I decided I wanted to be a librarian in eighth grade when I started working as a library aid as a school elective. I adored walking through the child-height shelves with my returns cart, and when I was allowed to do repairs or apply the plastic library book covers, I felt like Khaleesi of the books. Since then, that decision has been reaffirmed many times—both by libraries where I feel at home and by acquaintances who unfailingly tell me I “totally look like a librarian!” when I tell them my career goals.
This summer, I confirmed my love for libraries once again by interning in the Research Library of the Western Reserve Historical Society (WRHS). WRHS is “the oldest cultural institution in Northeast Ohio,” according to many different sources, and it has been collecting books and manuscripts since its founding. Its collections cover every aspect of Cleveland-area/Ohio history that you could think to research, plus extensive genealogical records and other topics ranging from New England history to automotive marque files. As someone who is perfectly happy to spend an afternoon in a reading room poring over any topic you care to throw at me, I was delighted.
For the most part, my work as a library intern fell into two categories: helping patrons to access materials and helping the librarians with research requests.
For patrons, I was often sent up into the second- and third-floor stacks (only the first-floor stacks are open to non-staff) for books, manuscripts, or photographs. Beyond that, I also became very familiar with Ancestry.com, as that is generally where we started people who wanted to research their family history.
For research requests (my favorite part of working in the library), the assignment could range from skimming a book for a specific quote to getting a topic and determining for myself which sources I would need to consult. With so much information at my disposal, these tasks gave me the opportunity to play the expert at any number of topics. Before setting foot in that library I knew ridiculously little about the city where I grew up, but now I could spend hours talking about Cleveland’s development and all the fascinating characters who shaped it.
As fun as it can be to help someone finally find that long-lost great-uncle or the perfect image for the sign they’re designing, this internship definitely helped me determine that what I really love is research projects. Research librarians try on a new hat every day with the huge range of topics they can be called upon to delve into, but they can always rely on their curiosity and instinct for information to provide new material for even the most seasoned scholars.
I’m so grateful to the Sigma Tau Delta Summer Internship Stipend program for allowing me to take advantage of this opportunity to learn so much. After this internship, I am planning to apply to library science master’s programs and work toward becoming a research librarian myself. In the meantime, I’ll definitely return to the WRHS as a volunteer—I can’t let all my newfound knowledge about local millstones and mansions go to waste!
Sigma Tau Delta Summer Internship Stipend
Sigma Tau Delta offers funding for current undergraduate and graduate student members accepting non- or low-paying summer internships. The Summer Internship Stipend is a competitive program providing a limited number of stipends of up to $1,500 each.
The internship must involve working for an “organization” while being directed by a supervisor/mentor within that organization, and the internship’s duties must be consistent with the applicant’s level of education, area of study, and career goals. Financial need will be taken into consideration in addition to internship length. Applicants are responsible for obtaining and providing verification of the internship. Please review the application guidelines for additional information.
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