Summer Intern Niedia Washington shares her experiences working in the Library

The following is a guest post from Niedia Washington, a 2019 graduate of Charlottesville High School, who will be attending Virginia Commonwealth University (VCUArts) in the fall. In 2017 she was a member of the first group of interns to participate in the Library’s High School Internship program designed to foster interest among local highschoolers in library careers. This summer, Neidia applied and was accepted again. Her career goal is to be a History Professor or Language Interpreter who plays viola!

When I became a high school intern at the University of Virginia Library in 2017, I thought I would be putting books away and checking them out to users, but I was wrong. Instead, I worked in the User Experience department learning how user data goes into improving the Library’s website, and I wrote a blog post on the new library charging lockers. I got a chance to work with amazing people and to see beyond the stereotype of Librarians as older women checking books in and out and telling people to “ssshhh.” I loved my experience so much I came back! As a rising college freshmen at 17, I was offered a 6-week full-time job at the UVA Library—2 weeks each in Special Collections, Preservation, and User Experience.

This time, I curated an exhibition for Special Collections, made phase boxes in Preservation, and helped create webforms in User Experience. The Special Collections exhibition was about the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. My supervisor, Holly Robertson, helped me choose what should be included from papers and photos about the memorial in the Howard Worth Smith collection. Special Collections had papers ranging from meetings to bids for materials. I used photographs of the memorial being built, a few blueprints of how it was built, and some letters written to President Franklin Roosevelt with disagreements about the memorial.

In Preservation, I began with making folding map boxes and pocket pamphlets for books of all sizes. I later upgraded to making phase boxes that keep brittle books safe. I pasted on titles, call numbers, and barcodes. I sewed music scores into pamphlet bindings and mended books that were extremely fragile. I did all of this with the help of my supervisor, Kara McClurken, along with graduate assistants Kirsten, Sara, and Alex. They all answered my questions when I was confused about something and helped me understand how preservation works. It was always fun because everything I learned made each following task simpler.

In User Experience, I used Drupal to update new versions of forms on the Library’s website. I read articles and attended an event about accessibility in libraries, how it can and should be improved. I gave out name tags and offered to be a mic runner so speakers could be heard by people with hearing problems. My supervisor, Melinda Baumann, helped me better understand accessibility in libraries and introduced me into helping out in the learning events.

If you’re interested in being a summer intern in the UVA library, ask your guidance counselor or school librarian!

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