The MA program requires a 120-hour practicum experience for all students. Students are placed in a variety of library and information agency settings where they apply what they’ve learned in courses to a work environment. Along the way, they gain skills and make connections to enhance their career journey. Three students from the Spring 2022 practicum course share their experiences with us.
During my time at the Champaign County (IL) Historical Archives as a practicum student, I’ve mainly focused on four tasks – remote reference work with the Homer Historical Society, a project adding newspaper articles to our family file collection (and creating a few new family files), creating trivia questions for our Instagram and blog, and assisting with a mass digitization project for the local newspaper.
I honestly think what I like best about my practicum is my coworkers. My site coordinator, the director of the archives, and the people I’ve worked with at the reference desk have made it so hard to leave. If they hadn’t just hired someone, I would be begging them to find a job for me so I didn’t have to leave. Once I decompress from the semester, I’m probably going to start as a volunteer because I don’t want the experience to be over already.
Even though I want to go into academic librarianship, archives is what initially made me want to get an MLIS so I think it was really fitting that this is where I ended up being placed for my practicum.
My practicum at the Sun Prairie (WI) Public Library focused on serving individuals with autism spectrum disorder, and other sensory needs. My work was done in the Youth Services Department, so children received the greatest focus of my project. I explored the needs of the community through interviews and surveys and created multiple items librarians can provide as support. The library will now have six circulating sets of items related to sensory needs, including calming, understanding emotions, tactile experience, and building social skills. Two set themes are repeated for children developmentally under the age of 5.
I also had the chance to evaluate software for creating visual schedules and made schedules the library is already using in programs, including their monthly LEGO club. While interviewing autism experts about the kind of supports to offer, I built connections for library staff. Their next in-service will include a presentation on working with people with developmental disabilities.
This topic is important to me because I currently work in a research lab with toddlers who have autism and I previously worked in a public library. I hope to combine these skills and return to a youth services position in the future.
My practicum working in user services at UW-Madison College Library gave me the opportunity to develop career-oriented skills and apply information management theories within the field of direct services towards users.
College Library, which serves as a central hub of undergraduate student research and studies, was a fantastic environment filled with passionate staff and engaged patrons. Being able to work directly with reference chat, undergraduate instruction, instructional design, and user services assessment helped me affirm that service towards undergraduates was my ideal career path. My supervisor and site staff treated me as an equal and were more than happy to include me in both the administrative and service aspects of running an academic library and passed along a philosophy of service to others with inclusive practices in mind.
My favorite experience in the practicum was being able to teach a section of the English 100 Undergraduate Research Instruction course, promoting information literacy and interacting directly with students to teach navigation of databases. The practicum has given me the confidence and ability to prove that I am a passionate and capable asset in my career journey.