How to run a successful intern program: a case study from UNSW Australia library

ALIA Library

O'Dwyer, Shaun

National 2016 Conference, 29 August-2 September 2016 Adelaide: Engage Create Lead.
[Peer reviewed] This conference paper discusses incorporating an intern program into the recruitment process at University of New South Wales (UNSW).
As with other complex organisations, having the right mix of staff is always a challenge in libraries.  In recruiting staff at UNSW Library we look for particular skills, knowledge and aptitude and we make our decisions based on candidates’ qualifications and relevant experience.  If you are new to our profession without the required experience and/or the right qualifications then many doors to a fledgling library career will remain firmly shut.   Conversely, library managers think about succession planning and want to encourage new people to the profession.   Some managers also want staff to join the “revolving door” by creating opportunities to gain experience in all sorts of library work.  So how can library managers open the doors and build revolving ones?  One strategy that UNSW Library has used is to run a successful intern program.  The program consists of employing four final year/just graduated librarians for twelve months to work in the Client Services Unit.   To date nineteen graduates have participated in the program with all but one gaining permanent work in libraries, including at UNSW Library, either during the internship or immediately after.  This is significant as the interns state that prior to this experience, they had never even made it to interview stage.  As interns are treated as regular Client Services team members they are paid the same, do the same work and have the same training and professional development opportunities as everyone else.  This arrangement is beneficial to both interns and the Library as the interns come to UNSW full of new ideas and enthusiasm, and are hungry to learn as much as they can, which in turn inspires our permanent team members.  To date interns have contributed to activities as diverse as  working at the Help Zones of the three campus libraries, developing the enquiry management system, participating in a university-wide client services project, user interface testing for web services, and assisting in the Document Services Unit. 
This paper describes the intern program in detail, including planning, costs, recruitment, training and outcomes.  It also explains how implementing an intern program does not have to be complex or time consuming for your library and how its ongoing impact can be extremely beneficial for participants, the organisation and the library profession.


Deakin, ACT: Australian Library and Information Association
University of New South Wales