Further Questions: Do You Use Interns/Volunteers?

This week’s question came via TUMBLR.  I’m not very good at Tumblr, but I do it anyways! You can follow Hiring Librarians on it here, and you can also follow me/my other blog here.

Does your library use interns or volunteers?  What tasks do they do?  How are volunteers and interns chosen?  What qualities are you looking for in potential volunteers/interns?

As a commercial enterprise, of course we do not have volunteers.

We have had interns from time to time who wish to gain experience in cataloguing.  

We expect a knowledge of current rules, MARC21, and data entry skills.

– J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging 

Laurie PhillipsWe haven’t very often, but that’s not to say we wouldn’t. We don’t really use volunteers (with one notable exception) but we do get students doing placements for library school. We have a lot of students coming to observe at our Learning Commons desk. When we have students inquire about internships or placements, we usually get very vague information that someone wants to do a placement or internship. It’s more helpful if the person tells us their interests and skills, then we can determine if we have work for them. We would be interested in someone who is willing to take on a project or learn new skills, pitch in right away with what needs to be done.

– Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans 

Our library accepts practicum students and since we have a library school on campus, we also hire quite a few graduate assistants.

The time of the practicum student is fairly limited so they are usually project based. Since I work in public services, I once used a practicum student to try out some online reference service hours that we weren’t sure if we wanted to start assigning paid staff too. I also gave the student some collection development projects to do in between assisting online patrons. If the practicum student were in technical services they might have an inventory project or a short cataloging project. Practicum students are interviewed and selected just like any other paid staff. Library experience is great, but not required. I would be looking for someone with customer service experience given my area but also someone with a clear idea of what they hope to accomplish during their practicum and what their plans are post-practicum for their career.

Our Graduate Library Assistants are paid and are on a 9 month contract. Ours mostly work the reference desk, give library tours, help with library instruction, collection development, and research projects. Other Graduate Library Assistants in the library may be working on metadata, responsible for copy cataloging or assisting with interlibrary loan. Again, library experience is a plus, but not required. Candidates must have customer service experience and be able to articulate why they are pursuing their MLS and why they want the position they are applying for.

– Julie Leuzinger, Department Head, Eagle Commons Library, University of North Texas Libraries

Marleah AugustineWe have a couple of long-term volunteers in the Adult Department. They have both been volunteering here for several years. One comes in weekly on Monday afternoons and re-shelves nonprint media to help out the front desk staff. Another comes in daily in the mornings and does the running inventory process throughout the library.

In the YA and Children’s Departments, volunteers come through on more of a rotating basis and do tutoring and homework help or Foster Grandparent-type activities with young patrons.

We have an active Friends of the Library group that runs periodic book sales and has a permanent used book store located within the library. When people express interest in volunteering, we direct them to Friends, who can often put them to work doing cashier work in the book store or helping organize donated items for sales.
– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library
At our academic library we don’t generally use volunteers.  We might run into union problems if we used volunteers to do tasks that union members normally do; I know that has happened at some libraries.  We do have interns and practicum students.  They are usually students at library schools.  The practicum students work through an organized program at their library school and earn credit.  Interns usually work through more informal (and unpaid) arrangements.  The library itself doesn’t have an organized program for these students; each department can arrange them to suit their needs.  I currently have one practicum student in my department, who is the first we have ever had.  I try to assign tasks that give the student a picture of what the department does as a whole, as well as incorporating tours and meetings with various people.  While I don’t expect someone who is only here for 10 hours a week for a semester to jump into librarian-level work, I don’t just give him the tasks our student employees do.  There are stated goals and objectives for his practicum experience that I helped to write, and we focus on these.In a previous job, we had two undergraduate student employees who were interested in library work.  We were able to create special paid internships for them one summer, where they did higher-level work in various library departments.  We also took them on several field trips and tours.  Both went on to become librarians.

In these students, I am looking for enthusiasm, curiousity, and interest/classwork in whatever specialized area they will be working in (reference, cataloging, digital projects, etc.)  Of course, I also want some qualities I would like in any employee: organizational skills, capability with technology, and showing up for work.


Thank you as always to the above for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email me at hiringlibrariansATgmail.com.

And thank you for reading!  Ten thousand people stand to sing on the miry comment.


Filed under Academic, Further Questions, Other Organization or Library Type, Public

4 responses to “Further Questions: Do You Use Interns/Volunteers?

  1. The topic of the use of interns, in Irish libraries, is one which has exercised a bit of interest on Twitter recently. It is a topic which is mainly of interest to recent MLIS graduates as Internships / Job Bridge programs are the only library positions which are really being advertised in Ireland at present. Well, the only entry level positions being offered. For this reason I like this post – it gives the perspective of the hirers. Thanks.


  2. Pingback: Further Questions Questions | Hiring Librarians

  3. Pingback: Return to Further Questions Questions | Hiring Librarians

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