My Youth Services Internship at Atherton Library

by Pat Oey

From the time I began my SLIS coursework, I eagerly looked forward to taking LIBR 294, Professional Experience:  Internships.  As someone who is not already employed in a library setting, the appeal of the course is clear—getting hands-on experience that would not only inform future career decisions, but would also make those career possibilities open up because I would actually be able to list the experience on my resume!
So, from the moment I completed my prerequisites (200, 202, 203, 204, and three elective courses), I would peruse the Internship Sites page and dream and plan.  As luck would have it, on Thanksgiving Day 2010 I discovered a listing from Atherton Library in California for a youth services intern—the description seemed a perfect fit for me.  I applied, interviewed, and was granted the opportunity to serve as Atherton’s youth services intern for Spring 2011!       
My first encounter of Atherton Library (a branch of the San Mateo County Library) was incredibly pleasant.  It is a one-room library which was added onto a house that used to belong to the police chief of Atherton, so the staff work rooms are quaint, and there are two bathtubs in the bathrooms (one of which the children’s librarians use for storing crafts materials).  Atherton itself is a very small, rural community, so the pace at the library was far from stressful.  There was a healthy flow of patrons, but the atmosphere never got crazy, and the friendliness that can characterize a smaller community prevailed. 

The two children’s librarians with whom I worked could not have been better mentors to me, sharing their experiences and recommending materials for me to read (children’s books—just up my alley) in order to get to know the library’s collection.  Every staff member was welcoming and helpful to me, from my supervisor (herself a SLIS graduate) to the senior library assistant who told me about the ins and outs of the library and its workings.
During my time at Atherton, I trained in storytelling and delivered storytimes to a local Headstart preschool as part of an outreach program; wrote lots of blogs for the youth and parents that were posted on the library’s website; categorized juvenile materials according to genre for a database; got my feet wet with reference help; led a week of crafts for kids ages 3 and up; and learned how to design an online tutorial to help with one of the library’s databases.  Most of all, though, I benefitted from the experience of being in a library four days a week, coming into contact with children, and observing how seasoned children’s librarians handle programming, reader’s advisory, and storytimes for the youth in the community. 
I honestly believe that I learned as much from the practical experience of the internship as I have in a regular class, and the live contact with people was just fabulous.  Sometimes you just want to put what you’ve learned into practice, and internships give you a chance to do that.  A great advantage to doing the internship through LIBR 294 is that you have the opportunity to read the experiences that other people taking the class are having—so, in essence, you can live vicariously and get a taste of many other types of internships.  I found this especially helpful, as I could read about students interning in academic settings and use this as input for deciding whether to do another internship in a similar setting.
All this is by way of encouraging you wholeheartedly to take LIBR 294 if you are wondering if it is worthwhile—it definitely was for me! 
Patty Oey is hoping to graduate in Fall 2012, and then to get a job working with children in a public library.  This is a picture of her with her son Torion, who is looking at her skeptically.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Peace Sweet Peas

    There is something so special about those small libraries. I was on the library board in a town of 2000 and on the board with me were several elderly women who had worked as librarians in earlier lives. One was quite concerned that the books line-up flush with the front of the shelves; something I had not previously considered but which did grow on me as an asthetic to be stroven for.

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