should ground your theoretical school work in real life experience, translating into a stronger resume and giving you a leg-up on the competition. By the time you finish your internship you will have demonstrated interest and experience in the tasks you’ve completed. A practicum is the same idea, is overseen by your MLS program, earns you school credit and will appear on your transcript.

You may not relish the idea of little or no pay, and that is why you need to work hard to get the most out of your internship. If you’re in a MLS program, you probably already have a good idea of your career goals, so take a long, hard look at your resume. Is it in line with your career goals? Identify the gaps and use an internship or practicum to fill or strengthen them. Let’s go back to the examples I gave earlier - you have cataloging experience but aim to transition to reference, or need to get experience in a library or information center environment. Great! Now think about the setting you’d like to perform in; academic, business, medical, etc. and specifically target your internship environment to match your career goals. Research which libraries may be a good fit for you and get in touch with them. Give them a clear idea of how you can benefit them in exchange for their time and effort in overseeing your work. You’ll also want to listen to what they need; maybe they’ll give you time at the reference desk in exchange for your cataloging. And don’t forget, as exciting as it is to put your newly acquired library knowledge to work, you’ll probably still be asked to do some clerical work. Comes with the territory.

Make the most of your time at your internship. Be clear when setting your goals and structuring the internship. If you’re doing this as a practicum, know what your school requires of you and of your host, and clearly communicate those requirements to your host. You’re not just gaining experience, you’re networking with your future colleagues. Use your time there to learn as much as possible, and be sure you’re getting adequate feedback and mentoring. Document what you’ve done, both so your host knows the details of how you performed tasks or how far along a project is, and so you have a clear recollection of your work should you needs specifics later.

I’m here to help. Check out SLA NY’s Internships blog A RSS feed is available. Or, feel free to contact me directly at or 212.420.2855.

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