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Students Share Virtual Student Foreign Service (VSFS) eInternship Experiences

This post is a follow-up to our previous post about the Virtual Student Foreign Service (VSFS) eInternship. Previous participants have been kind enough to write blog posts about the work they did and the value of the eInternship as a professionalizing experience.

If you are interested in participating in the VSFS eInternship next year, we will post that information to the DMIL website and share with our SLA Student Group contacts next year. Be on the lookout June 2015.

I. Amanda F. Thompson, MLIS Candidate

Amanda F. Thompson
Personal Website: http://www.librarianlivity.com/
Internship Website: https://sites.google.com/site/arlinternshipspring2014/home 
Screencast: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r7PYD0ddJQs

Late last fall, I sat down at my computer one night, bound and determined to find “it” –the perfect internship. Earlier that night, it hit me hard that night that I had one more year of library school left. While I learned many skills through my coursework, I wanted a chance or two to really apply my newly gained knowledge and skills in a work setting. I wanted to stand out, to have something more on my resume to offer my future employers. That’s when I saw “it”-the perfect internship for Army Research Laboratory Technical Library (ARL).

ARL caught my eye for many reasons. First and foremost, it was a virtual internship. I have family and work obligations, so it was important to me to be able to have flexibility with time, and a virtual internship certainly offers that. Doing a virtual internship also shows potential employers that I can work well and efficiently without direct supervision. Virtual internships also let you keep up with new communication technologies, which is something that will help you stay ahead of the curve when it comes time to send out resumes.

I also selected ARL because I wanted to take a position outside of the traditional library setting. ARL was different because it was a military library, not a public or academic library that I was used to. The work we were being asked to do was specifically for Army scientists, which was new territory for me. I got to learn new tools- such as Web of Science, InCites, and EndNotes, and directly apply them to the work I was doing.

Interning for ARL was a win-win situation. I got to do the things I love most- doing research and learning about new countries. The internship offered enough flexibility that I was able to complete my work while keeping up with work, school, and family obligations. But even more than that, my internship made a difference- the ARL scientists used the data the other interns and I gathered and interpreted and formed 15 international partnerships. I’m proud to have taken part of that.

This internship also brought me other opportunities and results above and beyond my expectations. Through this internship, the other interns and I have been invited to give talks and create a webinar. I’ve also had the chance to network with other federal librarians and learn about other opportunities within the federal government. I learned new, solid and sellable skills that I can use on my resume and in future jobs. The doors that a federal internship can open are many. I would highly recommend students to investigate this type of internship-with the skills and knowledge I learned from this, the possibilities are endless.

II. Cory Laurence, MLIS Candidate

Cory Laurence
San Jose State University iSchool
Website: http://arlgermany.weebly.com/
Screencast: http://youtu.be/-9iO5J38KiE

I interned virtually this summer with Nancy Faget, a librarian at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory. She is located in Maryland, while I am in California. The original plan was for me to work with a group of interns, but at the last minute it ended up just being me. The good thing about this was that the end product was really something that I created myself and could take full credit for, and I really felt that I was getting one-on-one support from Nancy. Even so, I was a little bit disappointed that I was on my own because I actually like group work for the camaraderie, increased motivation, and for having someone to bounce ideas off. Still, I had a productive summer and feel that I learned a lot.

The internship was an intern-driven research project about research trends in the European Union. Nancy provided the parameters and gave suggestions and training, but I was in charge of content, presentation mediums, motivation, scheduling, and promotion.   We decided to focus on research trends in Germany for the summer (because I have some rudimentary German language skills). Nancy gave me four topics to research (quantum computing, mulit-agent network control, nanomaterials, and metamaterials), and I ran searches and analyzed results in Web of Science in order to determine who was publishing the most articles on each topic in Germany. I identified some top authors and institutions and did some background research on the R&D environment in Germany. My next step was to decide how I wanted to present my information. I decided to create a website using Weebly, as well as a screencast to accompany the website. So by doing the internship, I was able to enhance my skills in the areas of web design, research, analysis, instruction, and organization, among others.

I have quite a few takeaways from the internship which I will take with me to my next project. The biggest obstacle I faced was one of motivation. It was summer, I had my kids home from school, we went on a trip, I was working on my own – everything conspired against me to make it as hard a possible to stay motivated! As a student in an online program, I’m used to dealing with this, but summers present a particular challenge. A lack of routine and consistency really exacerbate the usual problems with motivation. So, I found that I needed to find ways to deal with it. In the beginning of the summer I asked Nancy if we could schedule a weekly ‘check-in’ meeting. I’ve done this with past virtual internships, and it helps to have that accountability and connection on a regular basis. Even if we couldn’t meet by phone or web conference, I sent a weekly status update and Nancy replied with feedback. I made sure that I kept a daily log of my activities so I could have a tangible record of what I accomplished each day (this helped when writing the three log reports I had to submit to my school). I tried to plan to work at specific times on my internship, so that I wasn’t always trying to decide when I was going to get work done (and so that I didn’t feel that I had to be on the computer all the time). I did my best to set specific goals for myself before beginning each work session. In online classes, motivation is slightly easier since I have specific assignments and readings to complete. With this internship, the schedule was mostly up to me (with some guidance from Nancy), so I could really waste a lot of time if I wasn’t focused. I found that starting my session with a plan – a list of tasks to complete – helped keep me moving and focused. And to really keep my on track, I muted my phone and clicked “do not disturb” on my Facebook and email notifications on the computer!I have found that using Evernote is a great way to keep myself organized. I created a folder in Evernote just for this internship, and I kept everything related to the internship there. I saved emails, to-do lists, my daily internship log, notes, and I ‘clipped’ websites and documents that I found during my research. This combined with Google docs to keep track of the authors and institutions that I researched proved to be a very handy way to keep everything straight.

The great thing about this internship, besides all the valuable skills that I developed, was the support I received from Nancy. We didn’t talk often (our weekly check-in was often the only contact we had), but we did communicate over email and she assured me that she was always available to me. Nancy is very supportive of my career development, encouraging me to investigate Federal librarianship as a career option. I have to admit that it is not a career path I originally envisioned for myself, but she has encouraged me to conduct informational interviews and to visit libraries in the area that interest me. I will have to do the work and figure out who I want to talk to and where I’m interested in going, but Nancy will be available to me if I need her. Having her support will make the process a lot less overwhelming for me. Overall, I’m very glad that I chose to do this internship.

III. Aryn Dagirmanjian interned for the Army Research Laboratories in 2014 and is currently a Library and Information Science Masters Student at San Jose State University’s iSchool.

For the first three months of 2014, I was a virtual intern for the Army Research Laboratories in Adelphi, MD. I also live in Maryland, a little less than an hour away. It wouldn’t have been the worst commute in the world. What would have been difficult is working in office hours and commuter time around my full-time work schedule that included mornings, nights, and weekends. Virtual internships are fantastic for all the reasons you would assume, but even beyond that, my internship was a perfect match for me– because I helped create it.

I met my soon-to-be site supervisor Nancy Faget at San Jose State University’s Libraries 2.013 last October. I mentioned that I was a student and was on the lookout for an internship that spring. I mentioned my public library and research experience, especially in technology education, but it was my experience working in Japan that really grabbed her attention.

After the conference, Nancy made an offer. Would I like to intern at ARL researching science and technology trends in East Asia? I immediately responded yes.

Throughout the course of the internship I was able to use my Japanese language skills and cultural knowledge to hone in on the data I needed and connect with institutions overseas such as the Japan’s National Diet Library. I learned about the new technologies being studied and, when we shifted from Japan to Italy halfway through the semester, I already had the experience with the research tools I needed to perform.

The great thing about a federal virtual internship is that there really are so many different projects to choose from and so many great people willing to help you find the right one. Not only are virtual internships easier on a schedule, but a person can connect with different people across the world. It was a great opportunity for me and I believe there are many more opportunities yet to come for future students.

IV. Elizabeth Rapp, MLIS

I interned at ARL for a few months in the beginning of 2014 as part of my graduate school coursework. One of the opportunities that this internship gave me was the chance to attend a professional event at the Library of Congress. My internship was virtual so I was glad to be able to go to an event and meet my site supervisor, Nancy Faget, as well as other information professionals.

The Library of Congress event featured several speakers from different organizations who spoke on the different aspects of technology forecasting, such as research methods, use of technologies, and performance analysis. Some of the information presented was over my head, but there were a few lectures that dealt directly to what I was working on in my internship- mainly research methods and problems that researchers had to overcome. Some of the problems mentioned by the lecturers were similar to the issues that the other interns and I had experienced in our own research for ARL.

It was great to be able to connect a professional event to the work that I was doing in my internship. Virtual internships can make you feel a little bit isolated so being able to attend an event was an unexpected bonus. Experiences like this helped me connect a virtual experience to one where I was an active member in the library community.

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Virtual Student Foreign Service (VSFS) Opportunity for Students (Deadline 22 July 2014)

The following is an interview with Nancy Faget, Federal Librarian at the Army Research Laboratory, about the Virtual Student Foreign Service (VSFS) eInternship. More information can be found at http://www.state.gov/vsfs/ Deadline for this year is July 22nd.

For more information, please read below.

1) What is the Virtual Student Foreign Service (VSFS) eInternship? How did VSFS eInternships come about?

A few years ago, the State Department noticed that there were thousands of students volunteering to do projects. The students were quite talented and interested in contributing to State Department to convey their message around the world. Bridget Roddy now runs the VSFS program hundreds of projects available at multiple agencies. (See their video.)

From my perspective as a military librarian, I was interested in a large pool of candidates who might have language skills and interest in science research. VSFS seemed a good way to get the word out about our projects for academic credit.

There are more virtual jobs being offered in Federal government. For example: Take a look at the virtual teachers that DoD Education Activity are hiring

2) What kinds of projects have participants been responsible for? Are links to these past projects available online?

I’ve sponsored virtual internships for a number of years now by advertising them through the library schools. It was great to see that the VSFS program allowed me to advertise internships there, too.

Some projects were similar to the ones I was doing at my military library (Army Research Laboratory) like this one for the Buenos Aires embassy (“Increase awareness of U.S. initiatives in science, technology, and innovation by finding open source materials to highlight on the embassy’s Virtual Science Corner website”). It seemed like a good idea to post my project there so we’ll see who applies there and who emails me directly to apply.

A full list of projects from past students and available for future students can be found at http://www.state.gov/vsfs . Apply for one of the 2014-15 projects by July 22nd!

 3) Who is eligible for the VSFS eInternship? How do students apply?

U.S. citizens who are enrolled undergrad, grad, or post grad student can apply. Students pick the projects they want to apply to by submitting application via USAJobs.gov at https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/373688600
4) Who do eInterns work with? How do they telecommute?

Each person with a project who seeks a student must define how the student will work with them. In our case, I provide access to commercial databases, web based training, collaboration via phone/email, and mentoring along the way as the work product develops. Additionally, I think it important to teach the student about Federal librarianship, help them network within the community, and promote their work.   Sometimes I have one student in a semester, sometimes more working on a project as a team. The students finished that project with a webinar and a presentation at an annual conference on their work.

5) Have former eInterns found positions in government? What kinds of opportunities can a VSFS eIntership provide?

I can speak about my former virtual interns. One University of Maryland virtual intern entered Federal government as a contractor, and now she works as a Federal employee at the NIST library. One University of Washington virtual intern works at the U.S. GPO.   One former VSFS student is coming to work for me in a few weeks in our new Library Fellows program. It looks great on a resume when you have completed a project for a Federal agency.

The student projects have provided great benefit to our library. One student project resulted in our getting an additional $187,000 in funding. One student project resulted in a better engagement strategy when our scientists met with the Italian delegation. If anyone wants to speak with me or a former intern, just email me at nancy.g.faget.civ@mail.mil.

6) Is there any advice that you would give to someone applying for the VSFS eInternship, in terms of applying to be an eIntern and in terms of having a successful internship?

You’ll have to be a self-starter to be successful in a virtual internship. It’s an opportunity to help solve real world problems, so take it seriously. Have faith that the work you do enhances your resumes, increases your experiences, and helps the Federal government. All that while earning credit? What an opportunity!

If you were approaching someone to offer you a virtual internship (and yes, you can suggest one to a military librarian), please do so early enough that the paperwork can be properly filed with your school so that you do earn academic credit. All of the VSFS State Department opportunities can allow you to earn academic credit, so ASK. You are a professional working on behalf of the Federal government, so put your best foot forward.

You’re proactive, or you wouldn’t apply for such a program. Network, learn, and leverage the opportunity as much as you can.

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Military Libraries Workshop

This post is written by Angela J.A. Kent.  She was this year’s winner of the Student Stipend Award.

I had the honor and the pleasure of attending the Military Libraries Division‘s Military Libraries Workshop as their Student Stipend Award winner. The workshop touched on a number of issues in librarianship including, Copyright, Big Data, Social Media, and Virtual Libraries.  The workshop also featured SLA President, Deb Hunt, and topped off with a 60th Anniversary dinner at Huntsville Alabama’s U.S. Space & Rocket Center.

Most of the presentation slides are now available and are worth reviewing.

Takeaways
Branding
This was the top takeaway for me. Although I missed Deb Hunt’s presentation, her point about investing in your own professional development was echoed in each session — including the 2-minute presentations vendors! Marcy Phelps emphasized the importance of branding your value-added research and analysis in big and small ways.

From an organizational standpoint, Jane Killian (from the Defense Forensic Science Center) showed how her virtual library still needed to be supported by physical presence and branding. Jane talked about taking different routes in the office so that she would run into her patrons and have the opportunity to share an article or research topic. And, like any good brander, Jill carries a signature style (a teapot!) that quickly connects her to the library.

For both the professional and the libraries that they represent, it is worth taking the time to think about your professional signature and how you can better brand and market their services. Organizing your professional online presence, then, becomes an important consideration and an issues that was raised in other presentations.

Harnessing (and keeping up with) technology
Steven MacCall’s presentation on social media raised the key points of technology adoption and deployment. And, as is certainly the case for military libraries, this means barriers related to cost and security. To address some of these challenges, the last panel provided lessons learned from their own libraries. Both of these presentations made think about a complementary session from the SLA Annual Conference: Strategic Leveraging of Social Media Content. What I find interesting about social media management is understanding through how the many online applications can (and should) serve different purposes.

Margie Hlava’s presentation on Big Data was representative of the true scope of what it means to try and harness technology. It also spoke directly to the work of librarians: extracting and making sense of data; organizing data through metadata cataloging and taxonomy; and data visualization. Margie touched on a number of key topics important to any library and information professional.  It reminded me of a course that I’d been meaning to take over at School of Data: A Gentle Introduction to Extracting Data.

Copyright
While not quite a featured component to the workshop, Gretchen McCord‘s presentation on copyright was an update on issues that are of personal interest to me. Along the same lines as “keeping up with technology,” information professionals need to keep up with copyright — particularly as they relate to Fair Use and Open Access.

Doing more with less and learning from one another
While certainly not unique to military libraries, the final panel represented just how well military librarians are practicing resiliency and adaptability. Panelists shared lessons learned, best practices, and solutions to overcoming everything from budgetary constraints to security limitations.

 

 

About Angela

Angela is an MSc. MLIS Candidate (The Catholic University of America). She holds a Masters in Security Studies from Georgetown University, a B.A. in International Political Economy, and a certificate in Apprenticeship in Teaching (Georgetown University). Her areas of interest include open source intelligence & grey information sources, information policy (open access) intelligence analysis, and international & defense relations. Angela is from Toronto, Canada.

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Big Data, H.P. Lovecraft, and common sense

hplovecraft

“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”  — H.P Lovecraft, “Call of Cthulhu,” Weird Tales, 11, No. 2 (February 1928), 159–78, 287.

While it is obvious that H.P. Lovecraft could not know about big data, this quote is very relevant.  Alexis Madrigal of Nextgov’s Big Data blog thinks so as well.  That is where I first saw this quote and its being linked to big data.  There are many things about big data and how it can be used that are very scary.  We have seen recently where is is actually difficult to limit how much data you may end up collecting because of how hard it is to separate out what you need from what is found (ie. NSA and FISA).  It is important to not blame the technology as the problem.  The problem is its application and use by human beings. 

There are many “Big Benefits” from the use and application of “Big Data.”  Look at the growth and maturation of the field of bioinformatics and its use in medicine.   Sequencing of the human genome is the application of big data.  Genomics will change how we are treated for disease. 

Big Data will help us in the battle to overcome global warming.  Increasingly accurate weather forecasts and improved computer models of the effects of global warming are all applications of big data.

Big data is now showing up in all the hard sciences and in the “soft” such the social sciences.  It is impossible to get away from it.

All of us in special libraries, especially in business, technical and research libraries, have seen our jobs change because of interest in big data and because many of us are directly involved in the exploration, analysis, and manipulation of big data sets. 

A bit of common sense will help us avoid us the fate suggested by H.P. Lovecraft of  “mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”  As with all technologies, big data is not in itself good or bad.  It is in how it is used.  As librarians we can help direct its use into positive directions.

Note: These are my own opinions and not the opinions of SLA, Military Libraries Division of SLA, my employer, or the U.S.Air Force or DoD.  — Bill Drew

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Oyster Books: Worth the Price of Admission?

Oyster is a new IOS app being hailed as the Netflix for books. It involves paying a monthly subscription fee of $9.95 per month to gain unlimited access to over 100,000 eBook titles.  The service is only available on an Apple iPhone or iPad.  An Android app may be released in the future, but no release date has been announced.

The service launched on September 5, 2013 to a start-up company based in New York. Currently there are 8 employees, none of which are librarians.

This new service has over 100,000 books from a small handful of publishers, HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Workman and Smashwords. They are adding new titles frequently.

Continue Reading

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