Tag Archives: advice

Internships and Fellowships : What’s the Difference and Which One is For You?

Internships and fellowships can be great opportunities for students and recent graduates but what’s the difference between the two and which one would serve you best? I’ll use this blog post to briefly highlight some key differences between internships and fellowships and follow up with some tips for you to make the most and of your time in either position.


Internships are positions wherein services are exchanged for experience between a student and an organization. Compensation for an internship can be wages (preferably) or academic credit. A fellowship is sort of like a scholarship for work. Fellows perform scholarly research or other professional duties with a desired outcome in paid positions for a determinate amount of time and are usually further along academically and/or professionally.


While internships are usually available for undergraduate students or recent graduates, fellowships are usually reserved for candidates currently enrolled in, or who have recently completed an advanced degree program (i.e. master’s or doctoral). This is not to say that all fellowships are not for those with only a bachelor’s degree, but the structure of a fellowship will usually include a special project with a specific focus and may require a certain amount of background knowledge (organizations are responsible for disclosing this information during recruitment for the position.)

Tasks and Responsibilities

In function, an internship is an opportunity to gain experience by performing work with somewhat of a broad scope. Duties in an archives internship can range from assisting with reference and outreach, to primarily performing collections work such as creating finding aids or describing materials – it could also be doing a little bit of everything because an internship is focused on experiential overview. Job duties can vary across organizations and will depend on the guidelines of the internship. In short, internships provide an opportunity to develop a professional perspective based on hands-on experience in a specific field to determine a professional pursuit.

A fellowship program can be a short or long-term appointment funded by a host institution or an outside organization through grant funding. The work for a fellowship can culminate into a much larger project like a presentation, a publication, or an exhibit, and is completed using materials within the host organization’s archival collections. Other projects could include researching and analyzing new technology for implementation or performing a workflow assessment. While there is a learning component to a fellowship, candidates usually bring extensive background knowledge and/or are prepared to do advanced, heavy professional research with a hyper-specialized focus (collections management, ethnographic collections research, legal research, the arts, managing digital materials, etc.).

Some fellowship programs allow fellows to develop their own research projects influenced by their own interests or the host institution will have a more specific project or set of goals for a collection. The application requirements for a fellowship can speak to the level of prior knowledge needed by applicants. For example, if you’re applying to an institution with a specific collections focus, you may have to write a proposal outlining the materials you want to research and why.  Lastly, the structure of fellowships varies across all organizations that offer fellowship programs and it’s up to applicants to consider what they would be interested in applying for.


As previously mentioned, compensation for an internship can be in academic credits or wages with financial compensation for internships varying from hourly pay to a stipend (a fixed sum).  It’s very important to remember that even as an intern, you are still providing a service and should be compensated appropriately for your time and efforts whether it’s academic credit, money, or both (wouldn’t that be nice).

On the other hand, compensation for a fellowship can be very wide ranging, but at the bare minimum, most are termed appointments with a salary or stipend. Fellows usually have employee status within the host organization, therefore, regardless of their length, fellowships are more likely to include benefits such as paid time off, insurance, holidays, and professional development (conferences, webinars, workshops…) funding. The extent of these benefits are set at the discretion of the host and/or funding organization. In this regard, it’s very important to think about personal circumstances and nonnegotiables (term, travel, insurance…) – yours and the institutions – when applying for fellowships.

There are longstanding conversations about the ethics regarding compensation and treatment of interns and fellows, so it would benefit you greatly to learn about what’s being said and use that information to advocate for yourself and make sure you aren’t being taken advantage of.

Additional Tips and Info

If you have any flexibility with your position and it’s alright with your supervisor, I suggest exploring different areas to gain a working knowledge of various job functions. Maybe spend a day with a preservation or rare books librarian, or a cataloger to get an idea of what their job includes because it’s important to understand how everyone’s work overlaps – this information can be transferable knowledge that you can take to any institution.

Also, most academic programs (LIS schools, archives programs…) offer access to their curriculum online. If this information is not easy to find, you can also just reach out and request information about the program or even a specific course. I also recommend doing this if you’re already an intern, and there were classes you were/are unable to take. Having access to this information can help you think about what you want to learn during your time as an intern or help you to form some research ideas for a fellowship.

Make sure you look closely at the position requirements and descriptions. Regardless if you’re looking at internships or fellowships, the amount of structure and supervision can still vary, so use this time to think about you as a professional -What are your communication styles and needs?  How are you as an independent worker? How would you describe and assess your time management and organizing skills?

I hope this brief detailing of fellowships and internships is helpful and if you have any questions please reach out to SNAP!  Thanks for reading!

This article was written by Ashelee Gerald Hill,  the Processing Archivist at the Z. Smith Reynolds Library at Wake Forest University. She received her MLIS from the University of North Carolina Greensboro in 2019.


#SAA17 Conference Tips & Tricks

With the SAA Annual Meeting in Portland happening next week, this post was compiled to help you succeed in your conference experience, be it your first time to a conference, to Portland, or if even if you’re a seasoned veteran!

Sources have been attributed to each tip. Links have been provided where available, feel free to peruse! If you have any additional tips, feel free to comment them below! Continue reading

Student Experience: Learning How to Juggle When the Floor is Lava

This post is part of the Student Experience series, which features current and former archives students as they reflect on graduate school, internships, and early career issues. If you would like to contribute a post for this series, please email me

Guest poster Irina Sandler, Simmons College student and archivist at the Baker Library of Harvard Business School as well as the Cambridge Historical Society, discusses how she balances school work, jobs, and personal responsibilities, and  what keeps her sane.  Continue reading

Confidence Within, Company Throughout: Publishing and the Peer-Review Process

Next in our series on students and scholarly publishing, Steve Gentry (@StevenGentry15) offers practical advice on the nuts and bolts of submitting an article. His post is based on conversations with College Archivist Kent Randell and former editor of Provenance, Dr. Cheryl Oestreicher, in addition to his personal experience as a peer reviewer of the Museum of Science Fiction’s Journal of Science Fiction and work as a Graduate Student Assistant at Simmons College. 

Although few experiences are more satisfying, going through the peer review process and publishing a work can be exceptionally daunting. Having recently published a journal article in Provenance, Journal of the Society of Georgia Archivists, I want to pass on some information that may be of use to future writers. By the end of this piece, I hope you’ll understand that flexibility, patience, confidence, and perseverance are key qualities needed to successfully endure the peer review process and, ultimately, publish a work. Furthermore, a strong editorial support network can be a major boon when editing drafts. Although this post focuses on publishing articles in a peer-reviewed journal, these lessons can also be applied to other, similar endeavors (e.g. publishing a book chapter).

Continue reading

Rocking the Phone Interview

Sometimes I feel like this blog becomes a chronicle of my graduate school existence. You, the readers, are dragged along on all of my misadventures, though I do that only to help you through pitfalls I have already encountered in hopes you can avoid them or at least minimize the damage!

Back in January, I discussed the application process and how I was tackling it. Good news, folks: I’ve been contacted for phone interviews, so I did something right. Of course, I was relying on others who had been there, done that because they would have good insight as to what worked for them. I can’t say that my phone interview experiences have made me an expert – let’s be real, if you become a phone interview expert during your job search, either you’re a truly special individual wanted by tons of places or you’re stuck in purgatory – but I have become increasingly more comfortable with every one I have, which allows me to provide better answers to questions I’m asked.

When I got the first interview, I had no idea what to do or say, or how I was going to prepare. If you’re looking for an archival job and you haven’t come across That Elusive Archives Job, I cannot recommend it enough. Written by Arlene Schmuland, it provides solid explanations for each step of the job searching process. The section on phone interviews is where I looked first when preparing for my first one. Other excellent advice I gathered came from Forbes (short video included), US News & World Report, US News & World Report again, Yale, and – yes – Cosmopolitan. Some of these sites have conflicting information, and some of the suggestions did not fit me as an individual, so I’ve condensed some of the best tips. Continue reading

Student Experience: Making the Most of the Balancing Act

In our next installment of the Student Experience Column, Megan Crayon, University of Maryland student and archivist at the MD State Archives, discusses balancing her various worlds and responsibilities, and leveraging opportunities that emerge.

megan 2

I am enrolled in a dual-masters program the University of Maryland, College Park, pursuing a dual MLS and MA in History, and I work full time as an archivist at the Maryland State Archives—plus the other realities and responsibilities of life. There are days that I have seriously questioned if I can handle so many responsibilities. I mean, I’ve had others (gently) ask me if I’m over-extending myself. And I am not certain of the answer. I was so excited when I applied to my program, after years of contemplation, and now…now I need reminders about why I’m pursuing graduate education. And reminders that it’s normal for it to be a bit overwhelming. This post is for all my fellow insanely busy people–working hard and pursuing your education, regardless of your individual set of circumstances. Continue reading

The Application Process: Keywords and Addressing the Requirements in the Job Advertisement

Earlier this week, I mentioned that I was graduating in May, and as such, I’m in the market for a job. Let me be real: Job hunting is not fun. In fact, I’d rather spend a day stuck in the DMV than work on applications. That said, it’s a necessity, so I’m sucking it up and getting on with it.

Back in November, SNAP conducted a chat on applications and initial interviews (Storify here). The fourth question was what the application process was like, and were there any particular challenges? Thank goodness for this question, because the responses let me know I was not alone. Some choice words from other chat participants included “horrible,” “mind-numbing,” “one long primal scream/panic attack,” “soul crushing,” and “DESPAIR AND HELL AND CRYING.” Yep, in all caps. As I was staring at the computer screen earlier this week, trying to convince myself to focus so I could get a particular application over with, it was nice to know I had some camaraderie in my misery. There’s unfortunately not a workaround for the application process, unless you’re sticking to small nonprofits that won’t have an HR department to filter “qualified” candidates. I cannot tell you how excited I was to email one resume and cover letter directly to an executive director. Hallelujah!

By this point in our careers, we’ve obviously heard the standard advice for applications, resumes, and cover letters – proofread, make certain the name of the library is correct for the job for which you’re applying, customize the resume to the organization. Etc., etc., etc. However, these things are worth reiterating, particularly because actual research has shown that search committees rank “failure to proofread the documents submitted” and “[f]ailure to tailor the documents to the position” as the top two reasons for job candidates being rejected. The third reason was “[f]ailure to meet the requirements of the position.” However, there’s wiggle room there, depending on the situation. Continue reading

Managing Your Career: One Archivist’s Journey, Pt. 4

Over the past few weeks, Kate has been taking us through her career path and sharing advice on things that worked well for her – and things she wished she had done, but didn’t. In this final segment, Kate talks about moving from a project position to one with faculty status. If you missed any of the previous posts, they can be found here.

Guest author: Kate Crowe
Curator of Special Collections and Archives at the University of Denver

Getting and Keeping a Faculty Status Librarian Position (Part IV)

About a year into my contract position, I was informed that the library was creating a new position to focus specifically on metadata, cataloging, and physical processing for Special Collections and Archives, and that I would be appointed into the position as Interim Archives Processing Librarian. In retrospect, this meant a couple of things that I absolutely didn’t recognize as significant at the time. First, I was being moved not just from a non-benefitted, contract (albeit one that was professional/required a masters’ degree) position into a benefitted position, I was being appointed into a (interim, non-tenure track) faculty position, which required me to focus on research (publications, presentations) and service (being active in/serving in leadership roles in the library, University, and my profession) in addition to my primary job responsibilities.

While this was all explained to me in terms of “what” was happening, no one really went into any detail as to “how” I was to be expected to fit these additional responsibilities into what was a brand new position with responsibility for spearheading several entirely new initiatives, including populating a new consortial digital repository; creating standards for archival metadata creation and physical arrangement where they had been previously sparse or non-existent; developing a sustainable, systematic infrastructure for archival technical services at the institution; hiring; training; and supervising one staff member and several graduate student employees – basically, running a small unit. Since that initial faculty position, the library has gone through a re-organization and, as of July 2012, I’ve become the Curator of Special Collections and Archives, which is the position I’ve wanted since I was 18. I’ve been very lucky, but I also worked hard for these opportunities. I’ve also screwed up a lot. You will, too. Another good piece of fatherly advice I received was, “Screw up as much as possible as early on as possible” – not, of course, meaning that you should be a literal screw-up, but that if you try and fail within a lower-status position, the stakes are much lower and you’ll learn a lot of great lessons in the process without causing nearly as much damage to you or your organization. Continue reading

Managing Your Career: One Archivist’s Journey, Pt. 3

Over the past few Fridays, Kate has been detailing her journey from library student to curator of a special collection. Previous posts can be read here.

Guest author: Kate Crowe
Curator of Special Collections and Archives at the University of Denver

My First Professional Position (Part III)

Entry-level positions are tricky. Employers (if they’re worth working for) will realize that there is a limit to what they can realistically expect to get, sans training/coaching from an entry level position and that they will need to put in a fair amount of time to ensure that employees are set up for success. At the same time, many institutions are under-resourced, and your direct supervisor’s time will likely be limited, so they will generally looking for someone who is smart, a quick study, will ask questions if need be, but is generally a self-starter who will go off and do the work without a need for a lot of direction. This goes double if your entry level position involves implementing some new technology (digital repository, institutional repository, web archiving/digital archives) or program (digital humanities) that isn’t yet well understood, especially in terms of infrastructure, by a lot of library administrators.

My first professional position was a contract position (non-benefitted, time limited, but requiring an MLIS) as a project archivist for a 2-year Athletics and Recreation department including processing, cataloging, and digitization projects, all of which was being done within an entirely new collection management system and a consortial digital repository, and which led to a faculty position at the same institution. Here’s what I did, and what I wish I’d done differently in the process: Continue reading

[Unlocking SAA]: The Key Contact Program

The Unlocking SAA series will try to help new SAA members navigate all the things membership offers us. In this post, Michelle Sweetser explains what a Key Contact is and why it’s good to know who yours is.

Guest author: Michelle Sweetser
University Archivist at Marquette University and Co-Chair of Key Contacts

Joining a professional association for the first time can be a bit daunting. Every organization has its own lingo, be it sections and roundtables, acronyms (DAS, anyone?), or high-impact programs that feel like well-kept secrets (e.g. the mentoring program). To the uninitiated or the newbie, it’s easy to feel like an outsider and it can take some time, repetition, and work to gain a better understanding of how the organization works and where one fits within it.

All individuals who join SAA receive a welcome from the society’s main office in Chicago with an overview of services and programs. As one might expect, however, that welcome is somewhat generic, tailored to the needs and interests of the “typical” SAA member, whoever that may be. In this day and age, it can be easy to overlook that one email amidst the daily flurry of activity. SAA recognizes that multiple points of contact are likely to make for a positive experience for a new member. To that end, the Key Contact Program provides a personalized welcome and introduction to the organization, extending the work of the professional staff in the SAA headquarters. Continue reading

Managing Your Career: One Archivist’s Journey, Pt. 2

Last Friday, we began a four-part mini-series in which Kate details her journey from library student to curator of a special collection. If you missed the first part, it can be found here.

Guest author: Kate Crowe
Curator of Special Collections and Archives at the University of Denver

First Time Job-Hunting/Interviewing (Part II)

I graduated from library school in May of 2007 with an MLIS from Emporia State University. As I mentioned in the previous post, I graduated with no “real” library experience, outside of my 100-hour practicum. Despite this, I got a job offer that I was interested in – a two-year project archivist position that did require an MLIS but did not have benefits and had no guarantee of employment after the project’s conclusion. I accepted it within 3 months of graduation.

I know for a fact that the halcyon, pre-recession days of summer 2007 had a lot to do with the job even existing – but, in addition to the economic forces, in play at the time I did several things during the job seeking/interviewing process that I believe worked well, and there were several things that I believe I either would’ve done differently in retrospect or would’ve been on the lookout for that I was not at the time. Continue reading

Managing Your Career: One Archivist’s Journey, Pt. 1

When Kate and I first discussed her writing a post for the blog about project archivists, she said she had a lot to share. This has developed into four posts that best work as their own stand alone mini-series. So, for the next four Fridays, we’re going to see Kate go from library student to a curator of special collections. There’s really solid advice for those thinking about applying to graduate school, those in programs now, those graduating in December and May, and those who have been in the field a few years and know it’s time to take the next step. This is the first in the series.

Guest author: Kate Crowe
Curator of Special Collections and Archives at the University of Denver

What follows are a series of topically focused blog posts, all focusing on my journey from library school student (beginning in fall 2004) to project archivist (September 2007) to Curator of Special Collections and Archives (summer 2012). Each will focus on what I did/what happened, and include information on what I wish I’d known and/or done at the time.

While I hope most of it will be applicable to all students and new professionals in cultural heritage work, my entire career has been in academic archives at a mid-size private research university in the American West. Additionally, I’m a white, cisgender, middle/upper middle class lady person (she/her/hers), so all of that factors into my story and my advice as well. So, take it all with a grain of salt and all of the above in mind. I hope you find it helpful!

Choosing A Library School/Getting Through Library School (Part I)

When people ask me “Why libraries?” I usually say that I’m the child of 2 librarians, and so I didn’t really pick libraries, they picked me – also, I am highly unoriginal.

A bit of background: both of my parents received PhDs in library and information science, and my father went on to become Dean of Libraries and then Vice-Chancellor at the University of Kansas (KU). As a result, I literally grew up in large, Midwestern R-1 academic libraries, first at the Ohio State, and then at KU. Both of my parents seemed to have interesting, meaningful jobs, they made enough to give us a nice, middle/upper middle class life, and seemed to genuinely enjoy what they did. So, choosing to go to library school and follow in the “family business” seemed like a no-brainer. I entered library school right after graduating with my undergraduate degree in history. Below, you’ll see what I screwed up, and what I think worked well, and what I wish I’d known or done in retrospect. Continue reading

[Unlocking SAA]: The SAA Mentoring Program

The Unlocking SAA series helps new SAA members navigate all the things membership offers us. In this post, Gabrielle Spiers talks about how to sign up for a mentor and how and when to become one.

Guest author: Gabrielle Spiers
Archives Technician at the National Archives and Records Administration at College Park and Co-Chair of the Mentoring Program

For me mentoring has been a great way to get guidance and advice from people who have been in the profession longer than I have. I have been lucky enough to have had several mentors whose guidance has helped me and who have been great resources for me to turn to. Some of these have been informal and turned into something more, a favorite professor, a more experienced co-worker and others. I have also had the opportunity to be a mentor to interns and watching them flourish and grow has been incredibly satisfying. Of course, while informal mentoring can be great, I also realize that not everyone has the opportunity to find mentors at their place of work or while in school. Continue reading

[Unlocking SAA]: Interning for an SAA Committee

The Unlocking SAA series will try to help new SAA members navigate all the things membership offers us. Thanks to Amy Lazarus for getting this series off to a great start! Since the time Amy submitted the post to us, the Intellectual Property Working Group has put out a call to find an intern.

Guest author: Amy Lazarus
Jewish Heritage Collection Processing Archivist, College of Charleston Special Collections

In this blog, I’m going to share my experience as an intern on SAA’s Committee on Advocacy and Public Policy. I’ll talk about how I found my way to the committee, what I was able to do as an intern, and why I found it a valuable experience.

When I decided I wanted to get more involved in SAA, I wasn’t fully aware of what opportunities were open to someone at my level or how to pursue them. I did know about the roundtables and sections of SAA, but I didn’t know of any opportunities outside of those.  When I set out to pursue my interest in advocacy I wasn’t aware that being an intern on a committee was even a possibility.

Fortunately, I joined the mentoring program and my amazing mentor, who knew a lot more about the opportunities of SAA than I did, helped me translate my interest in advocacy into a really great professional experience.  This was my first big lesson: ask around. Mention your interest to other professionals and put yourself out there. Even if you don’t know how you want to get involved yet, your interests can help guide you to opportunities you weren’t even aware existed. And though this entry isn’t specifically about the mentoring program, having a mentor was instrumental in making me aware of new opportunities within SAA. Continue reading