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Interns Diversifying Brooklyn College Library


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Interns Diversifying Brooklyn College Library

  1. 1. TEMPLATE DESIGN © 2008www.PosterPresentations.comA Few Drops Wrought a Ripple Effect:A Diverse Pool of Interns Offers Short-Term Staffing Solutions and Long-Term Benefits for New Professionals and the LibraryKatelyn Angell / Wendy Chu / Beth Evans / Barnaby NicolasBrooklyn College Library of the City University of New YorkIntern Recruitment Library Faculty & Intern Ethnicity Interns 2009: Self-DescribedEpilogueTeam Building – The Philosophy Department LibraryCultivating Individual TalentsContact informationThe Draw of Brooklyn CollegeBC Student Demographics 2009OPTIONALLOGO HEREOPTIONALLOGO HEREStudent EthnicityBrooklyn College student population shows approximately 10% of all students are Asian/Pacific Islander, nearly 20% are Black,Non-Hispanic and approximately 8% are Hispanic. The total number of self-declared students of color is approximately 36%.Only 5% of Brooklyn College Library facultyare represented by a person of color.The Brooklyn College 2009 summer intern cohort wastwo thirds represented by people of color. The LGBTcommunity is also represented by the intern cohort, butnot identified on the chart.Combining interns with the Brooklyn College Library faculty brings the totalpercentage of non-whites who represent the professional face of the Library upto 14%. The number is still less than half of the percentage of students whodeclare themselves persons of color, but a significant increase over the ethiccomposition of librarians when counted without the intern cohort.Sexual OrientationAs with most points of data collection throughout the United States, admissions forms for the City University of New York do not askquestions about sexual orientation. Only recently has legislation been introduced (California AB 1878 (Lieu)) that would help gathervital data about the LGBT community. Such legislation would require the state to add questions about sexual orientation, genderidentity and domestic partnership status in voluntary demographic sections of government forms. This would allow for employers tocast a wider net in striving for assuring a more diverse workplace.The Brooklyn College Library has an active internship program that has been in place for nearlytwenty years. The internship program draws upon graduate students in the five library schools in theNew York area as well as students attending programs elsewhere who are spending a semester inNew York. A significant number of Brooklyn College undergraduate students, New York City highschool students and MLS graduates have also interned in the Brooklyn College Library.Wendy:I am a first-generation Chinese immigrant who has attained my college degree. In many ways, I fit precisely the description of thestudents going to Brooklyn College. Many of them are similarly first-generation immigrants. We have come to this country aschildren or young adults and have grown up in the multicultural, cosmopolitan surroundings of New York City. Diversity oflanguage, ethnicity, and culture is a matter of fact and so much the way of life that people, especially those who are the first onesin their families to have the opportunity to go to college and receive higher education, feel a necessity to learn and prosper asstudents and future leaders.During the internship at Brooklyn College Library I had numerous opportunities to assist librarians at the Reference Help Desk.The patrons who came for help were students, members of the faculty, and others in the community. They were friendly faces,with a lively interest in the resources and services available in the Library. Some would come to us alone with questions, andothers in groups of various sizes, but always I observed a commonality - the sheer variety of people, the different groups theyformed, and the celebration of diversity they were with their lack of religious, ethnic, and even generational boundaries. I believeit’s not just me; there are many people who feel the same about what they look for in their schools, careers, or life in general: as asociety, we have learned to see past our differences and appreciate ourselves for what we are – a melting pot. The demographicsof Brooklyn College are a reflection of the times – people who are forward thinkers engaged in creating through progress thesociety of tomorrow.Barnaby:I am a young African-American male born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. Both of my parents were immigrants from Haiti.Growing up I was exposed to diversity. I lived in a household exposed to the Haitian culture on a daily basis. This was verydifferent from the culture that I encountered when I was not in the confines of my home and with family. The American culture inwhich I lived in was different in many ways from a nation such as Haiti, with a variety of languages, music and food. So as onecan see, I became aware about diversity in the sense of culture rather early and embraced it since my youth. Learning aboutdifferent people and culture and the different social norms that exist is always an opportunity to become more knowledgeableabout the world around us.According to the statistics provided by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 71% of the undergraduate populationis not older than me, 27% of the undergraduate population fall under the same racial category as African-American, and 40% ofthe undergraduate population are male. Furthermore, only one undergraduate student graduated in during the 2008-2009 with hisor her major concentration in Africana Studies. The NCES statistics on ethnicity are fairly reflected in the undergraduate studentpopulation at Brooklyn College, I noticed that the racial make-up of the library faculty was virtually homogeneous. This was a bitastonishing, considering that the librarian profession leads among advocates for diversity. Moreover, librarians frown upon anyform of discrimination when it comes to library and societal issues. Nevertheless, this did not negatively affect my perception ofthe BC Library. During the internship, the Library demonstrated time and time again that its mission was to support the Collegesinstructional and research activities. The BC also showed how it was dedicated to maintaining and building their strong collectionson a variety of subjects, such as, special education, womens studies, African-American studies, African history, and Judaicstudies.Kate:I am a 26-year-old queer woman of Western European descent. I am the first person in my immediate family to receive abachelors degree, and I am also the first person on my mothers side of the family to receive a bachelors degree. Born and raisedin a mid-sized, ethnically homogeneous town in New England, I moved to Brooklyn nearly four years ago. I feel a strong allegianceto my adopted home, and relish the incredible diversity of this borough.As a queer woman, it has always been important for me to live/work in a location where I do not have to hide my sexual orientationdue to factors such as employment or social discrimination. As a resident of New York City it seems to me that I have theopportunity to live my personal life in practically any manner of my choosing.My position as a sexual minority in a heterosexual society informed my decision to enter librarianship, as I desire to closeinformation gaps caused by class, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, ableism, etc. As a library intern at Brooklyn College, Ibelieved myself capable of constructing a strong foundation in working with people of a wide variety of backgrounds and identities.Additionally, I very much valued the knowledge that I was closely working with people from my own community, as I am firm in myconviction that positive social change arises first from ones own social and physical location.Although I did not directly work with people researching LGBTQ issues during my time at BC, I learned about CUNYs amazingCenter for Lesbian and Gay Studies (CLAGS) at the CUNY Graduate Center as a result of this internship. This organization hasthe potential to be an incredibly useful resource for patrons conducting research on LGBTQ issues, especially in the NYC area. Inow know to direct some of my own students to CLAGS materials and lectures, and even applied for a part-time job there myselfbefore I began my current position at Sarah Lawrence.The philosophy department at Brooklyn College had contacted the Library for assistance with cleaning up and organizing its department conference roomlibrary. An intern with a strong background in philosophy began to work solo on the project in the spring 2009 semester. The summer intern cohort took overthe unfinished project without an opportunity to meet with the first intern.Wendy: The team-building project of reorganizing the reading collection in the Philosophy Department drew all three interns together. We were from differentacademic backgrounds outside our graduate study in library science. None of us had taken many advanced courses in Philosophy, so we were on equal footingwhen we started. This, in hindsight, proved useful because the experience allowed us to turn toward each other for support. We were able to balance ourindividual skills and abilities with those of others for a common goal.We initially met with two professors of the department to discuss how the collection had been handled in the past, what the first intern had accomplished, andwhat they hoped to offer their department and students by having a satellite library. We also discussed the uses and users of the library, the frequency withwhich this facility was used, and all the courses in the curriculum with which the collection was identified. The session opened our minds to the importanceplaced on collection development and library design. We quickly came to realize that we need to approach the re-organization work in a fresh way in order toaccomplish what the department needed.Whether or not we realized it at the time, we were essentially functioning as catalogers, designing a preliminary catalog system for the department as weimproved and expanded on the listing of titles started by the prior intern.Barnaby: The three of us knew right away that organizing the philosophy department library and developing a plan to preserve the organization of the library inthe future would be challenging, but the fact that none of us had any background in the Philosophy discipline made it seem like a huge task toundertake. Initially, we thought we were doing a decent job in rearranging the books that were scattered throughout the shelves. But after one ofthe professors, who was overseeing this project, gave us a brief lecture about the influential philosophers along with the major eras in philosophy, ourconfidence about how well we would perform increased. The lecture made the framework much clearer in regards to understanding which materials should begrouped together under the headings and which should not be.We continued working with the title spreadsheet created by the previous intern. The spreadsheet contained approximately 45% of the titles that were on theshelves and listed for each book the author, title, edition, name of publisher, year of publication, number of pages, location of the book on the shelf (matched toa map he also supplied), and subject heading. The title list/map did not correlate often enough to be useful but we kept the other fields and entered data foreach book. Having three people work concurrently on data entry in the same spreadsheet might seem to be chaotic, but we realized that there were ways wecould work to avoid overlapping and duplicating each other’s work.In addition to reorganizing the collection, adding books to the spreadsheet, and planning a simple classification system, we also began weeding duplicatebooks. We left the duplicates for the philosophy department professors to go through to determine what should ultimately be discarded or what should remain inthe library based on value and significance.Kate: I had never worked on an informal/departmental library before. I think it was a superb introduction to collaborating on a project with other librarians. Wewere given a lot of freedom on the project. While the chair of the philosophy department was available for guidance, he trusted us to organize the departmentscollection. Whereas the majority of our responsibilities at BC library lay in reference, this was, as Wendy pointed out, very much a cataloging project. I felt as ifthe three of us were our own little technical services unit, devising classification schemes and attempting to place each book in its most appropriate area.Because none of us had a philosophy background. -- I had never even taken one philosophy course -- we were at a bit of a disadvantage compared to a subjectselector with a philosophy degree,. We were greatly aided when the chair gave us a brief introduction to the various branches of philosophy. We were alsoprovided with a handout detailing these areas, and from there were better prepared to continue where the previous intern had left off.From the very beginning I felt extremely comfortable partnering with Wendy and Barnaby- we were always willing to listen to each other, and genuinely workedtogether to devise a viable classification schema. In such cases it is of the utmost importance for people to remain open to suggestions for improvement fromtheir colleagues, as many hands make light work and many brains make productive work! For example, we decided as a team to embark upon the project withone person entering titles into a spreadsheet while the others organized books. This approach turned out to be too time-consuming, and thus we tried anothermethod suggested by a team member in which all three of us simultaneously inputted titles into a Google Docs spreadsheet.Wendy:Aside from the Philosophy Department project, we worked on a number of assignments that helped cultivate our individual talents. The threeinterns took part n the reference collection weeding initiative developed to expand public computing areas. Though we all participated inweeding, we each worked separately with a subject librarian whose professional background was in line with our own. For example, mine is inbusiness. Business, along with economics, mathematics, and computer science, fall into the lap of Professor Jill Cirasella. Jill and I workedtogether identifying titles in each subject area either for relocation, preservation, or weeding. In the process, I came to understand the criteriaused for the Library’s collection development policy. Furthermore, by going through the titles individually, Jill taught me the importance of beingsensitive to popular or recurring themes in the different subject areas.To further my interest in subjects related to business, I worked with Jill on another assignment for the internship: updating information on thesubject guides for electronic and Internet resources provided on the library’s website. Aside from the prospect of sharpening my researchabilities, this assignment also gave me an opportunity to get familiar with the web technologies used by the library. Additionally, to make use ofmy skills in Chinese, I worked on creating a Camtasia video designed to bring library instruction to non-English speakers. Other BC Libraryinterns have since used the work I did as a template for creating instructional videos in other languages.The interns continued as a group to meet with different library units to learn about their functions and also had the opportunity to attendprofessional events to meet with librarians from other CUNY libraries. We found mentors whose experiences and backgrounds were similar toours during these valuable meetings. As students, the internship generously helped to increase our scope of knowledge beyond classroomtheory and lab work.Barnaby:For the reference weeding project, Professor Evans assigned me to one of her subject areas, Africana Studies. She was very happy to learn thatI was well-versed on the subject that had been my major concentration as an undergraduate. This project required concentration andattentiveness to details. I had to be able to determine whether there were more recent volumes or editions of a source, whether the informationwithin a source was outdated, and how much it is valued as a reference source at the present.Assisting at the reference desk was a novel experience during the internship. Although I had prior experience with helping patrons withminor inquiries during the time I had worked at a circulation desk as a student assistant, being stationed at the reference desk as a soon-to-belibrarian was a different experience. After the first few days of experience working at the reference desk, I perceived a pattern of behavioramong patrons. I realized that virtually all patrons were comfortable asking me directional questions and for assistance with looking up a book inthe online catalog. However, I also realized that several patrons with reference and research-related queries were taken aback by the fact that Icould actually be a librarian and be in position to assist them. Some of those patrons would openly verbalize it by asking quizzically, “Are you alibrarian?” while others would demonstrate some level of discomfort during the reference interview by looking in the direction of another, more-seasoned librarian who was stationed at the reference desk. The patrons who were taken aback by me were generally surprised that I could bea librarian. There are those who also chose to go more frequently to the other librarian stationed at the reference desk as well. I believe thatthose patrons were basing it on one characteristic, i.e., age. During the course of the internship, I turned 23 which is relatively young in thelibrarian profession. I understand the reactions of these patrons and use them as a learning opportunity. When they seek assistance fromthe more experienced librarian sitting next to me, I used that time to learn about the techniques and methods employed by that librarian so that Iwould know how to assist patrons better when I am confronted with similar reference questions in future.Kate:During my time at BC the librarians were working on a major weeding of the reference collection. Because of my undergraduate background inpsychology and womens studies, I primarily collaborated with the subject bibliographers responsible for these areas. This assignment wasabsolutely one of the most valuable I participated in during my library internships. From this project I gained much insight into the criteria fordiscarding materials, as well as optimal methods for replacing or adding new items to the collection. I often think back on the BC referenceweeding project as I care for my own collections at Sarah Lawrence, mentally referring to advice learned from the wise and experiencedreference librarians at BC.As a new librarian in my mid-20s I often have trouble presenting myself as a working professional. At my current job as a reference librarian I amoften mistaken for a college student. On a couple of occasions people have asked me if I am a librarian during my shift at the information desk.Although during my internship at BC no patron asked me about my job status, just like Barnaby I noticed some age-profiling on the part of thepatrons. If I was sitting next to an older librarian, I saw that the patron would more often ask my colleague for assistance. As an intern, thisbehavior did not bother me, as I was not, in fact, yet a librarian. I was an intern looking to learn from the interaction between an establishedreference librarian and a patron. However, now that I am a professional librarian I take more pains not to be mistaken for a student. For example,even though I do not need to wear business casual clothes to work I often choose to do so, as business clothes signify my position as a librarianrather than as a student.Another project I worked on was collaborating with Brooklyn Colleges Institute for Retired Professionals and Executives (IRPE) to assist themwith the design of their website. Although I am not a web developer or designer, I took a web design course in graduate school and had workedwith and written about library services to seniors. Professor Evans encouraged me to offer my assistance to the IRPE and pull in an under-served population on the BC campus. The folks over at the IRPE were very responsive to my offer, and we met several times. I used aninformation architecture textbook in conjunction with online web style guides to provide them with a two-page document of design/organizationschemes. This collaboration between a library intern and a group of retirees was very rewarding, and I hope that I can initiate some sort ofprogram at my library in which students and seniors can interact and learn from one another.The Brooklyn College Library continues to work with interns. Although the cohort in the spring 2010 semester was less ethnically diverse thanthe summer 2009 cohort (the group was 75% white and 25% Hispanic), the four interns brought with them a range of language skills includingSpanish, Russian, French and Hebrew, Arabic and Persian. In addition, they represented a wide range of pre-professional levels including twolibrary school students, one undergraduate student and one second career, pre-library school adult.Wendy:I was graduated from library school in February 2010. Currently, I am working part-time in the Queens College Libraries as a DevelopmentAssistant. Although I am actively seeking employment in an academic library, I do believe that my experience at the Brooklyn College Librarylast summer helped me tremendously as a job candidate. The internship has given me the support of helpful mentors and colleagues who arenow part of my professional network. The field, like others in the economy, has changed a lot, and is continuously changing, as technologybrings with it new information and ways of organizing information for library professionals. One needs to stay informed, be alert about what canbe used to improve facilities and services that the library provides to its patrons, and work with his or her peers in local and distant networks onoverarching projects and initiatives for bigger communities, through active communications and continuing studies. I feel that there is room formore development ahead, with the need for more skills and talents, and I find myself in position to contribute.Barnaby:I am still connected with Brooklyn College even after the completion of my internship during the summer. After the summer session in which Icompleted the internship, I had only one semester left to complete to earn my Master of Science in Information Science (MSIS). A coupleweeks after graduation Professor Evans told me about adjunct positions that were available at Brooklyn College. I jumped on the opportunity toimmediately put my degree to work as an Adjunct Reference Librarian at Brooklyn College. I was able to see how an internship can lead to abetter understanding of librarianship; an internship is a hands-on experience that one cannot receive inside the classroom. I also was able tosee how an internship can eventually lead to a job position; whether it is part-time or full-time, temporary or permanent. I understand that rightnow any position is a great opportunity to develop as a professional and gain valuable experience.Kate:I am currently a reference librarian at Sarah Lawrence College, a position which I began in January of this year. As the social sciences librarian Iam very grateful for all of the experience I received in collection development with the Brooklyn College librarians responsible for psychology,political science, and womens studies.Prior to my internship at Brooklyn College I published a piece in American Libraries questioning the practice of hiring academic librarians with asubject as well as a library masters degree. At the encouraging of Professor Evans, I worked with the CUNY Junior Faculty Roundtable tofacilitate a panel on this topic. This event was very successful, attended by around twenty CUNY librarians and library students, and gave meexcellent preparation for future professional presentations. In addition, I was further inspired to continue to conduct my own library research, andhave articles in upcoming issues of Feminist Collections and Public Libraries.I keep in touch with several Brooklyn College librarians, and hope to collaborate with at least one on future research projects.Wendy:I thought that an internship with the Brooklyn College Library would advance my understanding of the day-to-day life of academic librarians.I was fully aware of the need to explore and select an internship in an area of interest as part of the libraryschool’s graduate program. My contact with the Brooklyn College Library was not the result of having beenrecruited,or even informed through my school and peers about the library. I had, in fact, met with the staff ofother academic libraries prior to my internship. What stood out about the Brooklyn College Library was thefact that it was one of the few academic libraries at the time able to accommodate library studentinternships.The Brooklyn College Library was innovative in this regard, responding to my interest with an invitation tomeet with their librarians and discuss the terms of the internship. Professor Beth Evans, the Library’sinternship coordinator, even provided me with a copy of the guidelines and a syllabus of events for theinternship, along with news of the happy prospect of being part of a student intern group. The internship alsomade room for interns to network with departments on campus outside the library as well as other academiclibraries; it was a well-designed program with its consideration for the growth and learning of studentlibrarians. I came away from the experience with increased appreciation and love for the profession, due tothe level of support exhibited by the librarians at the Brooklyn College Library.Barnaby:After I learned that the placement of the internship was not confined to solely the Capital District of New York(in proximity to the State University of New York at Albany Department of Information Studies), I exploreddoing an internship at an academic library that was located in New York City. I was drawn to my ownfamiliarity with the location of the BC campus because I attended high school directly across the street fromthe campus. After being away from home in Albany to earn both my bachelor and master degrees, I jumpedon the opportunity of being able to complete an internship in my hometown of Brooklyn. I also factored in thenetworking opportunities that could be built in the New York City area; especially since I preferred to beginmy library career closer to home after graduation.My phone interview with Professor Evans made it clear that the BC Library would provide a plethora ofopportunities to gain academic librarian experience. I immediately learned about the different departmentswithin the library and their functions, the various projects that were being carried out and those which were inthe planning (all of which were very interesting) and we discussed which projects I would participate in tomake the internship worthwhile. I became convinced during the interview that this internship at BC Librarywould not only allow me to build and gain experience in the librarian role but also introduce me to the manysides of librarianship which would provide me with a greater view of the profession.Kate:Although my library graduate program did not require an internship, I learned early on from a professor thathands-on field experience was integral to ones attractiveness as a future job candidate. Thus, I decided thatI would fulfill several internships during my time as a graduate student to increase my marketability, applytheory to practice, and ascertain which library setting I preferred. A nine-month internship at a law library inManhattan helped me realize that I wished to focus on academic librarianship. As a Brooklyn resident, I waseager to work for and with my own community, and immediately decided Brooklyn College was my firstchoice.I believe it is extremely important for academic libraries to host a diverse array of interns. For years thelibrary profession has had trouble employing people of varying gender, ethnic, racial, sexual orientation, etcidentities, and this needs to be rectified. Librarians must reflect the diverse characteristics of the patrons thatthey serve, and a pivotal way of furthering this idea is to ensure that interns as well as permanent librariansreflect this diversity. Although the present popularity of library and information science as a career and thelarge number of library schools in the greater New York area might make it a seller’s market for New Yorkarea libraries willing to host interns, libraries should make efforts to assure that they are visible sites to adiverse pool.Wendy Chu – wwc2005@gmail.comBeth Evans – bevans@brooklyn.cuny.eduBarnaby Nicolas – bn946478@gmail.comKate Angell –