01 January 2007

Interning in Ireland

by Shana Harrington

This summer I interned at the Dublin public library for eight weeks. I was placed at the reference desk in the Music Library of the Dublin City Centre Library, Ilac Centre. My direct supervisor was the head music librarian, Noel McMahon. He and his fellow librarian, Susan Flood started my training immediately. I was quickly shown the ins and outs of the music library. The first day I familiarized myself with the two software programs the library district uses, Galaxy, for checking out materials and catalog questions, and Metaframe, a program that utilizes databases created in Microsoft Access. These databases are created by the library staff and include composer information, song titles (which are not listed in catalog records) and an index of scores. Both of these programs are necessary in assisting patrons.

In addition to performing reference duties, I also worked on a research project developed by Noel. He asked me to research and report on the question of whether or not music and public libraries should move from CD format to digital. The digital format would require lending mp3 players and providing a service where patrons could download music from the library website. This project was fascinating. The University's databases were an invaluable addition to my research, the e-journals provided me with the background I needed to develop a logical answer to the question Noel posed. I found that there is a library in the U.S. that is already circulating MP3 players, and was able to contact them for the purposes of the paper as well.

Aside from the research project, working at the music desk with these two librarians was a valuable experience. I could compare and contrast between the public and academic libraries in the United States and Ireland. I quickly picked up the rhythm of the reference desk. The Music Library utilized the Dewey Decimal System, so once I located an object for a patron, I was able to find it quickly. The Galaxy system is a text-based catalog, similar to ones I've worked with in libraries here. I learned many of the shortcut keys and various commands, and was able to put items on loan, as well as check them out and in. The patrons at the library were very varied. This particular branch library is recommended to many immigrants entering Ireland from other EU countries. They can come to the library knowing little or no English and learn it through the services the Language Learning Desk provides. Because of this, I learned different ways to communicate with patrons, in order to find the materials they were looking for. After a couple of weeks I settled into the routine, shelving items, re-sensitizing them and even watering the plants! Patrons began to recognize me, and loved to hear about Arizona. I thought these little things were quite necessary in learning about the functions of a library. It’s not just about the collection, or the computer system, but the people who use it. Since I have worked at a public library reference desk in Nevada, too, I can say that the accent may be different but the people are there for the same thing, information, education and entertainment.

As for the people, the staff was a joy to work with. Noel and Susan were so knowledgeable. We discussed the similarities and differences between the libraries in America and Dublin. Susan helped me utilize Metaframe and taught me how best to answer reference questions for patrons. Noel and I talked about the technologies libraries use; for example, we discussed cataloging procedures. We are very lucky to have MARC records and copy cataloging. He has to catalog every item individually, even if it is a duplicate, and then send it to the processing department to be labeled and barcoded. We also discussed how RFID technology is probably the way of the future for libraries.

Overall, this is an experience I will never forget. The people were welcoming, helpful and always interesting. The country was amazing, and I explored as much of it as I could. Up north, they are still in the middle of a civil war. In the West, off the coast of Galway, on the Aran Islands, Irish is still the native language. In Dublin, the city is becoming more metropolitan and is a destination for travelers from all over the world, even Tucson!

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