Access Services with a Twist


Even though my love of being in the library has not manifested in a career path in that field, this internship served as an opportunity for me to re-explore my infatuation with the place hosting endless shelves of books. But what these past 3 months have taught me is that libraries are so much more than just books, and this internship surpassed just a spot on my resume-and this learning happened in some strange circumstances.


This revelation came about from researching the library under the tutelage of access services, an umbrella term for “those functions in a library which enable the use of the collections, reserves (both “holds” in a public library and course reserves in an academic library), and shelving of materials” as defined by the ALA. 


While access services retained its role as the center of our project, our internship had to change course in light of COVID-19 and its many strange implications. The original plan of this project was to create a short video using real footage of the library with aspects of surveying students to gage what library jargon obstructs them from fully employing the library’s resources. However, since Tess, my partner, and I had to keep things wholly remote, we decided on an animated video that focused on clarifying and explaining how to utilize library resources and services. 


To preface, my dad is artistic, but the apple fell very far from the tree with me.  While starting, I was inundated with nerves because I had never worked on Adobe Animate and lacked artistic vision- I avoided art classes like they were the plague. Learning Animate, an entirely new software and interface, was overwhelming and frustrating, to say the least. It required hours of youtube tutorials and trial and error to yield anything passable. Despite all this, I remain adamant that it is always good to try new things- an age-old adage. While I am still nowhere near an expert in animation, I can reminisce about the fact that I took on something I never thought I would be able to do and turned it into something I am proud of. This experience reinforced that lack of experience shouldn’t hinder one from learning new skills, that practice and hard work is enough reason to try. Virtual work was another new experience for me and for this internship as well. Given the nature of my project, we faced an onslaught of challenges. Normally, when working on a visual, being able to physically cultivate it together is incredibly important. Yet, while separated by a pandemic, this was not an option for us. To compensate, we scheduled more meetings where we would, in detail, plan out graphics together. We animated according to our storyboard, following a basic foundation of our script. While this was difficult, it was not impossible. Through a great deal of screen sharing, thorough communication, and compromise (to reconcile different working styles), we were able to surmount the challenge and create a video together.

Remote work was far from being the only challenge we faced. Both of us had no experience with Adobe Animate or collaboration on Adobe Creative Cloud. We went through weeks replete with frustration: when our work would inexplicably get deleted, when we could not open files, and when we could not see each other's updates made on the file. Tess and I also have contrasting work styles, in which Tess is more detail-oriented and I work based on the big picture. There was a lack of specific parameters for this internship; we were given a lot of flexibility, but this made it difficult to focus and stay on track since we didn’t have any specific timelines or goals to follow. Then came in the need for problem-solving. All of these issues culminating in the first few weeks made our lives stressful, to say the least. Yet, with brainstorming and exhausting multiple approaches, we resolved our issues with Adobe by uploading our files to a shared google drive every time we worked on Animate. We felt that setting more meetings and keeping up with communication were the most effective tools in reconciling our different visions and emulating structure in our work. This allowed us to ensure we were on the same page, to set goals for each meeting, and to build a better work relationship and trust. Virtual work has its advantages and disadvantages, but it’s important to adapt because the world changes, and pandemics disrupt your internships- like it or not.

Besides problem-solving, accessibility was at the crux of this project. After attending one of the workshops (virtually) about this concept, I was able to learn not only about the importance of accessibility but also how it is implemented in various mediums. For this video, my partner and I wanted to ensure that this video would be helpful to as many people as possible. It was pertinent to us that the video could be understood sans the audio or subtitles for those hard of hearing, so we designed clear visual depictions of the script. From an international standpoint, we produced this video in five languages: English, Chinese, Spanish, Korean, and Hindi. Since it may be expected that libraries in other countries operate very differently, we felt that this video would resonate well with international students, who may feel obstructed by cultural barriers from fully using the libraries and understanding its role on campus. Based on research tailored to gaging what languages might be most prevalent on campus, we found that the respective countries of those dialects were most represented by international students' origins. Accessibility was what drove us to bridge gaps between people of different abilities, demographics, and levels of understanding.

This internship definitely was not what I was expecting when I applied in February. However, this did not hinder my learning and growth. I was given the opportunity to adjust to a virtual work setting in a supportive environment. I broadened the scope of my abilities by using new software and taking on a new project. I learned about the importance of accessibility and how to incorporate that into this project. Importantly, I became educated on the breadth of services and resources available at the library. With this video, my hope is that every student is rendered with a better understanding of the University libraries and a willingness to explore the academic, creative, and personal opportunities one can discover there.

Here is a link to the video if you would like to watch: