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. Using all of the virtual tools at their disposal – Skype, WebEx, Google, Only Office, good old phone calls – the interns are hard at work on projects including providing research assistance in support of the new emerging program with Limitless Horizons Ixil in Guatemala, and developing a communications/social media strategy for the group. 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.
What was it about LWB that drew you to the internship? In my position at the Hartford Public Library, I developed a special interest in the many pre-literate and non-literate (individuals who either speak a language that has no written form, or are illiterate in their native language) individuals who struggle with the literacy component of the naturalization exam. Working with so many individuals who come from countries with little or no library culture led me to evaluate how I had taken the free public libraries in the U.S. for granted. I often times wonder what my life would be like if there were no libraries? Imparting knowledge to an individual is so empowering, I knew when I heard about LWB that I wanted to be a part of it and its mission. I loved the idea of LWB’s service learning model and its goal of narrowing the information divide by supporting librarians in developing countries. To learn about international librarianship has been just an exhilarating experience.
Is this your first internship? How do you find the virtual part? This is the first internship I have participated in at SJSU. I have found the virtual aspect to be very flexible and instructional as well. I love the regular check-ins with Melanie Sellar and Erika Heesen and their support of our learning experience as well. It is so amazing that there are so many ways to communicate and if one doesn’t work, there are always alternatives. I have learned much about collaboration and my technological skills grow by the day.
What was your experience with social media prior to this internship? How has working with LWB changed your thoughts or approach to social media? Admittedly, my experience with social media prior to this internship was limited to my personal Facebook account and the development of a few Facebook pages for some local school based organizations. Working with LWB has made me realize how important it is to understand how the use of various social media tools bring value to the non-profit organization. Social media platforms promote non-profit organization’s information and services, as well as bring people of similar interests together to network. In developing Best Practice recommendations, I was invited to be an analyst and was able to compare and contrast similar pages as well as to watch the impact of different posts and methods. I feel I gained invaluable experience first hand and have a much better understanding of strategy.
What’s your favorite library, and why? What was your experience with this particular book home? My favorite library would have to be Weld Library in Weld, Maine (Population 340). It was at this library in this tiny town in the Appalachian mountains that I volunteered at the age of 12 with card cataloguing, thus initiating me into the world of libraries! It was in the stacks at this library that I became acquainted with the likes of Pearl Buck, Mark Twain, Tennyson and Poe. The fact that I was able to lose myself in the wondrous world of reading in this tiny, impoverished factory town during my vulnerable years makes this my favorite library, hands down.
What led you to San Jose State’s Library & Information Science program? Where do you see yourself, post-degree? As a child, I initially struggled to learn to read, I remember going into libraries with my mom and seeing the stacks of books that I wasn’t yet able to read. Fortunately, I had two parents who were library proponents and they instilled a love of books and libraries from a young age. When I finally mastered the skill of reading, I read everything I could find and have continued doing so throughout my life. I never take reading for granted and when I work with adults who are illiterate, I often wonder how my life would be if I was not able to read. It’s such a powerful question and I know I take the abundance of libraries in our country for granted at times. I initially entered Law School with the goal of working with underserved and vulnerable populations. While there, I always preferred time in the library over the class and never forgot this. When I was hired many years later at the Hartford Public Library as the program coordinator for the Citizenship Program, I realized how libraries affect change in the communities served. I was encouraged to pursue my MLIS and the online learning environment made it possible for me to realize my dream. My ideal job would be to work in literacy programming in underserved populations either here or somewhere else in the world.
What are you reading right now? I am reading two books (of course!). I am listening to The Garden of Burning Sand by Corban Addison and reading Mambo in Chinatown by Jean Kwok. I always have to be listening to a book on tape during my commute to work!