Internship Aha! Moment: Librarians Are Teachers

Since I started librarianship school a year and a half ago, I’ve been sharing personal thoughts about my experience here on Information Space. In January I kicked off my last semester in the M.S. Library and Information Science (MLIS) program at Syracuse University. Over the past four semesters I’ve learned, as they say, a lot and I’m ready for some personal reflection as I focus my attention on an internship and my looming job search.

Throughout January, February, and March, I’m immersing myself in an internship at the Learning Commons at SU Library. I’m opening my mind up to as many aha! moments as possible, and I’ll be sharing some here over the next few weeks.

A Note about Internships
All MLIS students at the iSchool at SU are required to complete a 3-credit internship. I’m about to graduate this May, and my internship  is my very last requirement. Classes are done. Just 150 hours of librarianship work separates me from that golden ticket to Librarian with a capital L, that ALA-accredited diploma.

My Internship Setup
Let me tell you a little bit about my internship.

I’m working with the Learning Commons (LC) librarians at Bird Library on SU’s campus. The LC is a space on the first couple of floors of the main campus library aimed at providing research and other academic support to SU undergraduate students. I’m working closely with the LC librarians to experience two important areas of LC librarianship, reference and research assistance, and information literacy instruction.

Aha!
Going into my internship, I had no idea what it was like to be a librarian in a college or university library (my undergrad music library work-study notwithstanding).  Yes, I’m pretty clueless. But I’d rather think of it this way: I’m perfectly positioned to have a whole lot of aha! moments.

The MLIS was a career-change degree for me. Early in my graduate study I perused several academic librarian job ads and noticed most of them required previous academic library work experience. I decided early on that I simply wasn’t qualified for college and university library jobs.

An alumna of my program, a director of a university library, recently told me my teaching background would serve me well in an academic librarianship position. She encouraged me to ignore experience requirements on job ads and be brazen about applying. I have an undergraduate degree in education and work experience as a teacher, and I enjoy academia, so I decided to try an internship in an academic library. I figured it would be a good way for me to learn more whether a career as a university librarian could even be an option.

Learning Commons Librarians Are Teachers
So I started my internship and had a major aha! immediately. It turns out that learning commons librarians are actually teachers. Today, a few weeks into my internship, I can’t believe there was ever a time when I didn’t know that. Since mid-January I’ve met and talked with at least a dozen LC librarians and subject librarians at SU Library, and I’ve discovered they all teach. Teaching is a major part of their daily work. Guiding classes of undergrads through literature reviews, answering email questions about style guides, helping students find peer-reviewed articles—it’s all teaching. Librarians are information literacy teachers.

More To Come
I’ve got a lot to learn about the role of academic libraries on campuses and how learning commons and librarians fit into a university community. In the coming weeks I will even get a chance to teach information literacy, myself. As I learn, I’ll be sharing more aha! moments here.

Are you a MLIS student who’s done an internship in an academic library? Are you an academic librarian who’s mentored interns? What were your aha! moments from that experience? Share in the comments below!

Note: This post was originally published on February 8, 2013 on Information Space, the official blog of Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies.

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