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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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