Help: Connecting Great Students to Great Libraries

The Too Long; Didn’t Read version of this message is that as part of my work as the Bowden Professor I would like to connect library science students to the real work of great libraries. To that end I am looking for projects that teams can work on in a Community Engagement course and more in-depth capstone projects that I will fund. Interested? fill out the form below.

In August of this year, I started as the Virginia & Charles Bowden Professor of Librarianship at the University of Texas at Austin. Over the past two months I’ve been developing a plan to strengthen the ties between Austin’s iSchool and the library community. I’m writing you today about two of those efforts. Two efforts that will give our library students opportunities to get real experience in libraries.

Community Engagement Class

The first of these efforts comes in the form of a Community Engagement course I will be teaching in the Spring with the Austin Public Library. In the class I have teams of students work with libraries to study current events and topics – in this case, the response to the ongoing pandemic. Students will put together a report that examines a library’s response to the pandemic including: 

  • An overview of the library including quantitative data like service area/population, community demographics, a description of the library, the library’s mission statement
  • A review and narrative of how the library closed or changed services at the onset of the pandemic in March of 2020. This can include community messaging, what services were available during lock down, a sense of the community impact from the virus and racial protests.
  • The current status, internal narratives (the messaging being shared within the organization/library), external narratives (the messaging being shared with the community) in the library
  • What changes will be implemented within the library in a new normal established after the pandemic?

The report will not be shared beyond the course without your permission.

These reports require a point contact person, an interview with a library administrator, an interview with a front-line librarian, and an interview with a community member if possible. In addition to these interviews, the contact person will need to meet virtually with students several times over 14 weeks. The work would begin in February.

The students have a wide interest in libraries so I am looking for public, academic, school, and special libraries globally. In the past we have worked with community colleges, large urban libraries, a state library, and a high school library.

Capstone Scholars

Library students in the Texas program are required to complete a Capstone project. These projects are 125 hours that constitute: 

“a fieldwork-based project under the guidance of a field supervisor from the organization or department sponsoring the project. Students must produce a deliverable and undertake a single, large project (not several small ones) as one of the aims of a PEP is for students to learn how to manage a considerable piece of work and deal with obstacles and challenges that arise in long projects.”

I am funding 5 students to work with libraries on projects. These could be anything from planning a new type of service, examining the effectiveness of programs, or developing professional development. The only constraints are that unlike internships, this about one big project, students must be able to do the work remotely, and the results must be shared.

I will be meeting with these students on a regular basis to provide support and mentoring. This should minimize the amount of time you or your staff need to supervise the students. If you are interested in capstone projects, I will need an abstract of the project and a point person. Also, beyond the 5 paid scholars, I will happily connect students to interesting projects.

The Ask

If you are interested in participating in either the Community Engagement course or the Capstone projects, please let me know. You can email me, or better yet, please fill out the form below. As this work evolves, I would be very interested in your ideas on improving it for future years. Also, please feel to share this email with colleagues that might be interested.