Wait, our library has a Digital Media Intern?
Well, it used to, at least.
After an entire summer of lurking in the shadows at the West Bend Community Memorial Library, I think it’s finally time to introduce myself. I’m Sam Watson, the chronically stressed young woman pictured above. For the last twelve weeks, I’ve been working as the digital media intern here at the library. Never heard of this position before? That’s probably because it didn’t exist until I came along. On the fateful day of May 16th, 2019, I professionally begged Hannah Kane (my favorite teen librarian and internship supervisor) to let me be her summer intern. I thought that working at the library would help me gain valuable experience for my future career - and I was right.
It’s that time of year again-the end of summer. When school starts up again in two weeks (wait, what?), I’ll be a sophomore at the community college, UWM-WC. Next year, I’m transferring to UW-Madison, where I’ll pursue a degree in journalism. That’s right: I spent my whole summer interning at a library, but I’m not actually majoring in library science.
Initially, this might sound counterintuitive, but with Hannah’s help, I was able to focus my internship on crucial areas of study in the journalism field-specifically, writing, editing, and marketing. I could customize the position in this way because Hannah and I essentially created it ourselves. At the beginning of summer, I asked her if the library ever accepted interns-and if they would consider letting me join their ranks. Then, I listed some tasks I could potentially tackle as a journalism student working in a library. For instance, I suggested proofreading the newsletter, taking photos at events, or even (spoiler alert!) writing articles for the blog.
This email could have been very nerve-wracking to send, but I felt a bit better because I already knew Hannah. She and I had met through the Summer Reading Program when I was a young volunteer; later, we bonded during Teen Advisory Board meetings. I knew how laid-back and approachable she was, so even if she rejected my proposal to be the library’s new intern, I figured she’d be nice about it.
As you might have already guessed, she did not reject me. Instead, she enthusiastically helped me to join the team and decide on three main responsibilities that would give me experience in my major. The first was to create and manage an Instagram account for the library. Initially, I assumed this task would be effortless; after all, I’m a Gen Z-er, so I’m well-versed in the ways of social media. Nonetheless, I was surprised how much time and effort it takes to run a ‘corporate’ social media account. I ended up spending a significant portion of my internship planning and posting about upcoming library events, as well as interacting with other accounts. Fortunately, my efforts to get the page off the ground were fruitful; during my internship, it went from 0 followers to over 400. If you want to further increase that number, follow @westbendlibrary on Instagram.
My second duty was another exciting startup project. Together, Hannah and I created Pager, a monthly podcast for the library. I wrote scripts for three episodes, and we recorded them together in the library’s Digital Creation Lab. As two podcast enthusiasts ourselves, we geeked out a bit over this part of the job. Go listen to “The Rad Beginning” of our joint geekery here: https://www.westbendlibrary.org/library_services/podcast.php
You might have already guessed my third responsibility, as you’re currently reading it. That’s right - I wrote weekly articles for the library’s blog. If you’ve been keeping up with these posts, you’ll know that some of them focused on general reading suggestions and book recommendations. Others involved personal interviews, which I conducted myself. At first, this was mildly terrifying for me, but through time and practice, administering interviews became much easier. Throughout my internship, I talked with everyone from library staff members to Read with Rover administrators to teenage Summer Reading Program volunteers-and each person I interviewed was as friendly and supportive as the last. To sprinkle in one final self-promotion, you should definitely read those interviews on the blog (as well as the other articles I wrote.)
For most people, I realize, tackling these responsibilities wouldn’t sound like a fun way to spend the summer. For me, though, it was absolutely perfect. Not only did it allow me to practice a lifelong hobby in a professional setting, but it also helped me gain valuable experience that can be applied to my future career. After all, in recent years, the face of journalism has changed to become more accessible on various media platforms. It’s no longer all about the physical newspaper; instead, the news is broadcast on websites, blogs, social media, videos, and online audio clips. Thus, in this field, it’s crucial to be able to work with all kinds of digital media-and that’s exactly what this internship allowed me to do. Between the Instagram page, the podcast, and the blog, I dabbled in multiple areas of media, some of which will surely prove valuable in my future career. Plus, the emphasis on writing, editing, and conducting interviews gave me experience working in a more traditional journalistic setting.
As I wrap up my first internship, I find myself feeling more excited about my major than ever before. The opportunity to make a career out of one of my biggest passions seems like a dream sometimes, but because of this internship, it’s starting to feel more and more real.
Needless to say, I wouldn’t have had such a rewarding experience if it weren’t for the constant support offered by the staff of the West Bend Library. Together, they created a constructive, welcoming, and ultimately rewarding work environment that I will be sad to leave. In particular, I’d like to thank Hannah for taking me under her wing this summer and helping me create a position that was absolutely perfect for my interests, my skill set, and my major. I couldn’t have asked for a supervisor who was more encouraging, responsive, and helpful - so thanks, Hannah!
As I mentioned before, I don’t have long before school starts back up again. However, I do have two gloriously empty weeks. That’ll give me a chance to take a bit of a break from writing, starting…now.