Nancy E. Gwinn, current director of the Smithsonian Libraries, and her husband, John Y. Cole, Director of the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress, created the Nancy E. Gwinn and John Y. Cole Endowment in 2003. Nancy, inspired by the crisp and fresh perspectives of current and recent library science students, established this endowment to support interns undertaking various projects among the many departments at the Smithsonian Libraries.
The internship program is one that is unparalleled, offering students a true opportunity to experiment and build relationships with library professionals in the context of the prestigious and trusted Smithsonian. The internship model, however, is one that the Libraries needed to adopt for their own benefit to the Libraries and for library students. “Over time, as I saw how the Smithsonian’s museums were able to count on a core of interns from programs that offered a stipend, I began to long for a similar opportunity. So, as we have in so many cases, my husband and I decided to establish and build an endowment that would allow for stipends and to formalize a program that would focus on bringing in people who were studying to become professional librarians or information managers,” says Nancy.
The need for students to pair practice and theory in their professional trajectories is so important to the future of the Libraries. Nancy says “this group needs practicums to supplement their studies, so it provides them with an opportunity to learn from our kind of operation and perhaps steer them into academic or research librarianship. At the same time, they already have acquired some new skills and knowledge about libraries and could bring those into our workplace at a higher level than most volunteers.”
The success of the internship program at the Libraries has exceeded Nancy’s expectations and is attributed to the high caliber of interns who join us at the Libraries: “The program has worked well, even beyond my hopes. The quality of the interns who compete for the stipends is extraordinarily high, and they have been able to move along many of our programs and objectives with an enthusiasm that is infectious and morale-building,” she says.
“As an intern for the National Air and Space Museum Library Sheet Music Cataloging Project, I created full-level cataloging for music in the Bella C. Landauer Collection of Aeronautical Sheet Music. This internship allowed me to develop my cataloging and research skills in a professional environment, offering me tools for success in my library career. Due to the experience and skills I gained through my internship, I am now working a full-time position at a music library.”
Karen Anton Stafford
Smithsonian Libraries Intern, 2012