This post is from Brad Krautwurst, who is interning with the Richmond Public Library in Virginia.
Like some of the other folks in the Shimer Internship/Mentorship (SIM) program, I am reaching the end of my summer internship, with a combination of satisfaction and a certain amount of a sadness and a lingering desire to do more to help.
I am very satisfied with my internship, and the time I've spent here. I feel I've made a difference in more than a few patron's lives, and learned a lot about library sciences, both in abstract knowledge and practical skills. I've toured three different libraries--including Richmond's--with a fourth to come tomorrow. I've created a display that seems to be attracting much more interest than my colleague and I ever thought it would when we first started putting it together. I've been offered an ongoing distance volunteer position, too. There isn't much else I could have asked for!
My time here has really helped me put the critical thinking skills I've been learning at Shimer to good use, whether that's in helping a patron find a job or in a more abstract way of thinking about librarianship, and in that context, the relation of the past to the future. Many have made the argument that libraries are obsolete, in the days of digital e-books and Google. Libraries are a thing of the past, antiquated, or even a waste of money.
There is some measure of truth to the first two, and my response to the third is that I believe there are better, more noble values in life than truth. That said, libraries are at risk of being left behind, because of the first two points. There is no questioning that, I believe, but the response should be to adapt, and to use these technologies we have to exhibit the past. There is great potential in digital librarianship, in providing community space for folks to use computers and Internet, because not everyone has Internet at their homes, especially in underprivileged areas.
Even with the things I've learned and the philosophies I've developed in my time here, there is a certain amount of sadness and lingering desire. The sadness comes, partly in that I simply really enjoyed working at the library. It is a laid-back environment, with great staff members that I will sorely miss. The other, more pressing part of my reaction, is that desire to help. There are many patrons here searching through frustrating applications for jobs, or earning their GEDs, or learning computer skills, and I've learned to accept that I can't solve those problems. I can help, and I definitely want to. But I can't solve them by myself.
I trust, though, that the staff members here will make a significant amount of progress. The library's motto is, after all:
Inform. Enrich. Empower.