This piece was originally composed for the Conference of Inter-Mountain Archivists’ Newsletter Vol. 40 Issue 3 June 2013
In May I chaired two panels on the advantages of creating worthwhile internships and volunteer opportunities for aspiring archival professionals. These panels grew out of an increase in concern over gaining professional experience versus doing “grunt work.” The concerns continue to be vocalized on the SAA Students and New Archives Professionals Roundtable listserv where members have been encouraged to work on finding solutions. In an effort to do exactly that I developed three objectives for the panels. The first was to begin a conversation in developing volunteer programs and internships that have value. My second objective was to promote the advantages of professional training, creating a standard of professionalism will go a long way in hiring new archivists. And the third was to provide meaningful examples in the promotion of the profession to institutions that plan to host interns and volunteers.
At the Utah Library Association Conference in Provo, Utah I chaired the panel Finding Value in Volunteering and Internships for Future Archival Professionals introducing the topic and giving a brief background. Contributing members of the panel included Greg Seppi and Jay Burton of the LDS Church History Library who both spoke about their opportunities interning at the library. Jay expanded his presentation to include things he learned as an intern to better the experiences of the interns he is currently supervising. The third presenter, Sarah Langsdon Associate Curator Special Collections at Weber State University, talked about working with interns in an academic setting covering both good and bad aspects. Maggie Kopp Curator of Rare Books, L. Tom Perry Special Collections at Brigham Young University finished out the panel and spoke on creating successful internship and volunteer programs.
For the CIMA & SRMA Joint Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah I again chaired the panel Recognizing the Value of Volunteering and Internships for Aspiring Archival Professionals introducing the topic and adding my own experiences in completing a practicum along with my current volunteer work at the George Sutherland Archive at Utah Valley University. The second panelist, Ryan Lee Corporate Archivist at the LDS Church History Library contributed his experiences in various internships on his road to becoming a professional archivist. He was followed by Alan Barnett Manager of the Archives Research Center at the Utah State Archives who provided information on creating successful volunteer programs in archives emphasizing job description, training, and mentoring.
My greatest hope in offering these panels at the ULA and the CIMA & SRMA Joint Conference was to bring awareness to the value of professional experience in internships and volunteer positions in the archival field. In order to gain a better understanding of what professional archivists are thinking about this topic I have created a survey that builds on Rebecca Potance’s 2012 study of interns. The survey is geared to professional archivists, internship site supervisors, and those who are in charge of hiring archivists and will be available through August this year (http://questionpro.com/t/AKCGNZPhqs