ASSOCIATES (vol. 1, no. 3, March 1995) -

Table of Contents

                      Denise Fourie, M.L.S.
                 Instructor, Library Technology
               Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA
In a cooperative venture with area libraries and information
centers, Cuesta College recently initiated a new internship course
as part of its curriculum in Library Technology.  A two-year,
community college located in the Central Coast area of California,
mid-way between San Francisco and Los Angeles, Cuesta is one
of a handful of state community colleges offering this vocational
education program.  Students have the option of earning a
Certificate of Proficiency in Library Technology or of selecting
Library Technology as the major for their Associate of Science
In response to potential employers and students, the new class was
designed to provide students with a practical, hands-on learning
experience in a library setting to complement the lecture/lab
classroom courses which make up the bulk of the program.
Requirements for candidates were the prior completion of a
minimum of three units in the Library Technology series with a
minimum C average.  Successful students would receive two units of
college credit for this non-paid practicum which included monthly
seminar sessions on campus in addition to the 80 hours of field
Once the course was approved, planning, development, and
recruitment began about seven months in advance of the Fall 1994
start date.  A critical part of the planning stage was detailed
discussions with the Library Technology Advisory Committee--a group
of off-campus advisors which includes directors and managers from
libraries throughout two counties.  As employers and as potential
hosts, their input proved invaluable.   Also critical was the
guidance of the college's dean responsible for vocational
education, who drew upon her previous experience in setting up
nursing and automotive technology internships.
Thirteen library agencies agreed to participate, providing a total
of over 30 possible sites to choose from.  Participating sites
included a state university, two community colleges, a county
public library system and branches, a law library, two high
schools, two junior high schools, and an elementary school.
Because the region is rather rural and has very little private
industry, the only special library setting was found at the law
Fifteen enthusiastic students enrolled for the first session of the
practicum.  Interns were placed at learning sites based on
interests and geographical preferences indicated on application
forms.  An important component of placement was the matching of
personalities--an exercise a lot less precise than factoring
in driving distances.  As the primary instructor in the Library
Technology Program, the author did have the advantage of being
well-acquainted with the students, thus knowing their temperaments
and capabilities.
For anyone about to implement an internship, a word to the wise:
be sure to have more sites than students to accommodate
unsatisfactory initial placements and any cancellations by sites
due to illnesses, staff shortages, or other unforeseen events.
Evaluation tools included daily student logs, instructor telephone
calls and site visits, and formal evaluation forms.  This
three-pronged system of monitoring provided close communication
between all parties involved during the semester, an essential
ingredient to the smooth management of the program.  The written
and oral comments gathered provided a database of feedback which
will be used to fine-tune the next session of the internship.
Based on the feedback from sites and students, the internship class
proved to be a very positive experience for both parties.  Students
found greatest value in the hands-on use of computer tools and
resources beyond those available at Cuesta College, in spending
time in a "live" library environment, and in the networking aspect
of their placement, which gave them the opportunity to develop
contacts with library staff in the community.  Commented intern
Barbara Kahn, "The relationship established with my site supervisor
is probably the most outstanding ingredient of this
experience....My interaction with the students in the actual
environment, helping them learn, is significant and also very
valuable.  This internship is a wonderful component for the Library
Technology program."
The field work provided students with unique career preparation in
a way that no classroom lecture could ever duplicate. While no
permanent job placements have yet materialized, several students
are now employed as paid substitutes at their intern sites.
More than a third of the site supervisors were library technicians
with the remainder librarians.  Site supervisors served as teachers
in the field--training, instructing, and evaluating interns. The
end result of this "teaching" experience for most supervisors was
a strong sense of satisfaction and recognition for the work they
perform as they shared their knowledge with the students.  Interns
proved to be a highly motivated and interested workforce for the
site libraries.
Many of the libraries involved were used to using student aides or
community volunteers, but found--not unexpectedly--that the level
of motivation and previous training that the interns brought to the
job was much higher.   This meant the ability to utilize the
interns to perform higher level work--a boon to overworked,
understaffed libraries.
As Jo Brown, Department Head of Government Documents & Maps, Cal
Poly State University, remarked, "Karen's attention to detail, her
willingness to tackle projects previously thought of as impossible
or, at least, never-ending, and her ability to fix as well as spot
the problems was noticed from her first days and shamelessly put to
good use... We gained more than we gave in supervising Karen."
For many of the site supervisors, the biggest challenge was
identifying in advance projects appropriate for interns.  It was
made clear from the start of the program that low level, routine
maintenance operations like shelving and shelf-reading should be
assigned as filler tasks only and that priority goals for the
interns would be training on circulation systems, staffing
public service desks, assisting with class orientations, learning
to operate CD-ROM and online indexes, etc.  For the next session of
the class, a more detailed packet of information will be prepared
for immediate supervisors including a course syllabus, assignment
sheets, and a checklist with suggested tasks, sample projects, and
learning activities.
Other recommendations regarded scheduling of internship hours.
Blocks of time less than four hours proved too short for in-depth
training.  Also, those interns employed during regular daytime
hours had to schedule internship time exclusively on evenings and
weekends which made it difficult for them to observe peak daytime
service levels and operations.
Through informal discussions with site supervisors and the written
evaluations, the pressing need to add formal Internet training to
the program's core curriculum was identified.  As a direct result
of this input, a proposal for a 1-unit "Introduction to the
Internet" course is now before the campus curriculum committee.
The internship experience bolstered justification for a need staff
was already keenly aware of.
The initial session of the internship course was well-received as
a new and practical component to the existing Library Technology
curriculum.  Besides providing the direct work experience benefits
to the students, the program forged new partnerships between the
college staff, and area libraries and information centers.  Library
technicians and librarians in the community expanded their skill
sets as they became teachers in the workplace.  Cuesta College
looks forward to a second session with expanded enrollment and
the participation of additional sites to increase the diversity of
the experience.
The literature on setting up, implementing, and evaluating
internships for library technicians is sparse.  The following
sources on internships proved helpful:
Basow, Robert R. and Mark V. Byrne.  "Internship expectations and
          learning goals."   _Journalism Educator_.  v.47, no.4,
          (Winter 1993).  pp.48-54.
Boardman, Edna M.  "So you're going to get an intern!"  _Book
          Report_.  v.9, no. 1.  (May-June 1990).  p.27.
_Internships:  Perspectives on Experiential Learning:  A Guide to
          Internship Management for Educators and Professionals_.
          Krieger Publishing.  1992.