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  • Writer's pictureMaria-Elena Cigarroa

It's a wrap! Wednesday, April 26, 2023

I’ve had an amazing time working as a reference intern at the Austin History Center, where I’ve mostly assisted with in-person and online reference requests. I had the wonderful opportunity to shadow all the archivists while they rotated at the reference desk before I was entrusted with staffing the reference desk myself (with lots of backup support, of course)! I was surprised to be charged with with staffing the reference desk as an intern, but I am so happy that I was given this responsibility because it forced me to learn quickly. I’d had lots of experience already doing reference work as a lawyer, so I think they trusted me to catch on quickly.

In my role as a reference intern, I gained valuable skills in research, communication, and customer service. I worked with a diverse range of patrons, including students, professors, documentarians, reporters, and members of the public, to help them find the information they needed. I’ve met some really interesting people in the reading room, and I’ve learned how to work with a wide range of people—from experienced researchers to novice researchers to people just coming in to look around.

Some of the work was more challenging. For example, there were a handful of incidents involving patrons experiencing psychotic episodes, impatient patrons, and even an incident where I encountered trespassers during off-hours. In a public setting, we always must be mindful that incidents can and will arise sometimes, and we have to be trained on how to deal with them. One thing that the Austin Public Library could handle better is to provide more safety trainings; it’s difficult to sign up for them because the trainings fill up quickly. I still haven’t been able to get into one, although the Austin History Center did bring in a security guard to give us a short training on how to handle security issues and complete incident reports.

Throughout this practicum, I’ve learned so much about Austin history. I’ve received so many interesting research requests, including inquiries about historic African American neighborhoods, the history of Austin's gay community, and other information about Austin’s early history. These requests helped me learn more about Austin’s rich history and deepened my appreciation for its diversity. It also helped me become much more familiar with the Austin History Center’s rich and diverse collection.

In reflecting on my experience, I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to work with such a kind, supportive, and knowledgeable team at the Austin History Center. This internship helped me develop my professional skills and confirmed my interest in pursuing a career as a reference librarian or reference archivist. After graduation, I can stay on for another 6 months to give me time to secure employment. Overall, the experience has been much more rewarding than I already anticipated it to be. Thanks AHC team!

Maria-Elena Cigarroa

Supervisor: Jennifer Hecker

General Schedule: Sundays (11-6); Thursdays (2:00-6:00); Fridays (12:30-5:30)

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