As the spring semester begins at colleges and universities across the country, students are beginning to apply to jobs and internships for their summer breaks. This can be a confusing and uncertain process, especially for those who have not navigated through the process in the past. These tips and tricks will hopefully help anyone lost in the process of looking for summer experiences in archives and libraries.
1 – Look Everywhere
Sometimes, the best opportunities can be hidden in plain sight. Most archives, museums, and libraries will not post “help wanted” signs in their windows, even though they may be in need of a few extra hands. Outside of job listservs, such as ArchivesGig or the ALA job list, repositories often list internship, job, and volunteer opportunities on their own websites. Searching on the websites of organizations in your area can often be fruitful, especially for those looking for experience in smaller libraries or places that are off the beaten track. Although not all locations will offer stipends for interns or an organized internship program, most will openly welcome anyone willing to lend a hand. These institutions are often willing to create internship projects or schedules for interested students as well.
2 – It Never Hurts to Ask
Just because an organization does not have a listing for volunteers or interns, does not mean that they do not need one. In my experience, archivists are more often than not willing to host a student interested in their field, especially in smaller operations. A quick email or phone call can open up a world of possibilities at an institution that does not advertise open positions.
3 – Seek New Experiences
Playing it safe by working at a repository where you have already worked in the past can be beneficial, depending on the situation. However, it can be much more valuable, if given the opportunity, to take a position at a new institution. Diversifying your work experience helps grow professional networks, hone previously learned skills, and learn new on-the-job skills. This is especially valuable early on in the stages of professional growth, as it opens doors for future opportunities and allows for a greater variety of workplace experiences.
4 – Apply to Everything That Interests You
It is quite easy to get pessimistic when searching for internship and job opportunities, especially when looking at big-name institutions and world-famous repositories. The saying “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” is especially applicable here. While internship programs, both paid and unpaid, at well-known institutions are often quite competitive, it never pays not to apply to a position, even if you may be under-qualified. This is true for undergraduates especially, who are often dismayed by the words “graduate students only” that appear on many job posts.
On this point, a word of caution. I have personally found that it is best to contact a hiring manager or internship coordinator directly if you are apply to a position for which you may be under-qualified, especially concerning education level. While some repositories may be willing to consider an under-qualified applicant, others may not for various reasons. By contacting the organization in advance, you prevent yourself from devoting energy to an unachievable end, and prevent possible embarrassment in the future.
There is a world of opportunities out there for undergraduate and graduate students interested in libraries and archives. With persistence, confidence, and drive, aspiring professionals can experience the limitless possibilities available in the LIS community.