30 Mar 2020

Experiences of an Irish University Library: My internship at Maynooth University

Guest post by Theres Rudolph, University of Applied Sciences Leipzig

Photo courtesy of the author

I study in Leipzig in Western Saxony. That’s in Eastern Germany between Berlin and Munich. When I finished secondary school, I worked as a volunteer in a children’s library for one year.  I really liked that and decided a library career was for me.

Now I am a student at the University of Applied Sciences Leipzig.  I’m doing an undergraduate course in Library & Information Science.  The course is 3.5 years in duration and six months of that is an internship. This can be done either in Germany or abroad. I liked the idea of travelling and experiencing the library world outside of Germany. I’ve travelled to the UK and Finland with school and I’ve been in some other countries for holidays.

I sent off my CV to three libraries in English speaking countries.  I was delighted when I received an answer from Maynooth University Library in Ireland. I picked it because it seemed to be an international University, it has  great architecture and is in a good distance from Dublin (it’s not too far and not too close).
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I didn’t know much about Ireland before I came.  I had heard about the Troubles and knew that Ireland is an independent member of the EU. I was aware that some people speak Gaelic and that the landscape is very green. When I got accepted to do the internship in Maynooth University Library, I applied for ERASMUS+ funding. It was relatively straightforward, with both myself and the Deputy Librarian at Maynooth filling out necessary paperwork. 
With funding secured, I began to organise my trip.  I had to pay for my flight to Ireland and I arranged my own accommodation, identifying two host families (I stayed with each of them for three months) in Lucan and Leixlip, which meant an easy commute to Maynooth. 
My internship began in October 2019.   Everybody was welcoming, kind, and involved me from the first day. I mainly worked in the DPIS Department – Digital Programmes and Information Systems – especially with the institutional repository MURAL.  My work involved identifying publications by Maynooth staff online and checking the publisher’s Open Access policy (OA). If appropriate to deposit I then added metadata. As part of the team, I also created DOIs for an open access journal published at Maynooth University, The Journal of Mediation and Applied Conflict Analysis,  which is part of the library’s open publishing initiatives.

Another big part of my work in the Library was with the General Collections and Finance section, dealing specifically with electronic resources.  This was  mostly checking and updating data and replacing outdated URLs.
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If you’re wondering: yes, I had to do with “real” books too: the General Collections Department asked me to process books, check offered donations, and list incoming donated material.
One of my favourite parts of my daily schedule was shelving. It isn’t easy to focus on the Dewey numbers, which are quite long, when shelving for a few hours, but I still enjoyed being on the library floor and helping library users find books.  When my time shelving was reduced to one hour per day, I had more time for getting insights into different departments and attending events.
I was fortunate to be able to attend lectures on the MA in Historical Archives on Friday mornings. The Library delivers about 50% of this programme which is offered by the History department.  
I got insights into every part of the library from a variety of activity - working at the information desk for a few hours, taking part in LIST (Library Information Skills Training) sessions, diversity training and other workshops within the library, attending library events such as the Ken Saro-Wiwa Seminar,  even a discussion about climate change,  – I had the chance to attend them all.
The work experience didn’t stop at the library gates: I travelled with colleagues to CONUL training events in Cork and Belfast, and to the Digital Data Curation Conference in Dublin. I spent an afternoon at the OPW/MU Archive in Castletown House, and also viewed exhibitions and libraries in Dublin. I even had the chance to do a “job swop” with the local community library, which was exciting and totally different from my daily work in the academic library.

This was all valuable experiences. I learned about the range of events libraries can offer, and things to consider when organising an event. The training sessions and workshops I attended gave me first-hand insight of the everyday work of a librarian and the issues and concerns they deal with.
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 Life is not all about work, is it? I had a great time exploring Ireland: from Cavan to Cork, from Howth to the Cliffs of Moher – I enjoyed every trip I did. The country has beautiful walking trails and I will come back to see more of it. It was great to meet the friendly and welcoming people, both hosts and other guests. The University offers free Irish classes too, so I tried to learn a bit of the language, but I am still struggling with the pronunciation.

The ERASMUS+ was a great experience. You explore the country and the people in a totally different way than on a holiday trip. Most people taking part in the ERASMUS experience say that they have grown more independent, open hearted and skilled in the language.
My advice is: even if you might be afraid of going abroad because of language difficulties or the long distance from home – go for it. You can attend a language course in preparation (run by ERASMUS), and as you will be using the language of the host country, you will improve your language skills without noticing.

Ireland is as safe as a country can be and Irish people are great hosts and lovely friends. You might have to plan to spend a bit more money on groceries and accommodation than you are used to, but ERASMUS+ funding is quite good.
Maynooth University Library isn’t too different from University Libraries in Germany. There is more student engagement than I was used to, but the number of events and opening hours are similar. The internship strengthened my wish to work in an academic library in future, maybe even in the digital department/Repository/Research Data area.
I certainly hope to return some day. 
Photo courtesy of the author


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