From the Listserv: Lone Arranger Guidelines For Hiring Interns

Ashley Levine
Archivist/Digital Resource Manager
Artifex Press
Editor, SOLO

The Lone Arranger Section listserv generates exciting conversations and contributes to the collective professional discourse, and this spring was no exception. Sarah Chilton, the Senior Research Librarian at the Brookings Institution Library, asked the Lone Arranger community about best approaches for hiring and employing an intern, and specifically about position descriptions, internship objectives, and others’ experiences supervising interns as a Lone Arranger.

The Lone Arranger community provided helpful suggestions for developing a meaningful, mutually beneficial internship. Sarah consolidated and summarized the results of the responses, finding that:

-Everyone agreed that internships could be a worthwhile experience.
-The internship should be designed to include professional level work with clear educational objectives.
-The Archivist, student and faculty supervisor must agree on expectations in advance, and maintain communications throughout.
-The Archivist needs to clearly describe processes, check back frequently at first and then allow for independent work once the student has demonstrated they understand what needs to be done.
-The intern should gain exposure to various aspects of archival work.
-Ownership of a discrete project is preferred.
-Digitization projects attract more student interest.

Are there any further words of wisdom for lone arrangers looking to hire an intern? Does anyone in the lone arranger community have other takeaways about supervising interns? Please post any and all thoughts in the comment section below!

7 thoughts on “From the Listserv: Lone Arranger Guidelines For Hiring Interns

  1. Do any of you have required readings for interns? Chapters from books, processing manuals, etc.? For someone totally new to archives, this would be a good introduction.

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    1. We haven’t had interns in the time I’ve been here, but we do have required readings for our new student workers, which we’ve chosen with the expectation that they have no familiarity with archives at all coming in (though many of them do). Our reading list is:

      Miller, Arranging and Describing Archives and Manuscripts (from the SAA Archives Fundamentals series), chapters 1-3; this gives a general introduction to what archives are and basic archival principles
      Millar, Archives: Principles and Practices, chapters 5-7; this covers the theories behind provenance/original order, appraisal & acquisition, and arrangement and description
      Kern & Woodard, “The Reference Interview,” chapter 3 in Bopp & Smith, Reference and Information Services: An Introduction; obviously, covers the basics of reference work.

      Along with department-specific training, reading these chapter comprises the bulk of the work students do in their first 1-2 weeks of working with us. We’ve had good success with familiarizing archives to students who come in with zero knowledge of it; though we mostly hire history or English majors, in the past few years we’ve hired a nursing major, a criminal justice major, and a social work major who have all been successful archives student workers. I’d love to switch up or expand these readings, though, if someone has new or different ideas!

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      1. If it is an internship for credit, I always try to include a number of readings. Yours are good suggestions. Depending on the duties of the intern, I also like David W. Carmicheal’s “Organizing Archival Records: A Practical Method of Arrangement and Description for Small Archives.” I also recommend this book to volunteers running archives. It includes brief exercised to validate that you are understanding the content.

        The Archival Association of British Columbia’s Manual for Small Archives ( is also a good overview.

        This Library of Congress page on Digital Preservation is meant for the general public, but is a good place for interns to start. I find it almost impossible to find on the LC page without a direct link, so here it is:


  2. We have involved student interns in all aspects of our work – processing, writing, finding aid creation, photo processing, digitization, metadata creation, exhibit creation, among other things – but we have found particular success with getting them involved in public programming. It takes a special student interested in Archives to be able to step out of the backroom and engage the public at a high level, but we have created, with the help of previous student interns, detailed guides for how to generate content, work with business sponsors, follow step-by-step processes for program operation, etc. If you’re not already engaging students in your public programming, it’s a set of skills they will appreciate the opportunity to work on.

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  3. We just recently implemented an archives internship program ilast semester semester and the most successful part of it was giving them ownership over a discrete project. The other thing we tried to do to make it worthwhile for them was to include them in meetings and discussions about the archives. We invited our intern to not only sit in on one of our Archives Advisory Committee meetings (which discusses more high level issues about the general direction of the archives, new acquisitions, grant opportunities, things like that) we also asked her to speak a bit about her experience with the committee. She also wrote a blog post about her internship for the College newsletter. I think any way you can help the intern feel more involved with the institution is to everyone’s benefit.

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  4. Interesting that people have found that digital projects attract more student interest. These days, those are the only interns I have because that is the focus of my job. However, back when I had more general archives and library duties, several of our interns complained that they were pigeonholed in tech roles because of their age, but that they were more interested in other aspects of the field.

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