My supervising faculty member, Dr. Martens, and the internship documents provided sufficient explanation of what was required by the OU School of Library and Information Studies in terms of documentation and hours of service. My placement supervisor, Louix Escobar-Matute, provided ample orientation by giving me a tour of the library facilities and collections, explaining the organization and work flow of each department, and encouraging me to review the Tulsa City-County Library’s policies and procedures. My placement supervisor also directed me to spend several hours shadowing and working in each department to learn standard operating procedures. All in all, my orientation to the internship experience was more than adequate.
I worked in the circulation department, checking in and routing returned library materials to the proper locations. I processed holds on requested items and cleared the hold shelf of expired requests that customers did not pick up. I learned how to use the Millennium circulation software, including how to check library materials in and out, place hold requests for customers, process fines for late materials, and create new library card records for new customers. In addition, I assisted circulation staff with tracking down missing pieces of library materials, such as DVD cases returned without the DVD. I also observed the process of creating on-the-fly records for periodicals. Although I worked as a shelver and circulation clerk for the Tulsa City-County Library from June 1998 to May 2003, a number of policies and procedures have changed since then, and it was very helpful to revisit circulation procedures and learn the reasons for changes implemented. Experience working in the circulation department provided insight as to the need for careful planning and understanding the repercussions of work practices. This was not reflected in my initially stated objectives but was nonetheless a valuable lesson.
I also served in the reference department, where I assisted customers with reference questions, helped customers with computer issues and did paging. This assignment allowed me to practice skills such as the reference interview and customer service. Also, this experience allowed me to see the other half of the holds process, in which requested items are collected, labeled and routed to the desired location. Assisting with adult information services and assisting with holds were two of my initial objectives, both of which were fulfilled through this experience. While I did not have the opportunity to assist with adult programming, I did have the opportunity to provide directions to rooms where programs and meetings were being held.
Serving in the children’s department allowed me to practice the reference interview with children and to learn the procedures related to summer reading program activities. I observed three children’s events in Connor’s Cove, Hardesty Library’s new auditorium, and assisted by taking pictures during one of these events. Assisting with children’s information services, children’s programming and the summer reading program represent three of my initial objectives. Working in this department also allowed me to observe and learn from the information seeking behavior of children and parents, which can provide a wealth of information in itself.
My internship project involved researching and designing pathfinders on popular educational, informational and recreational subjects for children and parents. Buddy Ingalls, head of the Hardesty Children’s Department, indicated that the department really needed pathfinders on a number of frequently requested subjects to assist customers and librarians quickly locate relevant materials. This project allowed me to learn about collection development and marketing.
All of the activities outlined above were exceedingly valuable with regards to fulfilling my learning objectives.
The class on Readers’ Advisory Services (LIS 5123) was helpful with regards to my pathfinders project, as this class taught me how to create useful pathfinders. Management of Information and Knowledge Organizations (LIS 5023) was also helpful in understanding the various management challenges Louix discussed. Information Users in the Knowledge Society (LIS 5053) was helpful as I considered accessibility issues with regards to collections and services. All in all, I felt very well prepared by my courses thus far.
The most positive aspects of this internship included having the opportunity to work with and learn from professionals in the field and the opportunity to interact with customers. Louix and his staff have so much experience and expertise to impart. The training I received under their supervision was truly invaluable. Moreover, the practical, real-world experience of working with customers, tackling real reference questions and negotiating real challenges provides excellent training in applying theory. Because I have as yet had no training in how to properly conduct a reference interview, this task was challenging. But observing experts in the field as they answered reference questions provided me with guidance, and personal trial and error allowed me to learn by doing. This internship enabled me to begin to fill the gaps in my experience.
Louix Escobar-Matute provided numerous opportunities for my enrichment. He permitted me to work in all three library departments, encouraged me to attend library-sponsored programs, and invited me to attend a Friends of the Library meeting and a staff development planning meeting. He permitted me to fill in when there were staff shortages, allowing me to gain additional experience. He took me to lunch multiple times with various staff members, allowing me to benefit from accounts of their career experiences. Louix also made the necessary phone calls and arrangements so that I can work as a substitute for the Tulsa City-County Library, filling in when other staff members are sick or on vacation. I could not ask for a better mentor than Louix in the public library field.
Communication between Louix Escobar-Matute, Dr. Martens and me was easy and effective. I kept Dr. Martens abreast of my activities through my blog as well as periodic emails. Louix spent several hours each day talking with me about policies, procedures, best practices, and expectations. He provided a great deal of very helpful feedback after I completed each assignment and encouraged my questions. At the end of my internship, Dr. Martens and Louix were in contact via email regarding my performance. I believe our communication was very effective throughout this internship period.