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The Great Internship Debate: What’s Next?

October 15, 2013

If you attended Jackie Dooley’s presidential address at the 2013 SAA Annual Meeting or followed the reactions which took place across the blogosphere (including here, here, and on my own blog here), you may have found yourself wondering “What next? Why should I expect this conversation to go any farther than every other recent debate about archival internships?” Your skepticism is shared by people who have been fighting this fight much longer than I have.

It’s a fair question. We’re a profession that likes to talk; as many of my peers in library school have recently lamented, we are still arguing about many of the same issues that seized the archives community thirty years ago.  So why should this time be any different?

I believe we are witnessing a perfect storm for action. First, a robust discussion group and advocacy network exists thanks to the tireless efforts of advocates like Rebecca Goldman of Derangement and Description, Kate Theimer of Archives Next, and Maureen Callahan, founder of You Ought to be Ashamed. Second, the archival internship crisis coincides with a larger public conversation about the value of internships and the ethical treatment of interns. If you think of these conditions as smoldering coals and dry tinder, Jackie Dooley’s speech was a metaphorical bucket of butane.

On August 22, SAA Council Member Michelle Light announced plans for the Council to develop best practice guidelines on internships and volunteer work. In September, a special task force comprised of Council Members Geof Huth, Elisabeth Kaplan, Lisa Mangiafico, and Tanya Zanish-Belcher prepared a draft report on “Best Practices for Internships as a Component of Graduate Archival Education”.

A draft of the working paper was sent out to the SNAP listserv on October 8 with a call for comments by Monday, October 21.   Since the draft was technically shared with the SNAP membership, I will not link to it. However, SNAP is a public forum that does not require SAA membership. If you have not yet offered feedback on the document, I urge you to do so. Personally, I think the guidelines could better address the expectation that MLIS holders pursue internships and volunteer work post-graduation to gain the “real world experience” that should come with an entry-level job.

Till the next milestone arrives,


From → Internships, SAA

  1. Bravo! I’m pleased to have been able to throw on some fuel and help light a bigger bonfire that’s being heard loud and clear beyond the circle of you who have long been discussing these issues. Every step forward is a good thing. Let’s keep it moving. -Jackie

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  1. Paid internships FTW | Library Historian

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