Today marks my last day at the Dominican University – Skokie Public Library Internship, so in the spirit of the learning process, it’s time for reflection. I began the internship wanting to become more comfortable and knowledgeable as a storytime librarian, as well wanting to get experience in readers’ advisory. And in the past year at SPL, I’ve done that and more.
I’ve been out to deliver storytimes at least once a week, many twice a week, at local Skokie preschools and daycares. I’ve read to both preschoolers and toddlers, and I feel completely confident in my ability to plan storytimes for a variety of ages. But the thing that has been the most beneficial to me as a burgeoning storytime librarian, more than even the practical experience, is the opportunity to talk with colleagues in Community Engagement who also go out to deliver storytimes. They helped me work out how I could enhance the experience for children, suggesting classroom management techniques and sharing literacy tips. They also taught me that there are a lot of effective storytime personas and encouraged me to take full advantage of my “calming presence.” For my practicum paper, I chose to write about family storytimes, which gave me a greater knowledge of the ways that storytimes benefits literacy for young children and can bring families closer together.
In addition to storytimes, I worked consistently at the Youth Services desk, which gave me the opportunity to have conversations with both kids and parents. I’ve searched for obscure research topics, such as the “volcano rabbit” and now am more familiar in ways to utilize databases as well as physical resources in the library. I’ve also attended meetings for Community Engagement and Youth Services, so now I have a better idea of the kinds of concerns that arise as libraries strategize for the future. I definitely think about data more than I ever did before and the way that it can impact services.
My internship at Skokie Public Library has made its biggest impact on me, however, in the final project that I submitted. In December, I chose to begin a study on Universal Design for Learning, a conceptual framework that was originally designed for the educational field. This framework, developed by CAST, is designed to target the way that learners process and interact with information. Learners receive information through representation, show what they have learned through expression, and become self-directed through engagement. Since the library in fact is a center for learning, I was very interested in seeing how this concept could be applied to the library.
I conducted my research in three forms. I gathered literature on the topic of UDL to understand how the conceptual model, lead interviews that opened a discussion with practitioners about the role that this framework might play at Skokie Public Library, and observed librarians during programs to determine what elements of UDL are unintentionally being used. After this research was completed I developed the following planning tool help practitioners become more purposeful in designing programs with UDL in mind, which may also be used for observation and reflection.
Although I’ve submitted my final project for grading, the study is far from over. I intend to write a paper on the subject, with SPL’s permission to print it in a library refereed journal. I find myself constantly thinking about the way that Universal Design for Learning can be applied to different settings (even video games!) and am constantly bringing it up whenever I have the chance. This has developed into an interest of study that will stay with me for a long time. It will end up shaping me as a librarian in the way that I develop programming for kids at teens. And if not for this internship, I might never have thought to delve into this topic in the first place.
I am glad to have had experiences at Skokie Public Library to increase my awareness of the needs of children in the library. Moreover, this internship has given me the tools to meet those needs. As I think about my future, I’m excited about the opportunities that await.