What kinds of companies/organizations/sites do MLIS interns work with?
Students in Information Studies have an extremely flexible skill set, which they can put to use in any of over 300 partner sites in the greater LA area and beyond.
- GLAM institutions (galleries, museums, libraries, and archives)
- City, county, state, and federal government agencies
- Corporate collections and information centers
- Tech companies, internet startups, and new media
- Motion picture and television production companies
- Higher education institutions, academic libraries, and specialized research centers
- Art, architecture and design studios
…and many more! We add new sites to our list every year, and are always interested in developing productive relationships with new partners in our community. If you’d like to become a new internship site, fill out our online application form.
What are the requirements to be an MLIS internship site?
Internships enable students to acquire specialized competency through supervised work at the professional level, and test basic professional competencies, as well as the capacity to meet professional-level performance expectations. A minimum requirement for internship sites and projects is, therefore, that the intern will be working under the supervision of someone who can organize, direct, and evaluate the student’s performance of professional-level work assignments–generally, an information professional who holds an MLIS degree or has other education and training appropriate to a specialized field, such as a Master’s in Public History, Certified Archivist credential, MBA, JD, etc. Sites should also provide adequate working space and any resources such as computers, software, archival housing materials, or office supplies interns may need to accomplish their assigned work.
What kinds of work do interns perform? Do I have to have a specific project for them to work on, or can they just help with day-to-day tasks and whatever comes up?
The nature of internship projects varies considerably from site to site. Regardless of whether interns are dedicated to working on a specific project like processing a small archival collection or conducting UX evaluation interviews, or taking on a greater variety of daily tasks, the work they do should be enable them to acquire professional skills and demonstrate professional competencies. Many students come into our MLIS program with a wealth of knowledge and prior work experience–which internship sites can benefit from as well by putting students to work on challenging professional tasks.
How many hours do interns work? What’s the standard schedule?
For a 4-credit internship, students are expected to work 120 hours at the internship site (this can include work done remotely, if applicable). How those hours are distributed over the 10-week quarter is up to the student and their internship supervisor to determine. We recommend that interns discuss their working hours in advance with their supervisor and set a schedule that’s mutually convenient, taking class schedules, the site’s business/open hours, and other time constraints into account. It’s also good to establish ahead of time the procedures that interns should follow to notify their supervisors when illness or other factors might prevent them from coming in, and have a plan in place for making up any missed hours.
Internship work should be performed during the quarter in which the student is enrolled for internship course credit. On some occasions, internships may start shortly before the first day of instruction, or continue after the end of the term–such as when internships at a particular site are geared toward a semester-based academic calendar. This is generally acceptable, and does not require special permission beyond conferral and agreement between the site supervisor and intern about their overall schedule for the quarter. It is not acceptable for students to enroll and receive internship credit in the fall quarter for work they performed during the summer.
Do interns get paid? How much is typical?
Internships may be paid or unpaid. For paid internships, the amount and structure of payment can vary greatly. Some sites treat interns essentially as part-time employees, and pay an hourly wage; the Los Angeles minimum wage will be $14.25 per hour as of July 1, 2019, and recent internships have offered anywhere from $15-$30 per hour. Other internships are compensated in the form of a stipend or flat fee for the academic term. Sites offering uncompensated internships should be aware of the guidelines for determining whether interns qualify as employees, and ensure that they are complying with the Fair Labor Standards Act. (The U.S. Department of Labor’s Fact Sheet #71 offers additional detail on this point.) If you require that students be enrolled and receiving course credit for an unpaid internship, please convey these requirements clearly as well.
If you are offering a paid internship, it’s important that you know and communicate clearly to prospective interns what the basis for compensation is (i.e., hourly wage, stipend, etc.), how much they’ll be paid, and what processes they’ll need to go through in order to get paid. If payment will come only after the internship hours have been completed, or if there is likely to be a delay of more than a few days for payment to be processed through your financial systems, make sure the intern knows this ahead of time so they can plan accordingly! No one wants to miss a tuition payment, rent, or a credit card bill while they’re waiting for an unexpectedly delayed check to arrive.
Additionally, if your organization conducts background checks or other administrative procedures before new hires of any kind are issued an ID or start their work on site, that might mean getting the ball rolling for interns a few weeks before the academic term begins to ensure they can begin on time. Please make sure you’re aware of any such procedural requirements at your site, and plan accordingly. The ten-week quarter goes by very quickly — it’s hard to get caught up if you lose a week at the beginning!
Do you assign an intern to me, or do I get to choose someone?
We do not assign interns to sites. You are welcome to recruit and hire for these openings just as you would for any professional appointment at your institution. It’s common for sites–especially larger corporate institutions–to require interns to apply through their main human resources site, or to request at least a cover letter/letter of interest and current c.v. or résumé prior to an interview as part of the screening process for prospective interns.
Students may also work with potential sites and supervisors to develop new internship projects that align with their research and career interests. Whenever possible, we will work along with the student and contacts at the site to help make this an ongoing relationship, rather than a one-off experience. If you are a new site, or an established site which has not hosted interns in recent quarters, please let us know of future openings so we can help send well-matched candidates your way!
All internship site supervisors will need to complete and sign our Agreement to Supervise form, which is also signed by the student’s academic advisor (who is responsible for verifying the student’s eligibility and good academic standing).
How much training or supervision will new interns need?
This varies according to the site, the project, and the intern! If the project requires working with proprietary applications or methods that are specific to your institution, interns will likely require the same training you’d offer to any new employee doing similar work. The scope of your project and your expectations for the amount of work to be completed, as well as the amount of time you plan to spend with your interns on training or addressing questions that come up in the course of their work, should take this into account.
You might also consider scheduling a regular weekly or bi-weekly check-in meeting with your interns, even if you interact regularly with them during the workday. This can be quick — just ten or fifteen minutes — but having it already on the calendar gives you and the intern both space to for timely discussion of any big-picture issues as they arise. They won’t feel like they’re bothering you or taking up extra time if they need to ask questions, and it won’t feel like you’re calling them on the carpet if you take some of this time to offer them constructive feedback or make course corrections on a project that’s gotten off-track.
It sounds like the work I need to have done might not be right for an internship. Can I hire a graduate student to help me with it as a short-term paid project, or recruit volunteer help from students?
If there isn’t someone at your site with an MLIS degree or other appropriate credentials who can provide appropriate supervision for an internship project, or the scope of the work will be significantly greater (or less) than the 120 hours per quarter required for internship credit, consider posting a call for freelance, contract, or temporary paid employment on our IS Job Board. Depending on the project, you may also be able to recruit volunteer assistance through one of our student professional organizations.