Day 11. Time for a Revolution: Internships, Jobs and Volunteers

Being new to the field of museums and archives (a mere two-year fledgling), but not new to a working career (over 15 years in non-profit and corporate management) I look at a variety of employment forums. At different times in my career I have been the hiring manager, the supervisor responsible for HR hires that I had no say in, and the hired hand. So, I tend to look at the job postings from these perspectives and try my best to read between the lines. What seems to be a common thread amongst the various postings is one that others have posted about recently on the SNAP listserv and archives-professional blogs (including this one and the related one that I particularly liked). The common thread is the abuse of the internship model.  I just want to take this moment to add to the conversation by sharing a recent experience with a job posting and a great response I got from a colleague.

Before I share that however, I need to point out that I am aware that internships, volunteer assignments and special projects are all ‘at will’. No one has to accept these positions; mostly we accept them because we see them as an opportunity to learn, to build our resumes or to build our network in the profession. This is true in most professions. It is not unique to ours. And, I am very aware that many institutions simply do not have the funding for full positions. As a long time non-profit manager, I also know and respect the value of volunteers. It is incredible what can be accomplished when you have skilled and knowledgeable volunteers. However, as my colleague points out – where is the professional in the profession when we are expected to perform a fully skilled and responsible management job at the rate of a volunteer?

Here is the job description. I’ve *highlighted* a few phrases that I believe cross the line from internship/learning experience to abuse of the spirit of the internship model:

Work on a cutting-edge digitization project as we scan, catalog and prepare our collections of vintage photographs, maps, oral histories and historic documents for Internet access using our Past Perfect state-of-the-art archiving software that is deployed by thousands of libraries, museums and archives worldwide. Interns will gain actual experience *building a live archival and current events database and web site*. [Institute] *seeks practicing or unemployed* librarians/information professionals for *mid-career internships* that will provide the valuable on-the-job experience required for anyone interested in expanding their career opportunities.

A list of duties follows this introduction. The projects sound exciting and innovative and it is true that this is a great place to build skills and add to your resume. My concern is in targeting the unemployed or mid-career professionals who are more than qualified for this and should apply if it were a paid position. Based on the ad this is a volunteer position though it should be a paid position, but it sure doesn’t sound like an internship.

My colleague’s response: “Lol. I think I’m more concerned that this announcement means there is a pool of people out there who will take this unpaid position. I feel like the profession is very hypocritical sometimes. There is a push for it to be considered in the sciences instead of the humanities or arts, there are tons of organizations, there’s certification, and we’re called professionals but yet there doesn’t seem to be a desire or need to pay those “professionals” well or even at all. I think we need to start an Archivist revolution and demand that our colleagues stop taking unpaid positions and start requiring salaries that reflect our value in society”.

Of course, she is not really going to start a revolution, at least not an armed one, but I like her spunk!

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2 Responses to Day 11. Time for a Revolution: Internships, Jobs and Volunteers

  1. Carol says:

    Maybe you need a union…..United Archivers of the World. That was annoying and pretty blatant.

  2. Definitely. No reading between those lines required. I like it! UAW, although I think it’s been claimed by Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural : /

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