CFL Reference Intern: Susan Vandagriff

This past January, CFL’s Information Literacy Coordinator, Kristen Borysewicz, received an email from Susan Vandagriff, a student working on her Master of Library Science (MLS) at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. Susan was looking for an internship where she could work closely with library instruction and gain hands-on experience with instructional design and teaching.

Susan explained, “When I looked at UND, I saw that CFL was doing a lot of the kinds of library instruction work that I was interested learning more about, such as instruction sessions, library research guides, and online tutorials. I reached out to Kristen about an internship, and she offered me the chance to do a lot of in-class teaching, which I hadn’t been able to find elsewhere. The amount and variety of experience I could get at CFL was what really sealed the deal for me.”

Kristen, Susan’s internship supervisor, was grateful that her own workload went more smoothly this summer, thanks to Susan’s hard work: “I always make long lists of projects to work on during the summer, and I have gotten much further along because of Susan’s internship this summer – it is priceless! We have repaid her in small measure by providing her a lot of experience with teaching, reference, collaborative projects and assessment of student attitudes towards library instruction. ”

Susan was just as grateful for her time and experiences in North Dakota as we were to have her for an intern: “I’ve had a fantastic time at UND CFL and in North Dakota, and I’m so grateful to the CFL staff for making my internship really great!”

Library Research and English 130 PowerPoint Slide
Susan created tutorials, guides, and videos for students to learn more about how to start your research and how to best use library resources.

Although Susan recently returned to Indiana to finish her final semester of graduate school, her goal is to end up in an academic library working with reference and instruction at the university level. Susan was excited about CFL’s ability to give her that primary involvement in the design process and firsthand teaching experiences with students at CFL. She emphasized that “this internship has allowed me to get experience doing all of the things an academic librarian does, such as teaching information literacy skills to classes of UND students, designing promotional materials for freshmen orientation, creating learning objects that can be used to increase students’ research skills, and answering reference questions.”

But everything doesn’t always go smoothly in education, so Susan was glad to have both successes and failures while interning this summer. She said that one of her most important learning outcomes from this experience was using these “failures” during the instructional design process to create better materials for students. “It’s pretty rare to be able to design something perfectly on the first try, and watching how a tutorial or research guide doesn’t work is actually more helpful for me to recognize what part of a concept or task students aren’t understanding.”

Kristen was delighted by the attention Susan gave to everything she worked on and the caliber of work that she returned while interning at CFL. “I told Susan that she has set a high bar for any future interns because of the quality of her work and the amount she has contributed to the Chester Fritz Library Reference Department and Instruction Program. For example, she can sit in a meeting, and hours later produce a handout that perfectly encapsulates what was discussed. Susan has also helped us incorporate active learning activities and ‘flipped classroom’ tools such as a hands-on tutorial and guide.”

Kristen and Susan both added an important point that can make or break an internship’s worth: the work that Susan completed include both experiences and examples of instructional materials that Susan herself can point to during upcoming job interviews. Susan stated that she has been “creating lots of supplementary materials that I can show to and talk about with future employers” in addition to her direct involvement with students and instructional design that many other internships couldn’t offer and that MLS classes often can’t allow time for.

Summing up the internship experience and expected outcomes, Kristen said, “She will definitely be better positioned to land a job and will receive high recommendations from us.”

We’d like to thank Susan for her time and exceptional efforts in helping to revamp our instructional materials and design. Kudos for the great work, Susan!