the Library Field
Student interns turn around a troubling trend.
Matthew Green 02
photos by Megan Colletta 03
a high school student, Becky Thompson 03 equated librarians
with old spinsters. So when her career counselor revealed
that Thompson matched the profile of a librarian to a T, she wasnt
not me, she recalls thinking. But all of my career-interest
surveys pointed to librarian.
later, Thompson has finally accepted the prophecy. As one of six
student participants in Oberlins year-old library internship
program, she is enthusiastically learning the complex science of
librarianship and helping to reverse a troubling national trend.
statistics indicate that the supply of trained librarians in our
country has plummeted and that the profession is struggling to meet
future demands due to a high retirement rate and the closing of
several U.S. graduate programs. At Oberlin, the Library Diversity
Intern Program is helping to recruit students into the fieldparticularly
those from diverse cultural backgrounds. Coordinators here are hoping
that other undergraduate programs will follow suit.
with the spring semester of their junior year, Oberlins paid
interns are exposed to the multi-faceted nature of librarianship
through lectures, visits to other libraries, and on-site training.
They remain on campus over the summer, working intensively with
librarian mentors on independent projects that extend into the fall.
As seniors, they wrap up their internship with off-campus winter-term
projects hosted by alumnimore than 600 alums work in the field.
And upon graduation, they can count on library staff members to
lend job-searching support and help with graduate school applications.
The program is funded by a $140,000 federal grant from the Institute
of Museum and Library Services.
is a contribution that Oberlin is making to a profession that desperately
needs it, says Haipeng Li, reference librarian and co-director
and founder of the program.
a growing crisis in terms of a national supply of librarians. Its
not the kind of profession that is readily visible to the public,
adds Ray English, director of libraries and co-director of LDP.
In some ways Oberlin is uniquely positioned for a program
like this because of the schools diverse history.
internship program in part helped Oberlin land the 2002 Excellence
in Academic Libraries Award in the college library division from
the Association of College and Research Libraries and Blackwells
Book Services. The selection committee especially saluted Oberlin
for its model programs aimed at recruiting students into the profession.
The library staff is equally pleased. According to English, three
of the six students who completed the programs inaugural year
have expressed strong interests in pursuing librarianship as a career.
Thats a good outcome, he says.