Reference Practicum via LIS 691
On occasion, the Reference and Information Services department will hire a practicum student. These practicums are primarily available in the fall semester. Spring semester practicums may be arranged if activities are avaialable. These students will enroll for LIS 691 (formerly LIS 601) and work for at least 90 hours as unpaid interns. Practicums include projects from typical areas of reference work such as:
- Reference Service: Desk, telephone, and chat.
- Library Instruction (available Fall semesters only): Observation, interviews, peer instruction, possible team teaching.
- Collection Development: Interviews with collection development librarians, orientation to and use of collection development tools, special projects if any are available.
- Getting a job: If interested, a practicum student may undertake a practice interview for a job in the reference department of an academic institution.
Or a student may propose a particular project of interest. The practicum coordinator will determine whether it is feasible for the RIS department to host the project.
Applying for and planning a practicum
Application Process (at least one long semester in advance):
- Get permission from Professor Carmichael to pursue the practicum. Getting permission is not a guarantee of getting a practicum internship with the Reference and Information Services Department. Review the LIS 691 policy page for LIS department requirements.
- Contact the Practicum Coordinator and indicate why you are interested in a practicum and which activities you would like to pursue, in addition to Reference Intern activities.
- Apply for a Reference Internship. Applications are solicited by the Intern Coordinators (Lynda Kellam and Amy Harris) at least one semester in advance. Invitations to apply are posted on the Reference Interns webpage.
- If asked to come in, successfully interview for an internship. The interview will include discussion of:
- Education and work background of candidate, as well as schedule constraints of the candidate.
- Interests of the candidate and projects typically available in several areas of reference work: reference service, library instruction, collection development. The applicant is expected to be familiar with these activities and choose one or two areas of work to focus on.
- Practicum expectations and evaluation.
If Notified That You Have Been "Hired":
Work with the practicum coordinator to create a schedule for the semester. It should total at least 90 hours of work and will probably consist of a mix of activities. Submit your schedule to your library contact and to Jim Carmichael.
Potential Practicum Activities
Reference Service/Intern Activities
Reference service mostly consists of the following activities:
- Initial 10 hour training
- Weekly shift throughout the semester
- 1 hour training session each week throughout the semester
These activities revolve around helping patrons at a public service desk, over the phone, and through chat and Instant Messaging. Reference Interns (and practicum students doing Reference Intern work) may have the opportunity to pursue extra projects while on the desk, such as collection development tasks, advanced reference questions, peer instruction, etc.
Library Instruction Activities
The Reference and Instructional Services Department provides a great deal of instruction to the UNCG community, from library tours through subject-specific, course-integrated research skills workshops. Fall semester is the "busy" teaching season. Most library instruction takes place within the library during standard business hours. There are many opportunities to observe and interview library instructors. Practicum students may lead library tours and UNS 101 tours and plan and carry out peer instruction for Reference Interns. The Practicum Coordinator and the First Year Library Instruction Coordinator will work with practicum students to determine whether there are appropriate opportunities for team teaching course-integrated sessions.
Collection Development Activities
From time to time, collection development activities may be available. Potential projects:
- Reviewing book request slips
- Interviewing liaison librarians and collection development administrators
- Attending collection development meetings or workshops on UNCG campus
- Receiving training in and using local collection development tools such as WorkFlows
- Creating lists of suggested book purchases for a particular discipline or a new academic program
- Evaluating University Libraries journal holdings for a particular discipline or program
Mock Job Interview Activities
Practicum students must participate in a mock or practice job interview. If the student has no real-life job posting in mind, the practicum coordinator will provide a "typical" job ad and arrange for the student to be interviewed.
- Critical reading of the job advertisement
- Submission of a cover letter and resume tailored to the job advertisement
This interview itself typically lasts a few hours and includes:
- A presentation by the candidate to the RIS Department, the Faculty Supervisor (Jim Carmichael), and possibly other interested members of the University Libraries.
- A group interview (question and answer session) between the RIS Department and the candidate.
After the interview, the Practicum Coordinator will collect feedback and give an anonymous list of kudos and suggestions to the candidate.
Practicums with Other University Libraries Departments
If you would like to pursue a practicum with another University Libraries department including the Harold Schiffman Music Library, the Practicum Coordinator is happy to contact the head of that department to investigate availability, help with planning, etc.
Disclaimer: There is no guarantee about the availability or nature of work available to practicum students. We won't set you to sharpening pencils, but a practicum is an introduction to the actual work and culture of a reference department. Some activities may not available during certain semesters or during nights or weekends. Availability of activities also depends on the schedules of reference librarians. This is a great reason for creating a practicum schedule at the beginning of the semester.
What to Expect
What are the expectations of the Reference and Instructional Services Department?
Hosting a practicum student involves training, scheduling, and integrating a new temporary employee into a busy department. The RIS department depends on practicum students to fulfill their responsibilities and meet the same requirements as paid interns:
- Go through the same application and interview process.
- Participate in the 10-hour orientation for new interns.
- Participate in weekly, hour-long training sessions.
- Fewer desk hours and no late night shift are required of practicum students doing desk work.
- An intern might have an opportunity to repeat a practicum for a second semester, but s/he is not expected to do so.
Desk shifts, chat shifts, and training sessions last throughout the semester. Students can arrange shift trades with each other and unexpected emergencies are taken into account, but please do not undertake a practicum with the expectation of dropping a shift in mid-semester.
Additional expectations of practicum students include:
- Creating a schedule of 90 hours of activities at the beginning of the semester.
- Maintaining and forwarding to the Practicum Coordinator a monthly log of hours/activities.
- Meeting periodically with the Practicum Coordinator to keep her up to date on your activities & progress.
What are the expectations of the Department of Library and Information Studies?
Usually students are expected to create a journal and turn it in to Jim Carmichael at the end of the semester. Other expectations are listed on the practicum policy page of the Department of LIS. Please contact Jim Carmichael with any questions on this topic.
How are practicums graded?
The Practicum Coordinator:
- Invites the Faculty Supervisor to observe the student on site in the RIS department
- Records her own feedback
- Compiles the feedback of other librarians in the RIS department
- Forwards this feedback to the Faculty Supervisor (Jim Carmichael)
The Faculty Supervisor then assigns a grade of S or U based on criteria listed on the practicum policy page of the Department of Library and Information Studies.
Who are these people?
The Faculty Supervisor (Jim Carmichael)
- Monitors progress of practicum
- Uses feedback to provide a grade
The Practicum Coordinator (Lynda Kellam , Data Services & Government Information Librarian)
- Investigates whether the department can host a practicum student and which activities might be available to a practicum student.
- Advises the practicum student of available activities, also informs the student of suggestions, guidelines, schedules, or rules that would apply to those activities.
- Provides feedback on practicum student performance to the student and to the Faculty Supervisor during the course of the semester.
- Is a liaison between the RIS department and the practicum student. She will not necessarily assume the role of a mentor or coach and can't guarantee the professional/personal growth or job readiness of RIS department practicum students.
The Intern Coordinators (Amy Harris and Lynda Kellam)
- Supervises reference service of intern and practicum students (orientation, scheduling, weekly training, and assignments)
- Maintains the Reference Intern Blackboard organization
- Evaluates each reference intern or practicum student at the end of his/her first semester
The First-Year Library Instruction Coordinator (Amy Harris)
- Coordinates library instruction observations
- Works with practicum students to determine whether there are any opportunities for participation in library instruction