While it’s certainly not uncommon for college students to engage in internships to gain valuable work experience, University Libraries is going one step further by offering internships to local high school students, too.
Those summer experiences are having an impact. “It was one of the best things I’ve ever done,” says Anyla Van Putten, who spent the summer before her senior year at Canal Winchester High School working in the Libraries' development office. “It’s incredible how much I learned. I always knew Ohio State was a great school, and this was a chance to get to know even more about the university first-hand.”
The summer internships are an offshoot of a career-readiness institute offered to young people by the non-profit Expanding Visions Foundation (EVF). The program is conducted at various central Ohio venues, including a session recently added each spring at Thompson Library. Providing a place for the EVF workshops was “amazing” says Quanetta Batts, Director of Outreach and Engagement for University Libraries, but the Libraries sought to do even more.
“We didn’t want to just provide space for the program without getting involved with the students ourselves,” she explains. “Since the career institute helps high school students get ready to apply for jobs – helping with interviewing skills, resumes and so on – we decided to offer them some real summer job opportunities. At the end of the nine-week institute, they are eligible to apply for a paid internship at the Libraries.”
The interns work up to 25 hours a week in many areas of the Libraries such as circulation, archives, book processing, communications and more.
“It’s been a beautiful, beautiful thing,” says Dr. Cornell Lewis, EVF executive director. “It’s helped our kids see what a career is like, what the library is all about, what daily campus life is like. A lot of them have never really been on a college campus for an extended period, so this has been a tremendous eye-opener, and that’s so important in the 14, 15, 16-year age range. They realize that (going to college) is something they could do!”
Van Putten – who is now a freshman Buckeye at the Lima campus, with the intention of transferring later to the Columbus campus to study theatre – says the internship has also boosted her self-confidence.
“At first I felt a little intimidated because most of the staff in the library are not teenagers like me. So I was a little quiet,” she remembers. “But my co-workers helped me get out of my shell and made me feel so welcome. We even took little ‘field trips’ and walked all around campus.”
According to Batts, staff members at the Libraries serve as mentors to the young interns. “They offer a shadowing opportunity for students, a chance for them to have conversations, walk around the Oval, explore campus, maybe get lunch. “
The staff also pulls the interns together as a group once a week. “It lets them to get to know each other, and for us all to talk about common issues – like budgeting your money, college admission and scholarships, and creating your personal brand,” Batts says. “It lets us have some fun together, maybe take a tour of Ohio Stadium or the planetarium.”
Those connections between mentors and interns are especially meaningful, says Lewis.
“That’s the ‘secret sauce’ – someone’s not just taking you on a quick campus tour or showing you some buildings. They’re saying, I want you to be here. I have expectations for you. I care for you.”