My experience with Michigan Library Scholars Internship program was one of professional growth, acquiring knowledge, and refining critical thinking skills. From May until the end of July, I worked on creating and promoting my project: a library research guide for the international performing arts. The main goal of my project was to create a library guide that compiled introductory resources from seven major regions of the world, minus the West. The objective was not only to facilitate research processes, but to increase intercultural awareness and encourage engagement with the arts by bringing a spotlight to performing art resources.
An internship is truly a place to refine and acquire new skills. During the first part of my internship, I collected resources to populate the guide and interviewed U of M’s subject librarians for direction in my research. The process of selecting material lead me to discover more efficient ways to find material, like how to effectively use Boolean operators and subject headings, and how to conduct an interview.
As a second year college student, I’m used to being constantly interviewed. Flipping that dynamic and being on the other side of the conversation showed me that interviewing can be just as challenging as being interviewed. Through workshops, practice, and observing my mentor, I picked up on how to facilitate and direct a conversation to gather information. Both the research process and conducting interviews showed me how to navigate a library and its resources, but also how to interact with experts and the importance of reaching out to others for advice.
Selecting resources was sometimes a challenge because I came up with several objectives to assess the quality and relevance of each one. I decided to collect a variety of databases, journals, online resources, text, and audiovisual materials from the U-M library, along with some web resources. I tried to include as many newer resources as possible for recency, as well as resources made by non-western scholars, organizations, and universities to remove Western biases. The performing arts are multi-sensory, so many of the online resources and some of the databases contained images, video, or sound recordings to capture as many aspects of the arts as possible. I also added Spotify playlists for each region for an interactive, audio element.
During the next stage of my internship, I designed the first draft of the guide and chose how to organize its content. In the end, I decided on sorting the resources into two major tabs: “Global” and “Regional.” The Regional tab was then subdivided into seven major world regions, with each region’s resources then divided by format. From a student perspective, this felt like the most logical method, since it starts broad and then narrows down to the type of resource.
One skill I developed during this stage was web design and how to create content for the web. Ideas like 'ease of use' and 'accessibility' came up frequently, so I incorporated features into the guide to make it as compatible with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 as possible. For example, I created buttons in the shape of each region that direct to that region’s resource tab, which taught me some HTML and about optimal color contrasts while also providing more than one way to access a region’s resources.
After completing the first draft of the guide came editing and more editing. I looked over the guide every day, fixing grammatical errors, reviewing the resources, and including more in lacking areas. I also sought and received critique from multiple librarians. The process of refining the guide was extensive and, surprisingly, almost took longer than creating the first draft of the guide. It was, however, useful to take the time to look over my work and make it as usable, accurate, and effective as possible.
Being in a professional, academic environment also contributed to my development as a young professional. As a student who mainly works food and customer service jobs, working on building something to help others was a completely new experience. My internship required that I send numerous e-mails, so I quickly learned professional e-mail etiquette and proper language usage.
While working on this project, I had the opportunity to work during the weekdays in the Music Library, interact with other librarians, tour many part of the library’s facilities, and learn about the variety of services offered. These experiences expanded my narrow definition of what constitutes a librarian’s job, showing me it’s service-orientated and project-based nature. Rather than being a house for books, the library also has many progressive technological efforts, like the Digital Preservation Unit and Book Repair unit. Working in an academic library showed me the breadth of librarianship and the many disciplines it encompasses, like communications, information science, and history.
As a learning experience, my internship definitely introduced me to new skills and ways of thinking. Learning how to research efficiently, how to create content for the web, and working in a professional space informed different aspects of my work as an International Studies and Communications student. The critical-thinking, research, and professionals skills I gained are versatile and I’m looking forward to putting it to further use during my next steps forward as a student and as a young professional.
Check out my final project!