Internship a benefit to all

If you've been in the library lately, you may have noticed a friendly new face: Heather Nicholson.

Nicholson is a co-op student from the University of Western Ontario (UWO), where she is studying for a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree. She is here at the University of Lethbridge for one term to gain some practical, hands-on experience in a library setting.

"This is a great learning experience, and a great way to supplement what I've learned so far in school," says Nicholson. "Working at a smaller institution like the U of L has given me the opportunity to gain experience with a wide variety of library work."

The library gains from this relationship as well, by getting an enthusiastic short-term employee with new ideas able to help out with special projects. It's not unlike the opportunity U of L students readily take advantage of when they participate in similar co-op placements.

The UWO co-op program is, like the U of L's program, an optional add-on to the degree. Students can choose up to two co-op terms of four months each. And, like the U of L program, many students may eventually find permanent employment with their co-op sponsors – something Nicholson would love to see happen.

Nicholson was previously a junior high school teacher for five years in her hometown of Edmonton. She then taught junior high language arts and social studies for three years at a newly opened Canadian school in Qatar, returning last June to begin her studies at UWO. Helping to develop the collection for the school library in Qatar piqued her interest in library science.

Throughout her teaching career she realized the importance of teaching students solid research and critical thinking skills. Becoming a librarian dovetails nicely with her interest in teaching, while providing her with an opportunity to assist students in developing information literacy skills. Working in the U of L Library, with its emphasis on personal service, leads her to believe she's made the right choice.

"I love the teaching aspect of being a librarian," says Nicholson. "I also enjoy the other parts of the job – working on the reference desk, developing collections, and constantly learning new things as you support faculty and students in their research. It's the wide variety of the job that really appeals to me."

At the U of L, Nicholson has been involved with a variety of projects, including teaching classes, co-ordinating the movement of the collection during renovations, weeding parts of the collection and analyzing the library's print and electronic serials holdings.

"Thanks to my work here at the U of L, I have been able to see the practical application of concepts we've discussed in class, and there's no substitute for actually experiencing how real-world libraries work," she says. "The library staff has been very generous in sharing their knowledge and experience with me."