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What’s it really like to work at the library? This past summer, Samantha Martinez, 16, and Lisette Zamora-Galarza, 18, both of Commerce City, Colo., found out after being selected to take part in the Inclusive Internship Initiative (III), a program offered by the Public Library Association. The III is designed to introduce students from diverse backgrounds to careers in librarianship, with the belief that it’s important for the values of equity, diversity and inclusion be reflected in public library staff across the country. The summerlong program creates the opportunity for young students to gain a comprehensive learning experience, including opportunities for mentorship and program facilitation.
Participating in the III took the two interns to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., to kick off the program and prepare for the months ahead. From there, it was back to their hometown to get a hands-on look at librarianship. In addition to learning a variety of facets related to library life, each student launched their own personal project aimed at benefitting the Commerce CIty community as a whole.
For Martinez, a high-school junior, the topic of community health piqued her interest. With the intent of addressing the disproportionate amount of people of color impacted by diabetes and obesity-related illnesses, Martinez helped organize a series of programs focused on healthy eating habits, overall health and wellness, and even cooking classes. Her goal of using library services to help make Commerce City a healthier place came naturally.
“Something about the library just makes me feel at home,” Martinez says. “I love the programs and how dedicated everyone is to get you involved.”
Zamora-Galarza, now a freshman at the University of Denver majoring in Media Studies and Spanish, brought a different perspective to the internship. Focused on English as a Second Language (ESL) and naturalization, Zamora-Galarza launched a series of programs designed to help people pass citizenship tests.
“I helped the students practice their English through citizenship questions and vocab,” she says. “At the end of the internship, we held an Immigration Expert Session where the community was invited to hear from an immigration expert from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and have their questions answered.”
For both students, the summer’s work impacted their understanding of the work and mission of libraries, as well as their future career paths.
“What surprised me most was learning that I actually want to study to become a librarian,” says Martinez. “Before the internship, I had no idea what I wanted to do after high school. During my experience, I realized that working in a library is something I would love.”
For Zamora-Galarza, she’s focused on a future career in media and journalism, but still entertaining librarianship as a secondary choice. No matter what her future career path, she knows that the library will always be a part of it in some way.
“I walk away [from this experience] with an open mind to discover and branch out to career opportunities after college,” she says. “I learned that the library is our public resource, and there is always a need to help and offer services to the community.”
For more information on the Inclusive Internship Initiative, visit apply.ala.org/plinterns.
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