An Internship in Social Media: What Can You Expect?

An Internship in Social Media: What Can You Expect?
by Whitni Watkins



I am in my final semester of the SJSU SLIS program, finishing up my ePortfolio and a special studies course in the use of virtual worlds for academic use. In the Fall semester of 2013, I did a virtual internship with the Santa Clara County Library District (SCCLD), my focus: social media. I consider myself a social media aficionado and have active accounts with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Happier, Tumblr, Pinterest, Foursquare, Google+, WordPress and Blogger, and LinkedIn. I knew how to use social media as it pertained to branding myself. I had some experience using it for a special library as I published blog posts for the library. But using it at the caliber of a library district? My experience was nil.

Social media use fascinates me; one of the biggest pros to social media with businesses is that it holds them at a higher level of accountability. Multiple times I have seen social media used as a reference system for answering questions, following up with praises or complaints, and developing a more personal interaction with the consumer. Libraries are the means in which information professionals disseminate information, and social media is a way to disseminate information. The two go hand in and hand. I went into this internship with the intention of not only learning how public libraries were using social media, but also how patrons were using social media to interact with the libraries.

Background Information

SCCLD consists of seven community libraries, one branch library, two bookmobiles and an online library. They serve the areas of Santa Clara County in California including: Campbell, Cupertino, Gilroy, Los Altos, Lost Altos Hills, Milpitas, Monte Sereno, Morgan Hill, and Saratoga. They serve a population of 412,732 with a rate of 52% being current library cardholders.

As an intern with the Santa Clara County Library District (SCCLD), I was working with Megan Wong, the virtual library manager, to develop procedures and policies to help further the presence of the library district in multiple social media platforms, as well as developing a social media strategic plan. SCCLD is present on seven social media channels including: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube, and 44 library blogs with special focuses.


As a virtual intern, all of my tasks were completed with minimal interaction or supervision from my site supervisor. My supervisor exhibited a democratic management style in which we each collaborated on ideas and together chose ones that fit the model we were working towards. This method of management was very effective as it allowed and encouraged innovation. For this internship, most of the work is solo and allows a lot of room for learning. As goes with any internship, learn as much as you can while given the option. I learned so much about Facebook insights and Facebook campaigns that the entire internship alone could have been focused on that.

The catch with this internship was that the social media presence I was working with was the district as a whole and not one specific location. The goal was to advertise SCCLD’s brand at the broad level, encompassing the mission of the district as whole. This took constant reminding on my part, as I was developing the social media plan. For example, announcing programs and hours on the SCCLD’s Facebook page was not relevant because SCCLD was representing 11 libraries as a collective and not individual ones with specialized programs.

Prior to beginning my internship, I worked with the internship supervisor and developed a set of learning outcomes that would outline the tasks and responsibilities to be accomplished during the internship period. I had to interview for this position, so working with my supervisor on these was great since that was not the first time we had talked. If you do not interview for your internship, make sure you take the time to introduce yourself and communicate with your internship site supervisor. It clears the air of any tension in the beginning.

This internship was for three course credits, so I had three specific learning outcomes that shaped my work as an intern. Developing the learning outcomes involved deciding on what we wanted to accomplish through the internship and how we planned on doing that. They were: effectively identify, monitor, and respond to the community audience formed around the library’s social media by reviewing post and audience response on primary social media platforms, Facebook, and Twitter; learn and practice best social media practices through hands on use of platforms, including scheduling posts and daily interaction on forums to increase traffic on SCCLD’s social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter; develop a social media plan for the library through analyzing data, developing best practices; and researching social media use in other libraries and publications.

These learning outcomes were achieved through over 135 hours of research, interaction, data collection and analysis and management of social media platforms. A breakdown of my responsibilities as an intern can be summed up as follows: build followers on Facebook; work towards gaining better awareness and connection with patrons/fans/followers; develop best practices for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for admin & staff; monitor and participate in Facebook and Twitter posting; provide recommendations for improving social media presence; develop procedures for implementing an Instagram photo contest ; develop procedures for implementing a Facebook campaign ; and analyze data from social media platforms to develop a strategic social media plan . Along with focusing on accomplishing outcomes and keeping up with my responsibilities, I spent a couple of hours each week monitoring SCCLD’s social media accounts. This allowed me opportunities to see what types of things the “fans” enjoyed seeing the most. Understanding how patrons interact on our pages helped give me insight for post recommendations for staff. After all, we are here to serve our patrons. Why not give them what they want?


As I made my way through this internship program I found myself grateful that I had taken Libr246: Social Media & Web 2.0 tools. This course, although only briefly, provided me with an overview of how some libraries used social media. It also introduced me to libraries that had great examples of using social media that I could refer to during my research, such as the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library. I also found myself referring back to information I learned in Libr210: Reference and Information services, specifically reader’s advisory services. The reader’s advisory services can be incorporated through Facebook posts, Pinterest boards and library blogs. Although I have a strong background in social media, these two courses introduced me to aspects of the library that I may have over looked during my research, specifically the use of Pinterest in the library.

The most difficult aspects of working in this virtual environment was connecting with the library. Due to schedule constraints, I did not get the opportunity to participate in the reader ‘s advisory meetings and in part I felt like this created a gap between me and the staff. I wish the staff would have reached out to me more to give feedback or insight on how they are currently using social media. However I could have encouraged this more by sending out emails and interacting with them more. I think this was a difficulty primarily because this was a virtual internship, and had I been on-site, my interaction with staff would have been satisfactory.

I feel that this internship exposed me to opportunities and experiences that helped me more fully understand the impact social media can have on organizations. Although the work I performed during this period seemed insignificant in process, when put into the bigger picture, I realize that my work was pertinent to developing the structure for SCCLD’s social media presence. The social media plan will be a basis from which SCCLD can build their policies and procedures. This is of significant value to the organization.




Whitni Watkins is in her final semester of the SLIS program. She just finished her ePortfolio and will wrap up the semester by working on a special studies course with VCARA. She is a graduate assistant and has been working for the past seven months on preparing faculty for the LMS transition this summer; but prior to this current role, she worked as the ILS administrator for an academic university in Southern California. She enjoys soccer, running, travel, cuisine, and technology. She is interested in system administration, web development, and emerging technologies primarily in academic libraries. To learn more about her, visit her website, blog, or on LinkedIn, or follow her on Twitter.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Silvia K. Spiva

    Thank you for sharing your experience, Whitni. You represented SJSU SLIS Spartans in a most excellent way!

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