Erin Dorney

Blogging life & librarianship

Posts Tagged ‘grad school

Some Upcoming Projects

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With a more relaxed schedule (I am on winter break until mid-January), I have been able to spend some time planning for the spring semester. Here are some different things I’ll be working on:

  • Three different interviews for my C&RL News Job of a Lifetime column for 2011 – featuring an Outreach Services Librarian, a Research & Development Librarian, and a librarian from ipl2. As soon as the columns are published I will be sure to link to them here. And as always, if you or someone you know has the job of a lifetime, contact me!
  • Over the summer I started working on a collaborative research project and just this week finished the data collection stages with my research partners. We’re doing a content analysis of select academic library websites in order to investigate the unintended messages created by design decisions and use of space. I have had the pleasure of working with a friend (and mentor) and am looking forward to our analysis over the next month. We hope to have some conclusions published in a peer reviewed journal sometime in the future.
  • This summer I will be supervising my first LIS student intern from Rutgers University. Over the past few weeks I have been working with her to put together an internship plan of work (taking into account all of your fabulous comments from my previous post on library internships for undergrads!). It’s a work in progress at the moment, but I’m hoping to give her some projects relating to outreach regarding the renovation (slated to start in fall 2011), information literacy (possibly teaching a few sessions), research assistance (at the help desk) and social media things. She has a background in PR and is a fantastic writer, so I might also try to find communication/design projects as well. I am really looking forward to working with her, and I think I will end up learning a lot as well.
  • I’m going to have another undergraduate intern from Millersville this spring (my third!) so I have been putting together some projects for him as well. He’s going to be shadowing me at the research help desk and in instruction sessions. I think he is also going to work on some writing projects for our Renovation Website (particularly showcasing different issues from an informed student perspective). And informational interviews to learn more about the field of librarianship.
  • Only two creative writing workshops and my thesis project stand between me and my second master’s degree! This spring I am taking a poetry workshop with Kim Bridgford (who has also kindly agreed to be my thesis committee advisor). I am beyond excited to work with her in the coming months. Our required texts include Archaic Smile: Poems by A. E. Stallings, Murano by Mark Doty, Playing At Stillness by Rhina P. Espaillat and Thomas and Beulah by Rita Dove. Have you read any of them?

So what projects do you have planned for the upcoming months?  Also, does anyone have advice for supervising an LIS student intern? I want to make sure this is a valuable and productive experience for everyone.

Written by Erin Dorney

January 3, 2011 at 7:40 PM

Library internships for undergrads?

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CC image courtesy of Leeni! on Flickr


By my junior year of college, I knew that I wanted to continue on to graduate school to earn my MS in Library and Information Science. Because I was pretty set with my degree requirements, I completed two library internships during my senior year (at this time I was also working part time at my undergraduate library). I knew that having experience in multiple libraries would give me a solid background to inform my graduate studies. I was also interested to see if the organizational phenomena I observed within one library was typical of all/other libraries (I have found the answer to be yes, more on that later, perhaps).

I was incredibly lucky to find a mentor* at RIT Libraries who has truly been one of the most influential in my life. I spent my time learning about the importance of marketing in libraries, honing my design skills, learning about the inner workings of an academic library (my work space was within the Director’s Suite), working collaboratively and more. That internship helped me make connections with professional librarians, many of whom I am still in touch with through personal friendships and professional endeavors. My internship at RIT helped me to land a part-time staff position there following my undergraduate graduation, a position I held throughout the two years it took me to earn my MLIS online from Syracuse University. My staff position led to a whole new level of learning, and I was able to participate on faculty/staff committees, take the lead on some projects, complete a graduate-level internship working on a digital collection, and offer my opinions as a student and soon-to-be-librarian. Most importantly, my experiences at RIT continued to motivate me to become a librarian. I wanted to be able to contribute and improve on an institution which had offered me (and so many others) opportunities to live a more creative, fun, and intellectually stimulating life.

If I had not sought out this internship opportunity as an undergrad (which was not a requirement, by the way), I highly doubt that I would have achieved the same level of professional success as I have today. So you can probably imagine my excitement when I was approached by a Millersville University student who was interested in doing the same. During the spring of 2008 (only about six months into my tenure-track position here) I supervised my first Outreach Support Library Intern. Amy was in her senior year and planned to apply to library school right after graduating with her BA in English. She stuck to that plan and will graduate this December from Clarion University. I have tried my hardest to remain a mentor to this new librarian and help her along the way just as my mentors have helped me. We’ll be presenting together at the 2010 PaLA Annual Conference this fall, talk weekly about library-related topics, and share professional development opportunities with each other when we find them.

This fall, I am excited to have another intern. Also in his senior year, Mike is considering graduate school as a post-graduation option. One of the things I’m working on with him is a collaborative research project which we hope to have published in a peer-reviewed journal. I think that having such a publication on his resume will benefit him regardless of what graduate program he might end up pursuing. I also just talked to another student who is interested in doing an internship with me in the spring of 2011 and who says he has been planning to go to library school for a few years now.

All of my interns have been student workers in the library, so they have some extra institutional-history. I have created an internship plan of work for each of them, based on the same ideas. I go over the document with the intern and then we both sign and get a copy. I am really making this up as I go, folks… no one ever taught me how to run an internship. One thing that I think is important is that they shadow me both in instruction sessions and during research consultations at the reference desk. I hope that with enough experience, my interns will eventually be able to step in and teach a portion of the session (run a group activity or something) or answer a question at the desk. Having a little bit of experience in those two areas will a) give them something to base their graduate-level discussions on and b) might be the deciding factor for a job (student, GA, staff, etc) where the other candidate has never worked in a library. I also have them do some informational interviews in order to learn about other librarian positions and start recognizing the importance of networking.

But like I said… I am really making this up as I go, trying to remember what was helpful to me and what knowledge I should give them before they go to graduate school. A few questions for the blogosphere:

  1. There has been a lot of discussion lately on making potential/new LIS graduate students aware of the difficulties of job searching & myths about the graying of the profession. Is this our responsibility? My responsibility as an intern supervisor? The schools’ responsibility (although that seems highly unlikely)? I have tried to be candid with my interns about the job market and outlook… at the same time they’re getting rhetoric from the graduate programs. I am always honest about library-related issues with them, but do I need to actually warn them or attempt to steer them away from the field? It would just be heartbreaking to have to do that to a student who is excited and passionate about getting into librarianship… at the same time, I don’t want them to end up unemployed. What do you think?
  2. Do you have any feedback on my internship plan of work? I am interested in improving it – for my first intern, I just kind of threw it together, because time was an issue. Now that it looks like this might be a more regular occurrence, I want to make this experience as rewarding for the student as possible. Are there things I’m forgetting or things that have worked for you (as either an intern yourself or an internship supervisor)?

What do we think about undergraduate library internships in general? Are other people doing this at their institutions, either systematically or ad-hoc? Are there resources out there that I should be looking at? Please feel free to share!

* This post is dedicated to Bob Chandler, my first (& favorite) library mentor.

Written by Erin Dorney

September 13, 2010 at 9:00 AM

Reflections on my teaching research writing course.

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The lamp in my hotel room is duct-taped to the nightstand. My window reveals a sparsely filled parking lot, I hurry in and out of the building so that the truckers down the hall can’t catch my room number. Live for five days on peanut butter sandwiches, granola bars, metallic tap water and oranges. Reese’s Pieces from the vending machine. I feel homeless. Rootless. A transient pulled from her bed by the impending flood. I am a nomad wandering from bed to coffee to class. Repeat.

-August 19, 2010

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What I have described here is a brief reflection on my first week-long, 3-credit summer workshop at West Chester University, where I am working on my MA in English through the creative writing program. As of today, I am 18 credits in. In order to earn these latest three credits, I gave up a week of work, my apartment, garden, kittens, friends, significant other, mail. I returned poorer, overripe tomatoes littering the yard, my boyfriend had jetted off to Florida, and I had to sort through a weeks-worth of church fliers, pizza coupons, and rip-off-scratch-off-car-dealership bullshit to find one treasured postcard from a friend. Damn you, Lancaster.

The workshop was called “Re-Learning Teaching Research Writing” and it was about how restrictive, meaningless, and intellectually stifling traditional research papers have become. I went into the class somewhat leery of my inexperience as a teacher (my “teaching moments” typically occur in library instruction sessions and in one-on-one research consultations with students) but realized that after being in school for 18 years now, I have certainly encountered these unappealing research assignments myself. Our two main texts were Bruce Ballenger’s “Beyond Note Cards: Rethinking the Freshman Research Paper” and Davis & Shadle’s “Building a Mystery: Alternative Research Writing and the Academic Act of Seeking.” In a nutshell, we have become so concerned with structure and formalities that we’re making student hate research writing, an activity that can not only be creative and fun, but helps writers negotiate authority, develop their own identity, and create new knowledge.

I have to say, I was very pleased with the classroom dynamic in this workshop. The majority of my classmates were practicing English teachers at the elementary, middle, or high school level and boy, to educators like to discuss! I think I adequately held my own in our conversations, and was able to shed some light on things from a librarian perspective. It also got me to thinking about many of the assignments I see when doing instruction for classes at Millersville… many of them seem to represent the traditional research assignment, overly concerned with conventions and number of sources. I am hoping to put some of what I learned into practice when negotiating sessions with faculty members as well as the general outlook I take when discussing research with students.

Another thing that struck me was the frequency that libraries and librarians came up in our conversations. Many of my classmates talked about how ill-equipped their school libraries are – many relied heavily on the PaLA POWER Library resources that have experienced drastic cuts. Others talked about how their schools do not have enough technology in the library for student use and their experiences with the digital divide. At least one school had fired their librarian due to budget issues and a number of other teachers told me about school librarians who made me want to apologize for my profession (librarians who were downright mean, unwilling to play nice with the teachers, etc). Many of these discussions were in the context of how access (or lack thereof) to librarians, resources and technology impacts the kinds of assignments that teachers can give their students, in turn impacting how well students can truly get to the heart of creative, fact-based writing.

Overall, while living in a hotel by myself for five days wasn’t much fun, I truly enjoyed this class. Particularly on Friday, when one of the teachers turned to me and said “Boy, I wish you could come be the librarian at my school!” ::Score:: Library scenester, challenging librarian stereotypes one day at a time…

What do you think about all of this, readers? Are there any school librarians out there who have had similar conversations? Have you ever taken a week-long intensive course? Did you love it? Hate it? Feel free to share your thoughts.

Written by Erin Dorney

August 30, 2010 at 8:39 AM