This year, Librarians Without Borders joined forces with San Jose State University (SJSU) in California to offer a service-based learning-model Virtual Internship program. Three students working towards Masters in Library and Information Science at San Jose State’s i-School are interning as Program and Communications Assistants with LWB’ers Melanie Sellar, Founder and Co-Executive Director; Erika Heesen, Membership Director; and Brandie Burrows, Guatemala Limitless Horizons Program Manager. We’ll be chatting, Q&A style, with each of the three students over the next few weeks, to get to know the LWB Interns.
Alison Peters, Communications Assistant Intern
Tell us a little about your education background and your interests. I love school, and I love reading and writing. I received my BA in English from University of California, Berkeley, and then hopped right into the full time job stuff with HR Options. At some point I realized that I wanted to continue my writing studies, but also didn’t want to move too far away, so I found (and was lucky to be accepted to!) Mills College, in Oakland, California, where I completed an MFA in Creative Writing.
What about the LWB organization drew you to the organization? How has your experience been thus far? LWB had me at their title, because my initial professional dream was to be a doctor with Doctors Without Borders. (Dream deferred by Chemistry 1 in college!) When I checked out their website, the group just got more and more interesting. I’m so excited to be interning with a nonprofit group, created by librarians, with the goal of educating and providing library services to communities who otherwise would be sorely lacking. I love that LWB isn’t afraid to go into vastly different communities, in far away countries, with different cultures and languages and ideas about libraries and books, and do the research to help develop programs that will be benefit to the people in that community.
So far, the internship experience has been amazing. LWB is organized, professional, interested in what we’re doing as students and how they can add to our skills, but also using the competencies we bring to the internship. It makes for a beautiful relationship.
At what point in your life did you realize you wanted to pursue your MLIS? I went to a professional job counseling service a few years ago, trying to determine where I wanted to take my career. The counselor was an ex-librarian, which was all I needed to see the signs: I started San Jose State’s MLIS (now i-School) just a semester later! I love the combination of skills I now have: writing, researching, reviewing, with a good dose of customer service, problem solving and troubleshooting for good measure. Virtual school and internships, and writing for Book Riot as part of a virtual team have shown me how many opportunities there are to create the type of work and work/life balance that I’m looking for.
What to you hope to accomplish with your MLIS? What is your dream library job? I initially went into the MLIS to be a YA or youth librarian, as my best library memories are from my younger days, and I wanted to help give that back to kids. However, the more classes I take the more I realize I like the virtual/online/information aspect of being a librarian – which can actually mean not being a traditional librarian at all. I love that I’m coming across librarians whose focus is social media, outreach, etc. So at this point my dream job would be to work in a communications/online search capacity for a library or similar group, virtually, so that I can continue to write and finish up the degree in the next year.
Name three things you will take away from your experience with LWB and the virtual internship program.
- Always ask for nonprofit pricing! When doing research for LWB, it wasn’t in my usual line of questions to ask about special nonprofit pricing or program options. It’s great to know that a lot of companies have them, if you just ask nicely. And to think from the other side of the corporate world, which isn’t something I have a lot of experience with.
- A revived passion for social media tools. I was pretty stagnant in my personal social media life, just using Facebook, with passive LinkedIn and Pinterest accounts. Doing the social media research for LWB has given me a huge appreciation for how you can use the sites – including Twitter – to not just place targeted ads, but to really give your readers interesting articles, pictures, facts, blurbs. Essentially, whatever I might find interesting about LWB, chances are our reader population will too.
- Virtual work and tools for performing it are better than ever. I’m exploring the many facets of Google, from email, hang-outs, docs with sharing and notification permissions, and calendars. I’m proficient in Skyping and using WebEx, in addition to the Canvas/Blackboard/Collaborate with SLIS, and FaceTime on my iPhone.
What is your favorite book and why? I’m going back to an old favorite, Tar Baby, by Toni Morrison. I love this book for several reasons: one, it brought me close to a very good friend in college, when we both picked this book for our senior thesis project. And it’s just a beautiful book, telling a love story based on a fable, modernized, and still relevant. A beautiful young woman with a troubled family past falls in love with a boy from (essentially) the wrong side of the tracks, and has to chose if she’ll follow her heart or her family’s wishes. But much deeper than that, because – Toni Morrison.
Which leads me to my favorite library, which is actually a close tie between two: the San Rafael branch library in Pasadena, California, where I grew up and where I discovered the joys of books; and the Brotherton Library at the University of Leeds Leeds, UK. At San Rafael I haunted the aisles for LM Montgomery, Louisa May Alcott and the sisters Bronte – stories about family and chaste romance were my thing. But at Leeds, studying abroad in college, away from all of my family (and for that matter, my books) I would creep into the domed-ceiling library and find comfort in the African American fiction section, where I became really close with Alice Walker, June Jordan, Paule Marshall – women who spoke to me, comforted me and reminded me of home. Both libraries still hold special places in my heart.