Practicums! Career Experience For You!
Practicums! Career Experience for You!
There are many reasons why I chose the Wayne State University School of Library and Information Science over fifty-five other American Library Association (ALA)-accredited Master’s programs to acquire my Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science (MLIS). One of the main reasons was because the Wayne State University School of Library and Information Science offers its students the opportunities to take practicums. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines the term practicum as follows: a course of study designed especially for the preparation of teachers and clinicians that involves the supervised practical application of previously studied theory. At the School of Library and Information Science, practicums allow students the opportunity to gain a hands-on learning experience by working in a library for a semester while earning the same number of course credits that they would earn by taking a single course. The practicums are divided into categories based on the different fields of library science such as public libraries, academic libraries, school media libraries, and archives. Students can sign up for one practicum each semester in a field of their choice. Upon completing their application, the School of Library and Information Science will find a library in the particular field that the student has chosen and is located in the area where the student resides to host the student as an intern for the semester. As a student, I have always learned as much if not more from being able to apply the academic principles that I have learned than from just simply studying them. I knew that I was entering a profession that was highly competitive and that jobs and internships in libraries would have more candidates than positions that they could fill. So I welcomed the opportunity of being able to do practicums because it would enable me to gain experience working in different types of libraries during my four years as a graduate library science student.
My first practicum was at the Brighton District Library; a medium-sized public library located in Brighton, Michigan which is a semi-rural suburb forty-five minutes north of Detroit. I had become well acquainted with the Brighton Library director, Dr. Nancy Johnson, over the previous few years. She had always been helpful in providing me with advice in planning my career and choosing my course of study as a library science student. So when I applied for this particular practicum, Brighton District Library was on the top of my list of libraries that I wished to intern at and I felt very lucky when the Brighton Library agreed to host me. Both Dr. Johnson and the other librarians at the Brighton Library were wonderful hosts to me. All of them worked together to provide me with as many different experiences as possible working in and observing the different daily functions of a public library. Since I had expressed a particular interest in learning more about reference and advisory services and working with the library’s historical collection, I spent half of my internship days at the Brighton Library observing the reference librarians at the adult services reference desk as they assisted the adult and teenage patrons. It was interesting to see the many different areas of advice in which people still sought help from reference librarians. We got a wide variety of questions ranging from readers’ advisory to property and zoning ordinances within the local and surrounding township areas. I spent the other half of my days working with the library’s historical artifact collection located in the Brighton Library’s history room; also known as the Brighton Room. Everything from obituary indexes on microfilm to historic maps of Brighton and the surrounding towns and townships can be found in the Brighton Room. My primary project with the historical collection involved cataloguing two scrapbooks of local obituaries known as the “Whalen Scrapbooks” using a Microsoft Access-based database. When I was not observing at the reference desk or cataloguing the Whalen scrapbook, I had the opportunity to participate in other routine library projects such as weeding the popular fiction section.
My second practicum was at the Ennis and Nancy Ham Library. The Ham Library serves as the main and only academic library for Rochester College; a small private four-year liberal arts college located in Rochester Hills, Michigan. While I could have interned at a larger or more specialized academic library at a larger public university nearby, I chose a smaller library at a smaller college because I felt that I could get a better overall view of all of the many different roles that an academic library serves in a college campus environment. The staff at the Ham Library was equally as hospitable to me as the staff at the Brighton District Library. However, because the Ham Library had a much smaller staff than the Brighton District Library, they had certain important projects that they needed me to help them complete because they had no other way that they could hire anyone else to do them. My previous job and volunteer experience at other libraries enabled me to help them with these projects without them having to train me extensively. One of the biggest projects that I helped participate in was updating the online catalog records for the Ham Library’s print and microfiche periodical collection so that the library could participate in MeLCat’s new Article Reach program. I also ran the circulation desk during some of the weekly evening shifts so that the reference librarian on duty could focus on her reference work and collection development projects. Nevertheless, all of the staff went out of their way to find time to show me some of their daily projects. The library director let me sit in with her on one of her morning cataloguing sessions, one of the reference librarians let me observe her while she taught an information literacy class to students, and one of the other reference librarians allowed me to participate with her on her inter-library loan projects for the day and also showed me her collection development project for the Ham Library’s history collection.
In the end, my two practicums proved to be my most beneficial experience throughout my whole course of study as a library science student. They provided me with the opportunity to apply the different skills that I was learning in the courses that I was taking in a real-life setting. You can learn and study the theories and skills required for your profession for as long as possible. However, if you do not have a chance to put what you have learned into practice in a real-world environment, you will never be able to see how your newly-learned skills apply to different situations and you may not retain what you have learned. Thanks to my two practicums at a public and an academic library, I have been able to put-to-practice what I have learned in my courses and I now truly feel prepared to begin my career as a librarian. So my advice to all of you prospective library and information science students and aspiring librarians is to make sure that you include at least one practicum in your course of study. More importantly, when choosing your MLIS program, make sure that you choose a school that is both ALA-accredited and offers practicums as part of its featured courses; such as the Wayne State University School of Library and Information Science.
Wayne State University School of Library and Information Science. (2013). Practicum. Retrieved from http://students.slis.wayne.edu/classes/practicum.php
Merriam-Webster Online. (2013). Definition of Practicum. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/practicum
Library, B. D. (2002-2007, June 10, 2010). “About The Library.” Retrieved from http://www.brightonlibrary.info/about/index.html.
Library, B. D. (2002-2007, June 10, 2010). “Brighton Room.” Retrieved from http://www.brightonlibrary.info/brighton/index.html.
Rochester College. (2012). Promo – Rochester College Photos. Retrieved from http://photos.rc.edu/2009-2010/Marketing/promo/8037785_VVzRxW#!i=769942160&k=qSQpQtD&lb=1&s=M
Rochester College. Location of Rochester College. Retrieved from http://www.rc.edu/about-rc/location-of-rochester-college/
Rochester College. RC at a Glance. Retrieved from http://www.rc.edu/admissions/undergrad-admissions/rc-at-a-glance/