“I feel like I accomplished something today.”
– A summer teen intern after a particularly busy day of STEAM programming
Our library received a YALSA Summer Teen Intern Grant this year. We used the $1,000 grant award to provide a $500 stipend to each of our two summer teen interns assisting us with STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) programming. Before our summer’s start, we laid out the follow goals or learning outcomes for our interns:
- Participate in a real-world job seeking situation, including completing an internship application and sitting for an interview with our library’s interview committee;
- Gain greater self-confidence and self-esteem while improving on social interactions in a work setting with people of all ages;
- Enhance customer service skills by working with a diverse group of people with varying needs;
- Improve problem-solving skills as STEAM activities require analytical thinking;
- Gain work experience which will be helpful later when competing in the job market; and
- Gain a greater appreciation for, and (we hoped) an interest in STEAM learning.
At our library, we have been emphasizing STEAM programming for children and teens for the past few years. This year, we found in the beginning that our teen interns had little experience working with the kind of STEAM resources that our library offers, but they quickly learned and began to appreciate them.
During their time with us this summer, each of our interns worked 50 hours assisting with STEAM programming, each interacting with library staff members and hundreds of children, teens, and adults. As we revisit our pre-summer learning outcomes for our interns today, we believe (and they believe) we were mostly successful in meeting these goals together. In the exit survey we asked interns to complete, they responded favorably to the question, “In which areas do you believe this internship has helped you,” checking off most of the above outcomes and adding some of their own that we hadn’t included, such as developing more patience. We are pleased with this outcome.
We’ve been fortunate enough to receive a YALSA Summer Teen Intern Grant on three occasions within the past couple of years. During the years, our approach to this grant and our interns has changed. In the very beginning, our interns were here to help us, we thought, (i.e., setting up a room, handing out program evaluations, and other necessary, but menial tasks) and to get a paycheck for themselves.
The truth is that we as a library staff can handle these tasks on our own; this program is to benefit these teens. Our interns have much to offer and are not here solely for a paycheck. I refer to the above quote as evidence of this point. Yes, the stipend is nice and appreciated by our teens, but they also want to be engaged in meaningful work, and they appreciate the opportunity to interact with others, to learn new skills, and to be productive.
These days, and for a long while, our summer teen interns (when we are fortunate enough to have them) help our staff members lead our STEAM programs, and they also provide us with valuable feedback on our programs and how we can make them better for people like themselves. Our library and our interns both benefit from this experience.
In closing, we offer some parting comments from our interns on the impact of their internships:
- “I learned that I’m a people person and that people flock to me. It made more positive and helped me to learn more about people.”
- “I realized I am a good multi-tasker and am an easy-going person. I have good patience with people’s requests and communicate well. I also realized I am an open-minded person.”
Katina Gaudet is an Area Librarian at Lafourche Parish Public Library – South Lafourche Branch.