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Roger Merrill interns with the Community Library of Jamesville & Dewitt

Succeeding at a Library Internship: Finding Value and Practicing Ideals

Well, I’d like to think I’m progressing at a pretty good rate on the learning curve. I actually feel like I’m more of a help and less an interruption.

While you may be able to learn a lot in four or five weeks on a job, it takes time to feel and be productive. Then you realize that you’ve only scratched the surface of what might be expected of you in library services.

One of my goals has been to do a little more than expected. The goal in doing so is not to try and show off, but to demonstrate how much I appreciate the opportunity.

Being of Value in the Library

The steepest learning curve was learning to navigate one of the core applications used in Library Services. This application is the primary interface to a host of services. One issue was the non-descript interface; one would think it was an application from the early 1980s.

You have to remember the meaning behind each different colored button and little grainy graphic icon. With enough time spent with the application, you can  eventually overcome many of those issues. But I think productivity could increase with a more modern user interface.

That aside, once the tools and processes were understood, the greatest reward and value was to be of actual service to those needing assistance. That comes in various forms.

Sometimes you can immediately see the value of your service at the front desk, whether you’re face-to-face or on the phone with specific requests. Other times it’s out among the stacks during an impromptu interaction.

Most often, however, it is behind the scenes: managing the various resources coming in, items being put on reserve, or shelving and shipping items to make them available for the next patron’s search or request.

Behind the Scenes of the Library

There’s a general impression that libraries are just that quiet space where life slows down, were you can come browse a collection or perhaps do some a little research using a computer. Or, maybe catch an occasional program of interest, meet friends or participate in a meeting.

Multiply those interactions by the size of the community and you realize there is a lot going on behind the scenes just to maintain those services.

The other side of the coin exhibits a place that needs to run like a well-oiled machine, always humming. Each person, most with multiple responsibilities, working together and hitting on each cylinder. An absence, for whatever reason, is noticed.

It’s a good balance of the right people, working hard, following practices and policies, producing, creating, managing and organizing all to make a wide variety of resources, programs and community services available to its area of influence.

Ideals vs. Practice in the Library

Most recently I’ve been reviewing one of our texts from IST511 – Introduction to Library and Information Profession, The Atlas of New Librarianship by R.David Lankes, now an open text available here: https://davidlankes.org/new-librarianship/the-atlas-of-new-librarianship-online/.

This course and text was one of the reasons I continued on with study in Librarianship. In its own provocative way, it challenged the notion of traditional (and even some contemporary) thoughts on libraries and librarian services. It challenges us to keep eyes and ears open to the changes around us, evaluate those changes and allow our service to change as well.

I bring this up because it is interesting to witness the intersection of topics and theory brought out in class and the real world application of those same subjects in practice. As one might imagine, there are differences between the ideals and the practice. I believe a healthy relationship between continuous learning, exploring and the experience gained on the way, is a good model for success.

Roger Merrill

Roger Merrill

Roger Merrill is a long term SU member, staff and student. He has been the IT Director and now Assistant Dean for Technology and Facilities here at the iSchool. If not at his desk in the office he is likely in the classroom. If not on campus he is home tending his sheep, making hay, building something or scouting the forest.

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