Q: How does one go about getting an internship or just a volunteer position at a public library?

Q:  I am currently attending the MLIS online program at Rutgers after a career as an attorney, in the school media specialist track.  I have volunteered in my children’s elementary school library for the last 8 years.  For the past two years, I, along with two other parents, stepped in to take over the duties of the library aide when that position was cut.  However, I would like to get more experience.  How does one go about getting an internship or just a volunteer position at a public library?  Thanks.


TA:  One of the easiest ways to get an internship or volunteer position is to be recommended by someone who can speak to your work style, professionalism and dependability.  If there’s someone you’ve been working with at the elementary school (a professional librarian, a teacher, the school’s principal) who can make a call on your behalf to the public library, or write a letter of recommendation, that will open a lot of doors for you.  If you don’t have that option available to you, you can always work through your graduate school’s career center.  While it may be more difficult because it’s an online program and they may not have personal contacts in the area, it is their job (and their mission) to assist you with on-the-job experiences that supplement your graduate school education.  They may also be able to connect you with alumni in your local area who could offer volunteer and internship experiences.

2 thoughts on “Q: How does one go about getting an internship or just a volunteer position at a public library?

  1. I would also suggest contacting some local libraries directly. But be prepared before you call or email – be ready to discuss what skills and experience you could bring to the library and what your goals are for volunteering/interning (get more reference experience? learn about collection development?). As a library director, I’ve had many MLS students contact me about internships and it was helpful to know what they wanted to get out of the experience – I don’t necessarily have time to create an internship for them, but can usually find time to lead them through a project or set up reference desk shadowing if they have some ideas of what they want to learn already.

    If you don’t want to cold-call libraries, you could set up informational interviews with librarians or library directors and inquire about volunteer opportunities after you have made that connection.

  2. Excellent suggestions Jami! Thanks for the advice and for the perspective you provide as a library director. And your suggestion about the information interview is great…for folks wanting to know more about informational interviews (what they are, how to prepare…) please take a look at our posts on that topic.

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