01 February 2005

Grossmont College Library Internship

by John Stanton

I started working at the community college library on August 23, 2004. I finished in mid-December. My advisor was librarian Patty Morrison. She and Nadra Farina-Hess (the head librarian) have taught me the ropes of working in a library. They are both excellent mentors and I am lucky to have gotten this internship. Librarians Michelle Blackman and Julie Middlemas have also been very helpful.

My duties/goals: "Will participate in reference, collection development, cataloging, library instruction, and other duties under the supervision of library mentors."

I logged quite a few hours at the reference desk and I greatly enjoyed my time there. It is great to help people learn. I also improved my skills at searching in the OPAC and using databases. In addition to this I have been introduced to many of the duties of a librarian. I also help the students with their technical problems with the computers and other hardware in the library.

The web site for the library is available at http://www.grossmont.edu/library/.

Reference Desk

I spend most of my time at the library working the reference desk. At times I work in a team with another librarian, but at most times I cover the desk by myself. At this point I find that I can answer almost 90% of the questions.

The common questions include the following:

  • How do I find a particular article in a journal?
  • What is a good research topic?
  • Do you have a particular book, CD, magazine, etc.?
  • How do I use MLA and APA citations?
  • How do you use the computer, printer, or scanner?
  • Where is a person, room, Fax machine, telephone located?
  • How do you get to use the group study room?

I really enjoyed helping people by answering their questions. And I am impressed by some of the questions that students ask. It is great when I get a chance to show someone how to use a tool like electronic databases in detail. I have always enjoyed teaching people who want to learn.

We have electronic databases from EBSCOHost (e.g. Academic Search Premier) and InfoTrac (e.g. OneFile, Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center, and Literature Resource Center). We also have a fairly large print collection of newspapers, magazines, and journals.

I have gotten familiar with these electronic databases and feel comfortable in guiding student to material to help them with their research. In the last few weeks of my internship the librarians have been introducing me to print reference materials for subjects such as literature. The more I learn the more there is to learn.

Collection Development

At the Grossmont Library each of the four librarians each does collection development. The library subscribes to a service from Library Journal where review cards are received for new books. Each card is roughly a 3X5 card with a mini-review and a recommendation for what kind of library the book is recommended or not recommended. Reviews with stars are considered exceptional.

The library has a budget for each department at the college for buying books for the year. And each of the four librarians is given responsibility for buying books for their particular departments. Some librarians carefully watch the budget for their subjects and other librarians let the paraprofessionals track the budget for them. Items that are reviewed at the beginning of the year have a higher likelihood of being bought, because money runs out later in the year. And because this is California and a public college, money is not as plentiful as it used to be in the past.

Every two weeks a stack of perhaps 50 cards is received by each librarian. I went through a stack that was received by my advisor Patty Morrison. Out of the stack I recommended that 8 books be purchased.

I paid attention to whether the books that were reviewed corresponded to subjects that were taught at the college, whether the books were recommended for an academic library (as opposed to just a public library); I looked at how many books were already owned by the library on that particular subject. And if the reviewed item had a star I was highly likely to recommend it.

This just covers the acquisition end of collection development. The librarians also perform weeding based on how old a book is or if it is in poor physical condition. But I have not been exposed to this aspect yet.


Nadra has given me an introduction to cataloging (which has been very helpful since I am currently taking a class on that subject). She has also been kind enough to help me with my studies in my cataloging class by answering questions I have.

I worked on an assignment that involves basic cataloging skills to make e-books available to the students. The Grossmont College Library received a couple files containing nearly 3000 MARC records for e-books they had acquired. These files needed to be modified before they could be input into their catalog. Part of the work was done by their computer guru, Rhonda Bauerlein, using a program called MarcEdit. However it was known that approximately 1-2% of the records had errors in them. Also, the local call number of the library has a small but not easily handled modification from the Library of Congress call number. It fell to me to find and fix the errors in the file and to modify the local call numbers.

Rhonda suggested that I should make the changes by hand. But I was worried that I might make mistakes and that it might take me 40-50 hours to make all the changes on just the first 1000 e-books. I therefore suggested that I could write a series of computer programs to do all the needed work and then they could reuse those programs in the future if the need arose.

I spent about 15-20 hours relearning Perl and writing the programs. I chose Perl because it is good at handling string manipulations and it is a free program. Next I worked with Nadra to assign the proper call numbers to the items that were missing them.

This was a great little assignment and I was happy to put my programming skills to use on a library related project. And I was happy not to be modifying nearly 3000 records by hand.

Nadra has also had me do some other cataloging tasks including authorizing new subject headings in the OPAC system.

Library Instruction

The librarians teach a one hour class called Bibliographic Instruction (BI) which teaches students the basics of research including how to use the catalog and databases. Students will often come to the reference desk with research questions for the assignment they received in this class. I have attended a BI class taught by librarian Michelle Blackman to see an example of library instruction.

As part of that assignment the students are given a six page worksheet that guides them through the steps of doing research. The worksheet contains the following parts:
  1. Select an appropriate research topic.
  2. Find books using the Grossmont Library online catalog.
  3. Find a book in the library using a Library of Congress call number.
  4. Learn to "browse" the reference collection to find background information on your topic.
  5. Find magazine, journal and newspaper articles using online databases.
  6. Differentiate between "scholarly" and "popular" press articles.
  7. Find web information using an Internet search engine.
  8. Determine the quality of a web site you found.
  9. Correctly site a reference for one of the items you found in your research using MLA format.

I help students at the reference desk with all of the above aspects of the BI assignment and provide basic library instruction to them. I like to help at least a few students in depth over the course of a 3-4 hour shift. I have them come and sit at a second computer at the reference desk where I can sit next to them. I guide them through all the various resources available at the library. I can spend anywhere from 10-60 minutes (interrupted by other people’s questions) helping a student. People ask such interesting questions. And they are so grateful for the assistance and education.

PATRIOT Act Pathfinder

I have been doing some research on the USA PATRIOT Act and bought a video on the subject that I donated to the library. I also did some research on a couple books on the subject and recommended they be bought for the library’s collection. I have been doing some additional research on quality websites on the subject and created a pathfinder on the subject. A draft of the pathfinder can be found at http://members.cox.net/john.stanton/PATRIOT.html.


This internship has been extremely valuable to me. And I now know for sure that this is the right career for me. I leave work each day I am there feeling very fulfilled. I also know that I would like to work in a college library if possible.

No comments:

Post a Comment