Reaching out to Undergraduates: Recruitment Via Internship: As Interns, Undergraduate Students Can Cultivate a Career in Library and Information Science and Technology

By Smith, Sara D. | American Libraries, September 2010 | Go to article overview

Reaching out to Undergraduates: Recruitment Via Internship: As Interns, Undergraduate Students Can Cultivate a Career in Library and Information Science and Technology


Smith, Sara D., American Libraries


Most students don't know much about library science, but an internship working in the library helps them catch a glimpse of what librarianship is all about.

When Noelle Rader, a junior at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah, applied for a student job in the library's music and dance department, she was mostly looking to earn some money to pay rent and tuition. And as a music major and violist, she was also interested in working with the library's viola collection. But as she worked, her interest extended from music to library science itself and she began to think about pursuing an MLS.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

"I realized that I liked library work a lot, and I wanted to look more into it," Rader said. "I thought my work would just be a job, but it has become a career choice."

Rader asked her supervisors about the possibility of getting a minor in library science, but no such program exists at BYU. As she looked for other ways to learn more about library careers, she discovered and applied to the library's undergraduate internship program. Now, as an intern, she completes directed readings and studies in library science along with her duties at the music and dance reference desk.

BYU's Harold B. Lee Library (HBLL) is giving its undergraduate students an opportunity to get a taste of working in an academic library through semester - long paid internships. And at the same time, HBLL is attracting students to the profession and building its own pool of potential recruits.

Cultivating talent

As the library profession "grays," many academic libraries anticipate staff shortages as older employees retire within the next 10 years. BYU discontinued its master's of library science program in 1993 and, like other universities with no library graduate program, cannot directly recruit from its own students. But BYU is using its library internship program as one way to cultivate a future pool of qualified employees who are dedicated to the university. This program is a good model for other university libraries as they consider reaching out to and recruiting among their own undergraduates.

Although BYU no longer offers a library graduate program, many undergraduates like Rader are still interested in pursuing careers in library science. For several years, students with questions about the library profession were sent to HBLL Human Resource Manager Quinn Galbraith.

"Students were being funneled to me for employment and career questions related to the MLS graduate degree," said Galbraith. "Many students were interested in getting library experience."

Galbraith would discuss library careers and graduate programs with these students but was at a loss when they asked about getting experience. Student jobs in the library were hard to come by; Rader had been lucky to get her position, because the jobs were very popular and usually attracted many qualified applicants, and most supervisors preferred to hire younger students who could work for several semesters. This left many potential MLS students, especially juniors and seniors, without an opportunity for hands - on library experience.

So five years ago, Galbraith applied for and secured a campus grant to fund five 120-hour paid library internships for students interested in careers in library science. When the internships ended, the library administration decided to allocate donation money to helping more potential MLS students.

"The library administration realized the value of building the pool of MLS graduate candidates," said Galbraith. "They felt that the internship was important because, since BYU no longer has a graduate school, they were concerned about whom they would hire down the road to take the place of retiring baby boomers. Who better than BYU students, who are already invested in the university? We'd love to recruit BYU students back."

Since then, more than 50 students have received internships in various departments throughout the library.

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