Welcome to the IS 591 Practicum course! The Practicum course allows students to begin the application of theories and fundamentals learned in the classroom to real-world situations and environments. While not required, the Practicum course is highly recommended to all MS students.
This page provides the specific information students need to set up and complete the Practicum. Students who are considering a Practicum should first review the Practicum Overview page to gain an understanding of practicum goals and components.
K-12 Library Information Specialist Students
School Practicum, IS 591M, is required for students in the K-12 LIS Licensure program and highly recommended for students earning the LIS Endorsement on their Illinois Professional Educator License. Students interested in school librarianship will work with the K-12 Program Coordinator for school Practica placements. For complete information about school Practica, please see the K-12 Library Information Specialist Practicum Guide.
Students may use the following checklist to ensure successful planning, registration, and completion of the Practicum Course:
- Read and ask about IS 591 - Read the Practicum Overview and this Information for Students page carefully. Contact the Practicum Coordinator now or at any time to explore areas of career interest, host site and Practicum Faculty Advisor possibilities, and to ask questions about the course and requirements.
- Obtain a site and Site Supervisor - Identify potential Practicum sites. Contact the potential Practicum site(s) to request an exploratory meeting. Meet with one or more potential Site Supervisors to explore Practicum possibilities. Agree upon a Practicum focus and set of learning outcomes with the Site Supervisor.
- Obtain a Practicum Faculty Advisor - Consult the Core Faculty list and List of Practicum Faculty Advisors to identify potential Practicum Advisors in relevant area of interest. Once a good match has been identified, contact the advisor to determine their availability and willingness to serve in this role.
- Prepare and submit the Practicum Contract - Complete the Practicum Contract and submit it via the Practicum Registration Moodle space. For directions and to submit the contract, click here (login required)
- Register – After the contract is approved an email with the information needed to register for the course will be received.
- Complete Practicum work and assignments - Complete all Practicum hours, assignments, and participation in the Discussion Forums by the deadline listed in the course Moodle space.
- Thanks - Thank the Site Supervisor for the experience.
The Practicum Coordinator is available to assist with any of the above.
Practicum students should begin organizing and planning for their experience at the beginning of the semester prior to the semester in which they plan to enroll in the course. This will ensure adequate time to conceptualize the practicum, identify a site, secure a Practicum experience, and author the Practicum Contract. This process may last as little as one week to as much as several months. Factors that determine the amount of time to establish a placement can include but are not limited to: investigating multiple host sites for a good fit, negotiating experience, and acquiring the required approvals.
The Practicum course may be customized to each student’s needs and professional focus. For this reason, it is important that students begin their Practicum planning process by consulting with the Practicum Coordinator, a Practicum Faculty Advisor, and or other mentors to discuss optimal learning outcomes for the course. Establishing learning outcomes early in the process will assist with the identification of Practicum host sites and negotiating focus and responsibilities for the Practicum work itself.
Once general learning outcomes have been established, students should begin researching Practicum host sites that can provide an experience that aligns with these outcomes. As sites are identified, students will contact the site to discuss and explore possibilities for completing the Practicum at a given site. The Practicum Coordinator is able to assist in site identification and contacts, if needed.
- A Practicum student may be compensated for their experience. Please consult with the Practicum Coordinator if compensation is being offered for Practicum work.
- Ensure that the Site Supervisor has professional-level qualifications in the field of the Practicum work. An important purpose of the Practicum is to work with a specialist who can provide professional mentoring and training.
In order to gain approval to register for the Practicum course, students will complete and submit a Practicum Contract. The Practicum Contract is an agreement between the Student, a Practicum Faculty Advisor, and a Site Supervisor at the host site. The Practicum Contract will require that the student has met with the Site Supervisor and agreed upon their practicum focus and specific learning outcomes. For specific directions on compiling the contract, click here. Once the contract has been compiled and submitted it will receive a final approval from the Practicum Coordinator. At this point, students will receive information that will enable them to complete their registration for the course.
The Practicum experience will include these activities:
- Work experience – Students will have an opportunity to work in a professional environment under the supervision of an experienced librarian or information professional with the guidance of a faculty member. Students are required to work a total of 100 hours with the site.
- Assignments – Weekly Log Assignment and Performance Review Assignment submitted through course Moodle space.
- Forum discussions – Students will also participate in the IS 591 course forums to share experiences with other Practicum students and explore issues related to the profession in general.
Supervisor Evaluation and Grading
At the end of the Practicum, the Practicum Coordinator will request a written evaluation of the student’s Practicum work. The Practicum Faculty Advisor has the responsibility to evaluate course assignments in addition to this written performance evaluation.
The final grade of Satisfactory (S) or Unsatisfactory (U) will be determined by the Practicum Faculty Advisor based on the following:
- The evaluation completed by the Site Supervisor.
- Active participation in the Discussion Forums
- Evaluation of Weekly Log and Performance Review Assignments.
- Other information and or deliverables requested by the Practicum Faculty Advisor
Practicum Coordinator Contact
To ask questions or request assistance at any point in the process, please contact the Practicum Coordinator:
Rebecca Hodson, Practicum Coordinator
School of Information Sciences
501 East Daniel Street MC493
Champaign IL 61820
Telephone (217) 300-2254
rhodson1 [at] illinois.edu
Advice From Students
Choosing a Site
"I would recommend visiting a few different libraries before you decide on one."
"I think you need to choose a practicum site that you will feel very comfortable making mistakes, asking lots of questions, and learning from your experience. No matter how much experience you have, try to come in with an open mind. Everyone can always learn something."
"Take the time to have a chat with their potential supervising librarian and get a feel for the library itself. Not every library will be a perfect fit, and it's important to be comfortable with the people you're working with and in the space itself, in my opinion, in order to have the most positive experience."
"Ask questions at your site visit, so you can assess if it will be a good fit for you. Engage in a task that you will not have the chance to experience in your coursework and find out a real need at your site. Dive in and ask as many questions as you can."
"Make sure that you have a clear idea of what your day to day duties are going to be. At times, I felt as if it was not exactly clear what I was supposed to be doing. I sometimes felt as if I had to go out and hunt for something to do, so I didn't feel useful at times."
"I would suggest that students really interview and talk with the supervisor, because this is the person you'll be with all semester. My supervisor was super nice, but not like me at all. She was much more conservative and did things much differently than I would. If it's possible, pick someone who you will be comfortable working with."
"I agree with others that you should visit the site and see if you would fit in with their environment."
"Choose a library that suits your needs and "sell yourself" to that library. Do not just pick one that's convenient for you to get to. Also, choose a library in the field that you want to work in (if you know)."
"My experience with my site supervisor wasn't entirely positive, but I suspect that our problems stemmed from personality differences. I think these experiences will be most valuable when the student and site supervisor have similar work habits/approaches."
"The work level was less valuable than expected, much of it was doing the same kind of work repeatedly, at the same level and it didn't closely match my knowledge or skills. Type of work and student skills and knowledge should be matched, but this takes much time and planning."
"I think having a practicum even if it is not the perfect environment would be better than not experiencing it at all. So, while I think the advice from others to be choosey or picky is good, I also would suggest not turning down an opportunity because it is not perfect."
"Talk to the librarians and the staff, see how they treat employees and students. Interview them to see what they are looking for, check and see what level of work they expect, does it fit with what you want to learn to do, and does it seem interesting."
"Visit the library before requesting the practicum. Find one you are interested in working at or has something special that you think you could learn from."
"Choose a site where you might like to work, especially if you want the experience to affirm your career choice. Also, a practicum is a great way to network and show what a valuable employee you are. Who knows? You might end up working there someday."
Working at the Site
"I started my practicum the first week the elementary school started...since University classes had not started yet, I was able to go every day for the week. This allowed me to see all grade levels and have a better idea of what being a full-time school librarian is like."
"To get the most out of the experience, I would go into the Practicum with a positive attitude and be willing to do as much as you can."
"Jump in as much as possible, and be willing to do as much work as you can in order to show how hard you're willing to work. This can get you an excellent reference or two, as well as a job offer there or somewhere else."
"Day shifts in the children's department can be very quiet and the librarians don't always remember to utilize their practicum students to the fullest so ask! Sometimes all I needed to do was ask if they could use me on something and then they were thrilled to put me to work."
"To get the most out of the experience, throw yourself into it. Don't be afraid to ask questions and then roll your sleeves up and dive in. The best way to learn is by doing, not watching so start doing it as soon as you have a clue. There will always be someone there to ask questions of if you get in over your head but at least you tried and will have learned in the process for next time."
"Ask lots of questions, volunteer to try new things, eat lunch with your site supervisor and other staff members, and reflect on the experience with a friend."
"One of the last things we did was a performance review. I did a review for the organization as well as to how I thought the practicum went. It was interesting dual feedback. "