The University of Houston Libraries is working to prepare librarians for the digital future through a Digital Library Internship that offers hands on experience with the technologies needed in digital library work.
Under Head of Digital Services Michele Reilly, the internship project has grown to offer semester-long unpaid internships to both Houston-based and remote participants from all over the country. The program strives to give students a strong foundation in project management, metadata creation, digitization, and promotion and works against what Reilly calls the creation of “accidental digital librarians.”
“This program gives students a well-rounded, interesting experience,” she said. “They end up with lots of useful skills that they might not get otherwise.”
In addition to the skills they gain through their work, the interns have the opportunity to produce papers or participate in presentations alongside UH librarians on noteworthy projects they have worked on. Upon completing a satisfactory internship, participants also receive a letter of recommendation.
It’s not just the interns who benefit from the program, however.
“We’re definitely getting something out of it too,” Reilly said. “The work they do is often work we wish we could do every day but don’t have the time for – projects that are extraordinarily important and yet not at the top of the priority list.”
These projects have included seeding Wikipedia with images from the UH Digital Library collections in order to drive more traffic to the UH website. Another set of interns is researching supplementary materials for an online oral history collection.
Reilly says the program began informally when an opportunity for a graduate student intern presented itself last spring. Over the past year, the librarians at UH have set up a structure and processes for selecting and managing the interns.
Reilly and her team use online tools such as blogs, Skype, and Google Documents, to coordinate with the interns, who reside as far away as Wisconsin. By using these tools, and developing a set of procedures for working with the students, Reilly believes they can handle more interns each semester.
“We’ve invested a lot of time in this program,” she says, “but we came out with a fantastic opportunity for students.”
For more information about the UH Digital Library internship program, please contact Michele Reilly, Head of Digital Services at UH Libraries, at firstname.lastname@example.org.