Rural Library Practicum Experience
by J.C. Brown, MLIS Candidate
Fall semester 2010, I enrolled in LIS 7640: Public Libraries Practicum with Jennifer Gustafson and had a phenomenal experience working at Caro Area District Library, a rural Class 3 library about 90 miles north of Wayne State University. My rationale for choosing to enroll in LIS 7640 – Public Libraries Practicum was simple: (a) I wanted recent public library experience which would differ from what I gained while interning in the library at a local historical society; (b) I wanted to expand my professional network in order to facilitate job hunting prospects.
The practicum, itself, was supervised by Marcia Dievendorf, a MLIS-librarian (Kent State University – class of 1978) with over 40 years of experience in the LIS field. My experience differed from that of some of my classmates in that the practicum was project-intensive and blended my past experience, working in the criminal justice/human services field, with librarianship – Dievendorf chose my primary project based on the experience noted on my resume which I was required to submit along with my practicum application.
My primary project focused on surveying both the legal community as well as the library’s patrons as to their legal information needs, reviewing and then weeding the library’s legal collection, and creating a pathfinder of legal resources. For these projects, I utilized knowledge and skills acquired from LIS 7340 – Collection Development and Selection of Materials with Dr. Robert Holley as well as what I acquired from attending a series of webinars, Libraries and Access to Justice (via Pro Bono Net), and materials from LIS 8120 – Legal Information Resources which were loaned to me by a colleague. At the close of the semester, Dievendorf and I were invited to attend the December meeting for the Tuscola County Bar Association in order to present the findings of our survey as well as to answer any questions about the library’s collection and its services.
Since I was pursuing the graduate certificate Public Library Services to Children and Young Adults, I elected to work on several smaller projects which involved creating three annotated bibliographies for the library’s young adult department – Hunger Games Read-Alikes, Exploring Books Across Genres: A Guide to Teen Lit for Girls, and Exploring Books Across Genres: A Guide to Teen Lit for Guys. For these projects, I utilized knowledge and skills acquired in LIS 6530 – Young Adult Literature with Suzanne Todd and LIS 7250 – Programming for Children and Young Adults with Suzanne Todd.
During the semester, I was afforded the opportunity to attend an all-day in-service hosted by the White Pine Library Cooperative which focused on “customer service”, the adult services workshop hosted by The Library Network at Plymouth District Library, and two meet-the-candidates (83rd and 84th District House race) sessions facilitated by Bryon Sitler of the White Pine Library Cooperative which were hosted at Rawson Memorial District Library and Sandusky District Library.
At the close of my practicum, I was asked if I would continue working on projects as well as fill-in as a substitute – a paid member of the staff – an opportunity that likely would not have presented itself without completing an on-site practicum. Overall, my practicum was extremely positive and exceeded my expectations – I am very grateful for the experience.
Author with 84th District House Race: Terry Brown (D) and Dan Grimshaw (R)