My Experience as a Corporate Librarian Intern in Silicon Valley

By Kimberly Koshiyama

When I first saw QuickSLIS mailer’s advertisement calling for a student in Library and Information Science at San Jose State University to work as an Intern at one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world, I immediately thought, is this possible?  Can the artsy/literature-focused library world be inter-meshed with the fast-paced, often cutthroat corporate, technology industry?  As I have found out, it indeed can, and my internship there was one of the best yet challenging experiences of my life.

The closest environment that I had ever worked at previously was a start-up technology company, which was still quite dissimilar from my current position.  We frequently showed up to work wearing jeans and tee-shirts, multi-tasking by playing music and chatting intermittently on top of working.  Immediately when I walked in to my interview at my internship, I was blown away by the shiny chrome buildings, the twenty-three plus various campuses, glass doors, and being surrounded by professionals adorned in business suits, heels, or finely pressed clothes.  I was then brought into an interview with three variant individuals (after many attempts at an electronic “summoning” system), one of whom I talked to via phone rather than in-person.  Most of the communication is done either by Web-conferencing or phone which the SLIS program has sufficiently prepped me for!  I lived within an APR (Audio Privacy closed off glass paneled room with electrical outlets, Kleenex, Whiteboards, camping equipment…kidding about the last one but you get the picture) as most individuals do within the company. 

After being hired, the first month was rather chaotic as I had to go through the rigmarole of: getting signed into the system, obtaining an employee badge (standing in an hour long line), obtaining a work e-mail address, obtaining a work laptop and cubicle, etc. and since I was at the “bottom of the totem pole” I believe that people took their time to get me adjusted.  My first supervisor who initially hired me for this position was so busy that I scarcely saw or spoke to him after the first day unless a true “emergency” occurred, although he was accessible via email (sometimes).  I was fortunate enough to have an exemplary mentor in the form of another Intern to guide me, an MBA student who eventually received a full-time position within the company.  However, she told me that she was completely on her own when she first started as an intern (how she made it through I am still unsure!)

My responsibilities mainly consisted of: attending all-hands and other staff meetings and taking notes, figuring out ways for various individuals to collaborate more efficiently, compiling Excel spreadsheets of competitive intelligence information, assigning metadata within electronic databases, organizing electronic company documents within the department, updating a Market Intelligence website on a monthly basis, and even giving a presentation to the entire department and outside product managers introducing this website (a fairly scary task!).  However, my experience was not all work and no play.  An entire realm was opened to me, in which I could utilize my workplace’s gymnasium, multiple cafeterias, etc.  I also partook in an Intern event in which I met the company’s CEO in person, as well as a holiday party where I networked with the people from my department and learned about their backgrounds, education and professional experience.  My second supervisor (present at this party) was an ex-colonel from the Pentagon who fortunately dedicated much of his time and energy to mentor me and guide me through processes, but was also quite strict and expected me to work to my full potential. 

This internship was originally intended to be a summer one but was extended another three months due to satisfaction in my performance.  However, for budgetary and other reasons, I was “laid off” at the end of the fiscal year, which was satisfactory to me as I would still like to pursue other aspects of the library field.  Overall, this experience absolutely improved my communication skills, caused me to become more assertive by forcing me to go outside of my comfort zone and reach out to everyone within a thirty person team (as one of my first assignments, my second supervisor had me interview each member of the team, either by phone or in person, and find out what their duties and responsibilities were), and made me more business savvy and time effective (this company moves at a rapid pace and deadlines are essentially everything).  Although I am still uncertain whether the corporate world is the best environment for me, I am still open to the possibility of working there or at a similar company.  I would recommend this internship or similar ones to SLIS students. However, be prepared for a rather time-intensive experience; most of my nights and weekends I was expected to work as well!

Kimberly is a fourth semester SLIS student.  She is on the Archives and Special Libraries track.  She is a Manuscript Processing Assistant for the MALDEF (Mexican American League of Defense and Education Fund) at Stanford University’s Green Library and a Student Assistant at Special Collections at San Jose State University library.  She enjoys kickboxing in her spare time to alleviate stress and being mother to a 5 year old “son” or half Pekingese/half Chihuahua mix named Oreo.