Two Information Literacy Internships Compared: On-Site vs. Virtual

Two Information Literacy Internships Compared: On-site vs. Virtual
by Darren Ilett

Recently I realized I have enjoyed the best of both worlds in my two internships related to information literacy instruction. This summer, I worked as an on-site intern at the University of New Mexico’s Fine Arts and Design Library (UNM FADL), where I created digital learning objects. Currently and through May 2015, I am serving as a student trainer intern training SJSU iSchool students and faculty in the use of ProQuest products. In library and information science (LIS) careers, we need to be able to move from face-to-face to online communication and back again seamlessly, and these two internships have helped me practice doing just that.

Much of my on-site internship at UNM FADL was actually completed online. This was due to the nature of the work, which was developing online instructional tools, such as LibGuides, videos, and Guides on the Side. The emphasis on technology made it possible to work anywhere at any time, and it also let me try out the skills I had learned in my coursework (especially LIBR 240: Information Technology Tools and Applications and LIBR: 254 Information Literacy and Learning). However, I had a regularly scheduled, face-to-face meeting with my on-site supervisor, which helped me stay on track and motivated. Being on site, I also got to know and worked with librarians and staff across the campus. Informal networking—chatting while working the reference desk, grabbing lunch or coffee, etc.—was a benefit of being on campus and would have been impossible to replicate in a completely virtual context.

My current internship with ProQuest is also a mix of on-site and virtual experiences. Early this summer, 10 other student trainer interns (from the US, Canada, Ireland, and Sweden) and I traveled to Ann Arbor, Michigan to take part in training sessions and to visit the ProQuest headquarters. It was exciting to meet my fellow interns and ProQuest employees in-person, as well as to visit the facilities where dissertations are processed and where microfilm copies of historical newspapers are created. I had little idea of the work entailed in these processes, and I now have a better appreciation of what goes on behind the scenes. As with my internship at UNM FADL, this on-site experience could hardly have been replaced by virtual means. After returning home, however, the internship was and is entirely online. I have begun training iSchool students and faculty in the use of Flow, a new research workflow and collaboration tool, and in the ProQuest databases search platform. The training sessions I offer are all necessarily online since iSchool students and faculty are spread across the US and around the globe. I enjoy working with folks online, especially one-on-one or in small groups so that it can be more interactive and tailored to the trainees’ needs and interests. This also makes them more like a conversation instead of a lecture.

In both internships, I have gained practice in planning for and implementing information literacy instruction. The combination of on-site and virtual settings is, I feel, one of the principal strengths of the experience. Internships, though often unpaid, are an excellent way to gain professional experience in LIS. These internships have facilitated the transition from my previous career in German studies by providing hands-on, real-world, and practical application of the skills and concepts from my iSchool coursework. Gaining entry into a new profession is challenging, and internships offer invaluable professional experience and a taste of what the day-to-day work of a profession is like. I wholeheartedly recommend pursuing an internship, whether on-site or virtual, paid or unpaid, to any LIS student.




Darren Ilett is an MLIS student in the School of Information at San José State University. He will graduate in May 2015 with an emphasis on information literacy instruction. Currently, he is working as a Student Trainer Intern with ProQuest, MARA Research Assistant in the iSchool, and an Adjunct Faculty Member in the School of Education at the University of New Mexico. You can email him here or visit his website here.