Intentional Design: Crafting a Mutually Beneficial Internship Program in a University Archives and Special Collections
At the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) Criss Library, archivists in Archives and Special Collections work with students at varied levels, from student employees to interns, and engagement through instruction. These interactions and employment opportunities manifest in various types of projects, ranging from long-term processing work to more individualized assignments based on the parameters of practicums and internships. In the past, most of this work was based on in-person experiences.
In early 2020, UNO archivists rushed to modify and create digital projects that would sustain them and their students during an unknown stretch of working from home. As the pandemic stretched on and working from home expectations changed, students continued to need remote work and learning opportunities. UNO archivists gained several student workers and interns over the course of the pandemic. Some of the students were transferred from other departments in the library, such as Circulation, which needed more time to determine how they could work from home. Many of the students that were temporarily placed in Archives and Special Collections had no experience with archives’ work, and archivists were “ghosted” by a few student employees. Archivists did not take this personally as the pandemic affected everyone differently; they reconnected with students with redoubled efforts in flexibility and compassion. However, archivists are not superheroes; they could not be all things to students while dealing with their own pandemic-related circumstances. As a result, archivists had to identify ways in which they could engage students in meaningful work, while avoiding their own burnout or making more work for themselves.
The Hagel Archivist, Digital Initiatives Archivist, and Outreach Archivist initially worked individually to create and manage their student employees and interns. Each area of student work, processing, digital collections, and outreach required different workflows for project creation, and varied methods for scaffolding projects and outcomes. Additionally, each archivist had different levels of experience in supervision and creation of student projects. The Hagel Archivist manages students on short and long-term processing projects and working with multiple students from various academic programs. The Digital Initiatives Archivist oversees digitization projects that partner onsite UNO students for digitization and editing with remote library information science (LIS) students from various programs for metadata creation. The Outreach Archivist and her students create social media content, virtual programming, and exhibits to support collections and campus-wide events. In 2021, these three archivists decided to create a more structured and well-rounded program for engaging student employees, practicum students, and interns in the various facets of archival and special collections work.
This paper addresses UNO archivists’ planning for remote, in-person, and hybrid student projects in processing, digital initiatives, and outreach. It includes discussion of implementing different student projects and lessons learned. Also described is the ideation of a formalized internship design and workflow as UNO archivists look to increase remote collaboration with students even as they return to full-time in-person work. Through this work, archivists plan to create student projects that are mutually beneficial and leave their students with a sense of purpose, accomplishment, and support they can carry with them throughout their classes and into employment.
Guerra, Wendy; Du Laney, Claire; and Schwartz, Lori, "Intentional Design: Crafting a Mutually Beneficial Internship Program in a University Archives and Special Collections" (2021). Criss Library Faculty Proceedings & Presentations. 125.
This was presented at the 2021 Brick and Click Academic Library Conference https://www.nwmissouri.edu/library/brickandclick/index.htm