• JUser: :_load: Unable to load user with id: 48

WAAL 2008: Diversity and Undergrad Internship Programs

Posted by on Friday, April 18, 2008 in WLA Blog Archive

"ISIP: Diversity and the Information Specialist Internship Program at the UW-Madison"

Why an internship program?

  • Diversify future of the profession
  • Admin support - $$$ - so we can pay the interns
  • Provide variety of work experiences to spark interest

About the ISIP program

  • Work 8-10 hours/week within regular business hours - librarian supervisors are volunteering
  • Initially, thought 4 modules/year - now varying 1 16-week and 2 8-week modules - gives time to recruit both interns and supervisors
  • Breadth and depth - balanced experience
  • How recruit? Partnered with other diversity programs on campus, able to target 2nd-3rd year students - able to get many applicants - also went to student fairs, get it out there in front of students and staff - wanted to get on radar
  • Keisha is one of our 1st interns - very valuable feedback to improve
  • Not necessarily a goal for students to go on to LIS grad school and profession - helping to create more informed citizenry - more library supporters - better research skills

An intern's experience - Keisha

  • Looking for job - saw posting on student job website
  • Previous experience just with being a reader, checking out books at library
  • Great experience, now applying to grad school
  • Have completed 5 modules: life of a book, reference/instruction, special collections, branch library (Art), library technology support, digitization/metadata
  • Life of a book - from purchasing to discarding - good introduction
  • A lot more went into libraries than I thought - didn't know you needed a master's degree - thought librarians just went "ssshhhhhh!" [laughter]
  • Really enjoyed working at Art Library - hands-on Cuban artists' book display with faculty - mentor in art history had passion - I even go to the art museum now!
  • Mentorship - Nola Walker working on PhD at SLIS, met with other masters students at SLIS - what they love and hate - real feel for what goes into it

Running the program

  • Set goals for program - Defined an "information specialist" - beyond librarian
  • Collection management - including analysis to assess what we have and find out what we don't have that we should that interns could help with - gave budget
  • Other institutions - could make specific to your subject areas (ex: nursing)
  • Keep focus on the goals, big picture - here are the tasks, and here's why we do that - beyond training a student to do hourly work which is short-term + intensive
  • 8 week modules are short - need to find appropriate projects and work with them all along
  • 5 new students each year - currently have 5 new and 3 continuing
  • Detailed timeline across 2 years
  • Meet & greet at beginning of each module brings everyone together, interns can re-connect and discuss experiences, see old supervisors
  • Part of their hours include occasional activities - some in conjunction with SLIS
  • Remember: these are undergrads, pulled in many directions, they aren't in grad school
  • Contingency plans: relevant projects to work on day-to-day if supervisors get busy, something is cancelled, etc. - don't show up and find nothing to do
  • Supervisors asked to bring interns along to meetings, social events, etc.

What have we learned?

  • Successes: "Life of a Book" has a narrative with beginning and end
  • Projects that interns can complete and have tangible result they can take pride in
  • Seeing the behind-the-scenes work at meetings
  • Passionate volunteers who love what they do, and love ISIP program
  • Realistic: some of the work you do is boring, but fits into big picture
  • One-on-one meetings between steering committee member and intern - constant checking in, especially during 1st semester, so could change as we go - not necessarily with their current supervisor
  • Small group meetings - like focus groups, one intern's comment would spark others to share
  • Realized that we didn't have interns write anything 1st year - started module summaries - could share with next supervisor so they'd know what they'd already done, to customize (don't have to sit through 5 iterations of same workshop)
  • Needed more supervisor feedback - started supervisor trainings - had them also write module summaries, helpful with recommendation letters in future
  • Want supervisors to benefit from interns' work
  • 20 supervisors + 8 interns + steering committee = communication complex
  • Confusing to talk about both ISIP program and LIS grad school at same time - bring close SLIS ties into 2nd year
  • Marketing - "ISIP" as an acronym, or even spelled out, doesn't clearly communicate to potential interns or supervisors what the program is all about
  • 40 applicants 1st year, fewer 2nd year - why? we did the same things - timing, turnover at diversity programs
  • Requires more focus on why interns might be interested in what you do - that interest isn't necessarily already there
  • Interns becoming library advocates - telling their friends that library/librarians can offer some surprising things
  • 2 of 3 finishing interns from 1st cohort are going on to LIS grad school, 3rd more interested in museum studies
  • Will be hiring a project assistant to help with this program - what can we expect them to do? - has been challenging to have a committee-run program due to communication overlaps and gaps


  • UW-Eau Claire similar paid program in reference.
  • I've been a librarian for 23 years; some of these things we've been trained to do, and others you read about and have to try - way to rethink what you're doing and see if applicable across our "one system, one library" - perhaps a weekend CUWL training? How make scalable? Many supervisors also want to take the modules. 5 interns is a LOT - you could have 1. But cohort is good - 3 minimum? But doubles in 2nd year. Keisha would have still done program if only intern.
  • How get time commitment? Stress it from the beginning. Expand hours with evening/weekend librarians. These tend to be highly-involved students, differently involved from grad students.
  • Library administration seems to be missing? Starting this; one student has requested. Could have work with different directors for a week. What about issues that are of a sensitive nature?
  • 2 interns dropped out after end of 1st semester, another 2 dropped out after end of 2nd semester.
  • Grad students would be very envious of this program - what did SLIS students say to interns? Talked about the school aspect. Makes us think about what we can develop for grad students, and current librarians.
  • Important that this is an ongoing budget line item - not just a short-term project.
Comment disabled by author.