Sunday, August 21, 2011

Full Circle: Mentoring and Internship Programs in Archives

Pictured above is former AARL Archives Intern Maya Thomas, who processed the Charmayne Johnson family papers.

On Saturday, August 27th, Kerrie Cotten Williams and I participate on the panel "Fostering a Diverse Profession: Mentoring and Internship Programs," at the annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists in Chicago. We will be joined by Erika B. CastaƱo (University of Arizona), Steven D. Booth (National Archives and Records Administration), and former AARL intern Krystal Appiah.

Kerrie is moderating the panel, while I present about AARL's Archives Internship Program, which I coordinate and manage. As I prepare my presentation, I am reflecting on the role mentoring plays in the program. In Archival Internships: A Guide for Faculty, Supervisors, and Students -- one of the only texts on the subject -- authors Jeannette A. Bastian and Donna Webber write mentoring "may be the most valuable contribution that supervisors can make to an intern's education" (42). Though I'm still formalizing my ideas on "value" in the contexts of professional development, education, and ethics, I certainly agree with the authors that mentorship is a subject that deserves greater attention than it has received in professional literature.

As I continue to think about meaningful measures and outcomes for AARL's Archives Internship Program, it is gratifying to take pause and acknowledge the successes that former interns have achieved in a highly competitive job market. Towards the end of her internship, Krystal Appiah's blog entries caught the attention of the editor of the African American National Biography, who asked her to write an entry about Mary Parks Washington, which is now published. Since graduating from Brown University in May, she has kept busy as a participant in the HistoryMakers' Increasing African American Diversity in Archives Fellowship. Nicole Carmolingo, a major contributor to the blog, published an entry on Henry Rutherford Butler for the New Georgia Encyclopedia. Her second entry about the Big Bethel A.M.E. Church in Atlanta is forthcoming, and she recently began work fulltime as a project archivist in a for-profit setting. Another former intern, Rico Hall, just began the new Master of Archival Studies program at Clayton State University and is working on a special project at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change.

While I cannot take credit for their successes, I can say that mentorship plays an important role in AARL's Archives Internship Program. Here, informal conversations about the profession are common, and for interns who ask (and do good work), letters of recommendation and referrals are easy to come by. We intentionally foster a supportive environment for discovery, exploration, and dialog because the intern and mentor relationship is reciprocal and mutually beneficial. All the time and energy comes back full circle.

Posted by Wesley Chenault, Library Research Associate

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