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The AALL Spectrum® Blog is published by the American Association of Law Libraries. Submissions from AALL members and other members of the legal community are highly encouraged. Opinions and editorial views expressed are those of the authors and do not represent the official position of AALL. AALL does not assume any responsibility for statements advanced by contributors. The previous Spectrum Blog was located at aallspectrum.wordpress.com.
4/24/2015 4:45:00 PM

Law Library Interns: How to Make Them Work for You


For aspiring law librarians, the most useful aspects of library school are often those that afford the opportunity for practical experience. In most instances, these opportunities take the form of internships. Sometimes done for pay, sometimes done for academic credit, and sometimes done just for the experience itself, internship opportunities allow aspiring law librarians to get a better sense of what sort of work they hope to do post-graduation. They also act as an excellent means of differentiating themselves from their job-seeking peers.

Those same internships create new opportunities for the law libraries themselves. Interns can benefit law libraries in a number of ways - they can bring a fresh perspective to a project that has stalled; they may be more familiar with new and developing technologies; they may have a skillset that is helpful but not duplicated on the full-time staff (e.g., foreign-language skills, a background in a particular legal practice area).

Done properly, both intern and law library can benefit greatly from these opportunities, either as a one-time occurrence, or as the beginning of an established intern program.  But doing it properly and avoiding common problems does take some planning, effort, and foresight.

This summer at AALL, this topic will be explored in far more depth as part of the Law Library Interns: How to Make Them Work for You program. Representatives from academic (Kelly Leong), government (Peter Roudik), and court (Daniel Cordova) law libraries will discuss their own successful internship programs and the growing pains they experienced making those programs succeed – including the identification of the most-common pitfalls of such programs.

I’ll be moderating and offering my own perspective as someone who had the chance to complete invaluable internships at the Peking University School of Transnational Law, Legal Research Center and the National Indian Law Library.

As a bit of a preview, here are some issues worth considering:

  • Do you have projects or assignments to work on that are suitable for your intern? 
If, for example, the intern knows that she only wants to work in technical services and has a background to support that, having her sit reference is less likely to result in a worthwhile experience for anyone involved. If she has a substantive expertise in an area of law, working on a cataloging project in that area or preparing a research guide would allow her to showcase that expertise while also resulting in high quality work that benefits the law library.

  • Can your existing staff provide guidance and the required supervision to the intern?
As tempting as it can be to think of interns as “warm bodies” to fill existing gaps in coverage, you should still keep in mind that the legal guidelines regarding internships and work, both at the federal and state levels. The U.S. Department of Labor has created a useful Fact Sheet with good basic information – Internship Programs Under The Fair Labor Standards Act – including the six criteria that apply.

  • Have you had the opportunity to have a nuts-and-bolts talk with your intern before the internship begins?
Making sure the institution clearly communicates about things like deadlines, attire, and scheduling/punctuality are very important: good communication can go a long way to eliminating issues before they become problems. In some cases, established internship programs have competitive selection processes, but even less formal opportunities should use a phone call and email documentation to make sure the institution and the intern are on the same page.

These issues and others will be discussed in more depth, with examples from the speakers on how their own programs deal with them.

What issues have you come across, either from the perspective of the institution or as an intern yourself? Please share and discuss in the comments below!

Finally, if your institution is at all interested in possibly hosting an international internship or exchange, I encourage you to complete the Internships & International Exchanges Survey. It can be a very useful way to facilitate internships and exchanges across borders. International internships and exchanges can bring with them an additional layer of logistical challenges (e.g., passports, visas, international flights) but they can also be the most rewarding. Also, if you’ve actually completed an international internship or exchange and would be willing to write it up briefly for our website or a newsletter, the FCIL-SIS Internships & International Exchanges program would love to hear from you!

Posted By R. Martin Witt at 4/24/2015 4:45:00 PM  0 Comments
7/22/2013 12:08:11 PM

Recharge: Why Change Stalls and What You Can Do About It

Jevon K. Powell, an organizational psychologist specializing in change management, presented this session on managing large-scale change.  Powell was introduced by Madeline Cohen, who is the Director of the U.S. Courts 10th Circuit Library. 

Powell discussed what can be done to help insure a change initiative succeeds.  He stressed that employee involvement in teh process is crucial, though the involvement should be carefully structured. He also discussed reasons why change can frequently stall in organizations, including change fatigue, poor communication and planning for change, and fear of the unknown.  Powell described the common stall points that arise during change initiatives, and offered useful levers for moving the initiative past the road blocks.  He also stressed the importance of having metrics that can measure the effectiveness of the change initiative.

Powell's primary argument was that change advocates must adopt a conceptual model, or "change road map," for implementing change management systematically, in order to overcome these obstacles.  He briefly described the different models that have been developed, then focused in depth on the Head-Heart-Hands model developed by Gibson and Billings.  This is the model that he relies on in his consulting work with organizations undergoing large-scale change.  This model employs a grid, centered around thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, to insure that an organization addresses all aspects of a change initiative.  The grid allows the change leader to identify every action necessary, so that no crucial aspects of change management are missed.  This struck me as a very commonsense approach, and one that would help the change leader to make sure they focus on each of these areas in managing a new project or initiative.

Powell's provided several useful handouts, the most effective of which showed a detailed view of the Head-Heart-Hands model.  Powell was very effective at using humor to maintain interest throughout the session.  He also encouraged questions and feedback from the audience, and had the audience walk through several exercises during the program.  These efforts kept the audience engaged througout the 90 minute session.

Posted By Douglas Southard at 7/22/2013 12:08:11 PM  0 Comments
TOPICS: AALL