Real World Experience
posted July 2, 2014 2:02 PM by Gemma Doyle
When I was looking at grad schools and deciding where to apply, the things I was really looking at were the program's requirements: GPA, recommendations, essays, etc. I didn't delve too far into what the different programs actually offered in the way of classes, since before I started library school and understood a lot of the skills and terminology, the course descriptions and requirements meant next to nothing to me. Still, one of the things that really stuck out for me about the Simmons GSLIS program was the emphasis on internships. Most of the programs that I looked at didn't require any sort of internship or real world experience, but Simmons requires two - two! - internships to graduate. To be perfectly honest, that seemed like a nightmare. All I wanted to do was go to class, do the work, eventually graduate and then start worrying about getting professional work in actual archives. I didn't want to have to attempt to work in archives before I even had my degree.
Once I got in to the Simmons program and started taking classes, things changed. A little. My first semester at Simmons I took LIS438, the introductory archives class. It requires a 60-hour internship, and I spent the weeks leading up to class worrying about that. Would I have to find it myself? Would the internship site expect me to know a lot about archives and archival work that I didn't? What, exactly, would I be expected to do? The thing is, once I actually started the class, I found out I wasn't the only one with those questions - and they were all anticipated by the instructor, who spent about an hour of that first class going over the internship requirement. No, we wouldn't need to find it ourselves. No, they didn't expect us to know much - and our knowledge base would grow as the semester went on, so the theories we learned in class would (or should) dovetail nicely with the practical applications we were using at the internship site. I suspect, though it was never said, that the initial internship in archives is to give students a real look at what archival work is all about before they get too far along in their studies. If they decide it's actually not for them, then it's caught early enough for them to switch to another track. It's important because most archival work - unlike library work - is done out of sight, so it's hard to know what the work is really like until you're doing it.
If the first internship is a test drive, the final archives track internship, LIS502, is the final exam, to test whether or not you know what you think you know and to learn more than a few advanced practical applications. Of course, by the time the second internship rolled around I was actually looking forward to doing it, excited when it came time to choose my internship site. You might think I would've learned from this not to fear things I don't really understand, but unfortunately that has not been the case. Yet.