Wondering what an internship at an academic library is like? There are several different kinds of academic libraries and various positions within those libraries. I interned with the Rutgers art librarian Megan Lotts
during the Spring 2013 semester. There is no official internship program at Rutgers Libraries. I just heard by word-of-mouth (from another librarian, networking is important!) that she was looking for a new intern, so I emailed her, and it took off from there.A little bit of background: The Art Library at Rutgers holds over 90,000 volumes. It supports the research needs of students and faculty in the departments of art history, fine arts, landscape architecture, and other multidisciplinary fields. Megan is an artist and has both a Masters in Library Science and a Masters of Fine Arts. She has a very creative mind and is definitely a mover and shaker in the library world.One of my main responsibilities as an intern was to design library exhibits. In most libraries, there are display cases where we can feature items from the collection or anything that might be interesting and relevant to the campus. For the first one, Megan told me I could do it about whatever I wanted, so I picked one of my favorite artists, Francisco Goya. This involved researching, looking through books on Goya in the collection, writing the captions, deciding how to divide up the sections, and cutting out and arranging everything in the cases. I also had some souvenirs from Spain that I used as props.
The second exhibit I did was called Natural Beauty: Art in Math and Science. This was a very time-consuming but fun exhibit to curate. I learned after doing the first exhibit to spend less time on the text since few people actually read it anyway. I did spend a lot of time researching and making props for the exhibit. This involved everything from folding origami to assembling a foam praying mantis to tracking down Hubble telescope pictures. Here’s a picture of one of the cases in this exhibit:
My other main responsibility was to develop the Art Library LibGuide
. This consisted of browsing guides made by librarians at other universities and cherry picking and adding other resources that I found. I put together the pages on Medieval Art, Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Copyright and Images. Although it was intimidating at first, I liked that the things I did in this internship were being used and seen by real patrons, in contrast to my school projects and papers.Megan headed the first annual Rutgers Edible Books Festival. The idea behind Edible Books is to represent the title or content of a book with food in a clever and/or artistic way. Although I did not assist in planning, I submitted an entry and talked extensively with Megan about her motives and methods in producing this event. With 32 submissions and free refreshments, it was well-attended both by participants and passers-by. Many people were pleasantly surprised that the library would host a fun, interactive event like this. Here’s a picture of the winning entry, The Grapes of Wrath (and you can see Game of Scones behind it 🙂
Probably the most useful part of this internship was the opportunity to see what Megan does day-to-day. I watched her teach information literacy classes and help students with art history research. I also got to ask her things you most likely won’t hear in library school, such as: How many research consultations with students do you conduct weekly? Why do you think you outshone other the candidates for your current and past positions? Librarians at Rutgers have tenured faculty status; do colleagues and students treat you as they would a professor or do you feel second-class at times? Why is the tenure process so meticulous and involved? How do you deal with pushy faculty members and people who make unreasonable demands?This internship was a wonderful opportunity to get hands-on experience in the academic library environment. Megan was a great mentor to me, and the things I did and learned as an intern will be beneficial regardless of the kind of library I end up working in. I recommend getting as much experience as you can while in library school so that you will be a more well-rounded job candidate and will have better chances of finding a position that suits your needs and skills upon graduation.~ Roslyn Grandy, SCARLA secretary, 2013-14