Tag Archives: LIS Education

Experiential Learning in the Library

Intern Cynthia Arends with special collections

At Illinois Wesleyan, we are committed to providing experiences that “blur the line between the learning that takes place in the classroom and outside the classroom,” and The Ames Library and its faculty have supported these experiences for years, e.g., through information literacy instruction that supports undergraduate research projects, and partnerships with other units with a focus on “engaged learning,” including the Writing Center and the Action Research Center. But, the library can also be the site for research, internships, and community projects that demonstrate our commitment to engaged learning, both for our undergraduate students and for graduate students working toward a future in library work.

The Tate Archives and Special Collections, for example, has hosted Library and Information Science (LIS) students from the University of Illinois School of Information Sciences as part of that program’s Alternative Spring Break. This summer, Associate Professor and University Archivist Meg Miner is serving as intern supervisor for Cynthia O’Neill, a student in the Kent State University Master of Library and Information Studies program pursuing a concentration in Archives and Special Collections. Ms. O’Neill comes to her internship at Ames with experience in both the museum and public library fields.

“There are similarities in the missions of libraries, archives, and museums,” Professor Miner notes, “but also subtle differences in the ways we go about achieving our shared goal of preserving and providing access to cultural heritage materials in our communities today and into the future.” This internship, Miner continued, “will provide Cynthia with hands-on experience with these distinctions, and with strategies for applying both archival theory and her past experience to archival work in the academic environment.” 

In her IWU internship, Ms. O’Neill is learning about the management of archival collections, as a whole, and about the management of the archives as a research environment. She will do this in the context of completing a number of specific projects:

  • assessing, organizing, and describing a collection of materials donated by Marjorie Kouns (’79);
  • conducting a preservation assessment of the Leslie Arends Congressional Collection; and,
  • creating a tutorial on historical book construction techniques and their preservation needs.

“Everything I’ve learned in my classes is coming together [in this internship]”, O’Neill says, and the field experience “is especially beneficial as I am gaining experience both with university records management and with the personal collections of regional residents and organizations.”

Both as a resource for experiential education and an opportunity for experiential education, The Ames Library reflects the university’s commitment to engaged learning. We expect this to only grow with the launch of the Center for Engaged Learning in the library in the coming year. If you or your students have questions about opportunities for pursuing undergraduate research or other engaged learning experiences under the supervision of library faculty, please contact Scott Walter, University Librarian.