My experience as a BHL Intern


I was the Virtual Marketing Intern at Smithsonian’s Biodiversity Heritage Library in fall 2013. I participated in this internship post graduation because while I have previous experience with social media and marketing from my previous career, this internship provided me experience directly promoting a library collection. Also, while my background and passion is in the arts, I always had and will have a special place in my heart for science, especially biology. For the position, I wrote seven blog posts that highlighted books from the BHL library. I also wrote Facebook and Twitter posts to promote the blog.

After graduating from the Pratt Institute School of Information and Library Science program in May 2013, I went to the University of Michigan to complete an Association of Research Libraries Fellowship where I worked on digitizing select items and created an Omeka exhibit for the Leonard B. Willeke collection. I started to wonder how this project would be promoted within the institution as the Omeka exhibit was in anticipation of the complete digital collection of 16,000 items. In August, this interest in promotion grew stronger when I was in Washington, D.C. developing a digitization strategy for vertical files at the National Gallery of Art as the ARLIS/NA Wolfgang Freitag Intern. I incorporated a promotion section in the digitization strategy, as it would be an integral part of discovering the project and spreading the word about its services, if implemented. I also, visited many libraries while in D.C. and part of my inquiries included how each institution promoted their collections and services. Many mentioned different social media platforms and others shared that marketing was centralized within the institution. I realized that while I had previous career experience with social media and marketing, I did not have direct library experience. This internship helped round out my skill set.

During the virtual marketing internship, I had the pleasure of working with Biodiversity Heritage Library Collections Coordinator Bianca Crowley. While many past interns have touted the awesomeness of the badge, which, no doubt having one is, as a virtual intern I did not have the privilege of a Smithsonian badge. However, there were many other benefits. One of the main benefits of this internship was not only the experience, but the opportunity to learn from other experienced Smithsonian Institution librarians. Even though there were setbacks with the government shutdown, Bianca did an amazing job of setting up virtual introductions and an awesome virtual tour of the scanning room. I even got the chance to video chat with President of Smithsonian Libraries Mrs. Nancy Gwinn. I also was able to meet the staff and tour the Cooper-Hewitt Library in person in New York City.

My undergraduate degree is in writing, so this internship helped me return to my roots. I learned and wrote about New York state fossil Eurypterus remipes, hummingbirds and butterflies, molluscs, parasites, cephalopods, reptiles and amphibians, and Austrian zoologist Leopold Joseph Fitzinger and his picture atlas of birds.

In conclusion, for library school students or recent graduates looking for an opportunity to supplement their curriculum, consider Smithsonian’s BHL virtual marketing internship. While you will not get the glitz and glamour of going into the museum every day, you will work with incredible colleagues, learn more about Smithsonian libraries, virtually meet and get advice from future mentors, and create great work that highlights an incredible collection.

Didn’t get a chance to read my posts? Check them out here:

“Book of the Week: Malacozoaires, ou, Animaux mollusques.” December 19, 2013.

“Book of the Week: Bilder-atlas zur Wissenschaftlich-populären Naturgeschichte der Vögel in ihren.” December 5, 2013.

“Book of the Week: Parasites and parasitosis of the domestic animals: the zoölogy and control of the animal parasites and the pathogenesis and treatment of parasitic diseases.” November 19, 2013.

“Book of the Week: Biologia Centrali-Americana: Reptilia and Batrachia.” October 24, 2013.

“National Fossil Day: Eurypterus remipes.” October 16, 2013.

“Book of the Week:  Die Cephalopoden.” October 8, 2013.

“Happy Butterfly and Hummingbird Day!” October 3, 2013.

Happy New Year!

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Kai Alexis Smith served as a Virtual Marketing Intern for the Biodiversity Heritage Library in Fall 2013.