In the spring of 2019, Cecil County Public Library was pleased to accept a YALSA Teen Summer Intern Grant of $1,000, enabling us to hire a local teen to assist with the 2019 Summer Reading and Learning Program.
While we knew the decision would be difficult, our first step was to recruit and select our summer intern. One goal we identified for our internship program was to provide the intern with an introduction to essential job and career skills, as this program was the first opportunity for many of our applicants to apply for a job. Knowing we wanted to introduce the teen applicants to a real-world hiring process, we created an application packet similar to what we use for adults applying for other positions at the library. This packet included a professional job description, application, essay question, and call for references. Rather than focusing primarily on work experience, we adapted many of our questions to focus on the applicants’ extracurricular or volunteer activities, leadership experiences, skills, and interests.
To promote the internship opportunity, we shared the application with the teen services staff at library branches across the county. Having close relationships with the teens, these staff members were able to share the opportunity directly with teens in their communities. We also leveraged the close relationship we have with the local school district, sharing the application with the school librarians at the area high schools. This word-of-mouth approach was very successful, as we received many applications for the position.
Knowing we could only hire one intern for the summer, we then scheduled interviews. Keeping with our goal of introducing the teens to real-world job standards, we conducted full professional interviews with the applicants. This was the first experience for all of our applicants to participate in an interview process, and while many were nervous, we did our best to keep a light, conversational tone to make them feel at ease. While we included many of our standard interview questions used with all new hires, “Why are you interested in this position?” “Please tell us about your prior experiences,” etc., we also incorporated questions that were more fun for the teens, giving us a better window into their personalities, motivations, and interests. We asked them to tell us about their favorite books, choose three words they or others would use to describe them, and share some of the things they hoped to do at the library this summer.
Although the decision was difficult, we ultimately selected Hannah, a 17-year-old long-time library user and member of our Teen Advisory Group, to participate as our 2019 summer intern. Hannah’s love of the library, volunteer experiences, and interest in working in librarianship were just a few of the many reasons we selected her as our intern.
With the hiring process complete, we then worked with Hannah to make a plan for the summer. Having recently completed a book study with all teen services staff of YALSA’s Putting Teens First in Library Services: A Road Map, we recognized the importance of following the principles of the Connected Learning Model and designing an interest-driven internship experience for Hannah. Having talked with Hannah about her interests and skills, future goals, and what she hoped to gain from the internship, we worked together to design a program that would give her opportunities to use these skills in the library setting.
Hannah was very interested in teen services, so one of her main responsibilities this summer was in assisting the teen library staff with their programs for the Summer Reading and Learning program. Hannah is an avid artist and photographer, and she was able to assist in programs by running art stations at our Teen Nights, taking photos, and helping to engage younger teens in activities. She is also interested in science and technology and was essential in helping to run the “Drone Pilot for a Day” program, the “Painting with Robots” program using Sphero robots, and the “NASA Universe Discovery” astronomy program series for middle school teens.
In addition to assisting with programming, Hannah put her artistic and STEM skills to work this summer by creating engaging bulletin boards and displays for our Young Adult section and conducting a training for teen services staff on using newly acquired technology for programming, including Nintendo Switch, Oculus Go, and Ozobots. Hannah is also an avid reader of Young Adult fiction, so when she was not assisting with programs, she worked on a project to create staff recommendations of her favorite books to add to the Young Adult shelves and on the teen page of the library’s website.
While many of Hannah’s projects and responsibilities this summer were directly related to her interest in assisting with teen services, we also recognized the importance of introducing her to a well-rounded view of the library, giving her opportunities to shadow and assist with additional departments. In addition to working with the teen services department, Hannah spent time shadowing the children’s library staff and assisting with early childhood storytimes, riding on the bookmobile and helping with outreach visits, shadowing the circulation staff and assisting with customer service, and helping to serve summer lunches. These opportunities gave Hannah practice in many aspects of library service, providing her an in-depth view of working in a library.
Through the internship program, we hope working at Cecil County Public Library this summer has helped Hannah to grow her customer service skills, communication skills, knowledge of professional working standards, and comfort level working with the public, all of which are essential for future success in whichever profession she chooses. As a library, we have learned through this experience the importance of providing opportunities for teens to contribute to the library in meaningful ways, acting as leaders and using their skills and interests to inspire our patrons and staff.
Katelyn McLimans is the Youth Services Coordinator at Cecil County Public Library.