MS/LIS students Samantha Lynn and Savannah Adams are earning course credit while exploring their interests through the iSchool's apprenticeship program with The Urbana Free Library. In the two-semester program, apprentices work 15 hours per week at the library and earn up to six credits through both a practicum and an independent study. The apprentice has both a faculty supervisor and library supervisor, who meet to discuss the student's progress in the program. Each student receives tuition support in the fall and a fellowship in the spring to complete the independent study.
As an apprentice in Adult and Youth Services, Lynn worked at the adult reference desk this semester and assisted with projects such as children's craft kits, programming and events, and collection development. She will move to the children's question desk in the spring and continue to assist as needed with projects in various departments.
"Not only have I been exposed to a wide range of experiences, but the librarians at The Urbana Free Library have been excellent mentors. I truly feel like a part of the team, and whenever I have a question, the librarians have provided access to resources and expertise that you often can't find in a textbook or classroom setting," said Lynn, who also worked at a public library while earning her bachelor's degree in linguistics from the University of Georgia.
After receiving her bachelor's degree in art history from the University of North Carolina at Asheville, Adams worked in the Conservation Unit at the U of I Oak Street Library Facility, where she discovered a passion for conservation. She decided to apply for the apprenticeship program because she thought it would be beneficial to "understand, firsthand, the different components that make up the field of library preservation as a whole."
Adams serves as the archives apprentice for the Champaign County Historical Archives of The Urbana Free Library and also works at the reference desk. Her practicum project this semester involved digitizing and cataloging recently acquired home and building surveys conducted by the Preservation and Conservation Association (PACA) of Champaign County.
"I love both learning from, and working with, the people at the archives. Everyone is incredibly knowledgeable and has taught me so much. A wonderful bonus is being able to learn about the local history of Champaign County, specifically historic preservation and the architectural history of Champaign-Urbana," she said.
While the apprenticeship program is valuable for students, the Library also benefits. According to the apprentices' supervisors, Donica Swann, director of archives and public safety, and Rachel Fuller, director of adult & youth services and acquisitions, "Apprentices contribute to the Library's mission by providing excellent information services and supporting programming and collection development. Working with apprentices, library staff stay current on emerging trends in the field; and, at the same time, apprentices learn to apply library best practices in a real-world environment with professional mentorship and support. We love working with students to discover their interests and helping them grow as professionals!"
After graduation, Adams would like to continue working in a library preservation-related field, and Lynn is interested in working with children and/or teens in a public or school library.
"It has been incredibly useful to be able to actually apply the knowledge and skills gained through my courses," said Lynn.