Practicum at Burke: My First Two Weeks

I’ve just about finished the second week of my month-long practicum at Burke and I feel like time is flying! I can’t believe I’m nearly halfway done with my internship. Even though it’s summer and we are between semesters, Burke is as busy as ever; the whole staff is buzzing around with new and existing projects, visits from students and researchers, and making sure the library facilities are up to snuff for the upcoming semesters.

I’ve been really excited to be here at Burke—I’m home in New York for the summer from the University of Illinois, where I study library science. So far, it’s been most interesting to see the theories and methods I’ve learned about in my library classes put into practice; it’s very different learning about library administration or how to develop library projects and actually doing these things.

In my practicum, I’m working on a few main projects. For the first, I’m working on microform weeding. Burke has a storage room filled with cases of microfilm and microfiche and it makes sense to move some of them to other libraries or storage locations on campus so they can be used more widely and the space can be used for other purposes. I’m working on assessing which microfilms are unique to Burke Library and which are duplicated in other Columbia collections. I’ve also been working on creating a new online form for patron reference interactions; some day soon, you’ll (hopefully) be able to submit your reference questions and research topics via the Burke website and then receive an email answer from a librarian.

One of the best parts of my practicum is getting to meet with all of the members of the permanent staff here. They’ve been explaining to me what they do and are letting me see them in action. It’s been great sitting in at the various departments and getting to see how the staff works individually and as part of a larger team. I’ve also been able to try my hand at the circulation desk, which is something, surprisingly, I’ve never gotten to at a library!

What’s becoming very evident to me in my time at Burke is the library’s emphasis on reaching patrons where they are. The book stacks, for instance, have been opened up in the past year or so to let researchers and students explore the resources available to them. The librarians are rearranging and reorganizing the space to meet the needs of its visitors, and, as I know from my projects, the library is making it simpler to submit any reference questions patrons may have.

I’m looking forward to my final half of my internship and to the new projects that will come with them!


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