Erin Dorney

Blogging life & librarianship

Posts Tagged ‘Millersville

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


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

Library Day in the Life: Tuesday

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Round five of the Library Day in the Life Project with a little different format. Here’s a list of some projects I worked on today:

  • Finalized a press release about the $34,000 LSTA grant that Millersville University/Dickinson College have received to work on the Slavery & Abolition in the US digital collection.
  • Revised the FAQ copy I was working on yesterday for the library renovation website and sent it on for more proofreading by colleagues.
  • Put together the first draft of our poster for Library Fest (based on the tutorial I found yesterday and inspired by the music of The Zolas, a new band I am SO loving!). The poster is below but it’s likely to go through at least one more iteration before I’m satisfied. Also, I purposely didn’t use color (too expensive to print in house) because I’m planning to print it out on colored paper.
  • Met with a colleague to plan how we will use the grant money we received from the MU Theme Committee ($2,000). We’ll be purchasing electronic materials in support of the main university lectures and will be putting together subject guides for the website to pulling new and existing information together for students/faculty/community members who want to do research in those topic areas. I’m excited!
  • Completed a new wellness profile for the next phase of our health care plan thingy. I need to work on stress, nutrition, and physical activity (no surprises there!).
  • Browsed the SAGE website because I had a contributing author credit for an article I wrote for the Green Consumerism collection. I cashed in for Tessa Muncey’s Creating Autoethnographies and Peter Corrigan’s The Dressed Society: Clothing, the Body and Some Meanings of the World.
  • Spent an hour and a half at the reference desk. It was very slow (2 questions) so I also read and took notes on Terry Eagleton’s concluding chapter in Literary Theory: An Introduction for class tomorrow.
  • Spent two hours weeding the 791’s (film, theater, a massive number of creepy puppetry books).

Written by Erin Dorney

July 27, 2010 at 5:43 PM

Library Day in the Life Round 5: Monday

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Well, I spent the weekend recovering from a summer cold/allergies, being giddy about a close friend getting engaged (congrats Pam & Mike!), watching X-files, and finishing up homework for the last two classes of my literary theory course. But what does this librarian do during the week? Here goes round five of the Library Day in the Life Project (from Erin Dorney, Outreach Librarian @ Millersville University Library in Pennsylvania):

Monday, July 26th, 2010

8 AM – Woke up, showered, took 45 minutes figuring out what to wear only to end up in a tee shirt, jeans and sneakers (good thing it only takes me 10 minutes to get to work!).

9 AM – At work, started a pot of coffee in my office and settled down to catch up on email, FB, tweets from #libday5 and #immvt. Did some work on the ACRL 2011 Virtual Conference (proposals accepted now through November 1!) and discussed some fall library instruction sessions with an English professor. Printed out two papers that are due in my literary theory class tonight.

10 AM – Worked on a project for PaLA College & Research Division – I’m drafting board member job descriptions (none currently exist) with a few colleagues. Ate graham crackers with my coffee. Designed, printed and cut a new sign for the library newspaper section (below).

11 AM – Worked on a poster for the National Book Festival (our Friends group sponsors a bus trip there every year). Checked out my RSS feeds and found an Illustrator tutorial to use for our annual Library Fest event. Worked on the tutorial.

12 PM – Met with a colleague to discuss the FAQ copy for our upcoming library renovation website. Ended up working on the list of potential naming opportunities for donors as well. Ate my peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

1:30 PM – Left for West Chester (Literary Theory class tonight from 4-8 PM).

4-8 PM – Literary Theory class. I’m working on my MA in English with a concentration in creative writing. This is the first summer course (5 weeks meeting twice a week) at West Chester and the workload has been pretty brutal! Overall interesting though.

9:45 PM – Arrived back at home, ate dinner, and posted this.

Related posts:

Written by Erin Dorney

July 26, 2010 at 11:03 PM

A Tuesday & Wednesday in my library life.

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(Tuesday & Wednesday have been more “big chunk” kind of days where I don’t work on lots of little projects, but a few large-scale things)


9:00 – Woke up & got ready.

10:30 – Arrived at work, caught up on email.

11:00 to 12:00 – Met with the action team for our Spring Scoop event. Basically, we’re planning an event for late April open to all faculty to bring them up to speed on how the upcoming library renovation will impact students. This is in terms of what parts of the physical collection will be available during construction,  what physical items will be in storage, reminders about our many electronic resources, and discussion about ebooks and “Internet sources” as they pertain to student assignments.

1:15 – Left Millersville, drove to West Chester University.

2:30 – Arrived at West Chester and headed to the library to hang around until my class started at 4:15. I wound up on the 5th floor at a study carrel where I used my laptop to answer work emails regarding a number of things (ask a librarian icons set to go on every campus desktop image, finalized a catering order for an internal library event on Friday, chat reference publicity and discussion about the CAE events taking place later this week).

4:15 to 7:00 – Methods of Publishing class. Wow, so this class is amazing. We’re actually composing type (those little metal letter things) and using a printing press! We learned some key terms and then composed our first piece – name and address for a letterhead we will be printing at class next week. It’s completely new to me… but very fun so far. I learned about leads, slugs, points, picas, the case, the composing stick, coppers, ems and ens, etc. I have a lot to catch up on because I missed the first class for ALA Midwinter, but I plan on dedicating a lot of time to our reading this weekend.

7:15 to 10:00 – Masculinity class. This class is also a lot of fun. We’re looking at representations of masculinity in popular culture, gender stereotypes and characteristics, etc. I have to look over my syllabus this weekend and figure out what else we’ll be working on. Very interesting stuff and a very engaged and talkative class (awesome because the time passes quicker)!

11:20 (ish) – Arrived home, ate Cheerio’s, talked to my boyfriend about class and went to bed.


9:00 – Woke up & got ready.

10:30 – Arrived at work, caught up on email including some planning for the 2011 ACRL Virtual Conference Committee.

11:30 to 1:24 – Library Campaign Priority Committee Luncheon Meeting. I’m not sure how much I am supposed to talk about this since the campaign is still in its silent phase. However, suffice to say I am learning a lot about fundraising and politics! We had a great meeting today, we have some new leadership that sparked discussion and even better, action! I would love to learn more about fundraising/development/advancement in the academic realm – does anyone know of conferences/events/books or other resources that would be beneficial? I think it would really make me an even more well-rounded and valuable outreach librarian.

1:30 to 3:00 – Women’s Commission Meeting. This is the Commission I work on V-Day for. We have four meetings per semester where everyone gives updates on the different projects they are working on, so I gave a V-Day update and contributed to a few other discussions.

3:00 to 4:00 – Answered email (so much email!!!), started this blog post.

4:00 to 4:30 – Production Team Meeting for V-Day 2010. As you can see, V-Day is taking up a lot of my time lately. That’s because our performances are in early February and we’re ramping up publicity and final plans. I think this is a really important part of my job – connecting with student organizations (and students) outside of the library realm. It continually informs me about student habits and interests, provides ideas and leads on how the library can be more in-tune with student needs and wants and gives me an outlet to share what the library can do (cast members of The Vagina Monologues have turned to me for assignment advice now that they know a librarian personally). Plus, ending violence against women and girls is a cause we should all be contributing to in some way.

4:30 – Home for dinner, a workout later, and then going through my course syllabi tonight.

Written by Erin Dorney

January 27, 2010 at 7:17 PM

A Monday in my library life.

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(title setup borrowed from previous posts on Lauren’s Library Blog)

I’m an Outreach Librarian at Millersville University in Pennsylvania. This is a Monday in my library life:

7:45 – Woke up and got ready for the day. Arrived at work around 8:45 to publish blog post, check RSS feeds, Twitter, work and personal email.

A little after 9:00 – A COMM faculty member (& friend) stopped by my office to pick up some things and see if I wanted the article “It Cuts Both Ways: Fight Club, Masculinity, and Abject Hegemony” by Claire Sisco King from Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies. I’m taking two grad classes at West Chester University this semester and one of them is a special topics course  on Masculinity. Our only required book is Fight Club! I said yes (I’ll save it for my paper) and he said he would scan it and bring it to me later. Good stuff.

9:00 to 9:50 – Worked on the event program for Millersville University V-Day 2010 events (two performances of Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues” in mid-February). I volunteered to run publicity and marketing for V-Day 2009 and this year they created a new position for me on the MU Commission on the Status of Women. I’ve been working with a wonderful group of ladies on posters, tee shirts, programs, soliciting sponsors, and collaborating with our beneficiary, the Lancaster YWCA. It’s going to be a great production!

9:50 to 10:00 – Ate an apple, followed lots of new Twitter followers, checked my West Chester email to see if there were any messages about class tomorrow (none!).

10:00 to 10:30 – Worked on PR for some upcoming faculty information sessions co-sponsored by the Center for Academic Excellence, including bookmarks, handouts, and Facebook events for the library Facebook page.

10:30 – Our Interim Library Director stopped by to talk about some possible chat reference promotion. We’re now offering chat reference at our library and are looking at ways to roll out this new service to our users. Sent an email to the rest of the department about some possible steps to get more ideas/feedback.

11:00 to 12:15 – Attended a departmental meeting with the Provost and President about the future of libraries in the next 10-15 years. Exciting!

12:15 to 12:47 – Accidentally worked through lunch to make a chat reference sign and a graphic for the website. Graphic still needs work, but it’s getting there!

1:00 to 2:00 – First part of my reference desk shift, fairly uneventful. Just a few questions (mostly about textbooks – no, we don’t have them). COMM faculty member dropped off the article.

2:00 to 3:00 – Left the reference desk to be on a conference call for the College & Research Division of the Pennsylvania Library Association. I’m the new Treasurer! We started planning for our spring workshop/event. We are seeking recommendations for speakers about “the Learning Commons” (colleges & universities that created Learning Commons 4-5 years ago – what worked, what didn’t, how are people using the space differently, as well as people who might be planning for an academic Learning Commons now). If you have any names, let me know!

3:00 to 4:00 – Back to the reference desk for the second part of my shift. Again, fairly uneventful except there were a few slight issues with the new HP thin clients (running virtual desktops), but I think I figured it all out.

4:00 to 4:30 – Printed out subject librarian bookmarks for our new science librarian to use in instruction sessions, caught up on email, and made some table tent notifications to put up before an internal library event this Friday (kindly asking students to relocate to another study space for a few hours).

4:45 – Headed home!

Written by Erin Dorney

January 25, 2010 at 9:51 PM

Library Day in the Life.

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Taken March 2008, the day before my interview at Millersville University. The building I now work in every day is behind me to the left.

Library Day in the Life is a project where library workers from all types of libraries document a day or week of their work life. It was started by Bobbi Newman, and you can check out her original blog post on the event and the official wiki for more information. The fourth round is being held this week (January 25-29).

Some people choose to blog, some use Twitter, some record video or take pictures. This will be my first year participating and it just happens to fall on the first full week of classes at Millersville University where I work as an academic librarian. I’m sure I’ll have a lot to post about, and have not yet decided exactly how many days I might end up discussing. Guess we’ll see!

I think this is a great project because it provides a brief glimpse into the depth and breadth of what librarians do. Just last week at a friend’s birthday party, I swear I must have been asked at least 5-6 times, “So, what does a librarian do?” This is one of many opportunities we can take to share our stories. I can see implications for:

  • Library school students who want to share their experiences. I could easily imagine a spin-off of a Library Student Day in the Life. It would be very interesting (particularly to learn about the experiences of online and in-person LIS students) for people who have been out of school for a while to see how things work these days, what students are learning, the generational impact of technology on life and education, etc. If anyone knows of a group who has done this, leave a comment! Hmm… perhaps this is something for the Young Librarian Series
  • Administrators, students, patrons, friends, family, the media and board members who wonder what librarians do in the age of Google. This is an opportunity to share both the exciting and mundane parts of your work life. Many members of the public have no clue what librarians do (probably because many of us still haven’t nailed down elevator speeches for ourselves and our institutions). This is bad for funding, bad for our professional image, and bad for the progress and reform librarianship needs to undergo. How can we expect support without basic understanding? Informing is a key first step, and sharing your impact as a librarian could go a long way.

Some suggestions:

  • Add your name to the wiki
  • Include your job title & type of library in your blog post or video to help readers
  • Use the hashtags #libday4 (Twitter) and librarydayinthelife (blogs)
  • If you don’t have a blog/Twitter/etc, you can just create a new page in the wiki and post your day there
  • After your first post, edit your wiki entry to change your blog link to a link to your tagged posts (link directly to your day in the life post(s), not to your blog in general)
  • Add your Flickr photos or videos to the Group on Flickr

Written by Erin Dorney

January 25, 2010 at 9:50 AM