Healthy Futures: A Collaborative Virtual Internship Program
Harrington, Eileen G.
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Although a few ALA-accredited library schools in the US now offer master’s degrees or specializations in health informatics, opportunities for students interested in health librarianship remain limited in the majority of programs. In addition, a shortage of librarians with a background in health or life sciences exists, but the need for health information professionals continues to grow. Recognizing these challenges, the College of Information Studies (iSchool) at the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD), the Priddy Library at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG) and the National Library of Medicine (NLM) partnered to establish a virtual internship program, which was launched in the fall of 2013. Since its inception, four interns have participated in the program, and two more will be starting in the fall of 2014.The goals of the program are to foster the development of future health information professionals; provide students with real-world experiences in the field of health informatics; and develop leadership and project management skills in students. These semester-long internships are open to iSchool students at both College Park and USG, as well as any student in any degree program at USG. Opening it to a broader audience allows undergraduates in public health or biological programs who might be thinking about pursuing a career in librarianship to have experience working in the field. It also addresses the shortage of librarians with a science- or health-related background working in the field by encouraging students to join the profession. This type of program could be adapted and implemented in other ALA-accredited library schools possibly through collaborations with NLM’s National Network of Libraries of Medicine and/or local governmental or non-governmental health-related agencies. This poster outlines the challenges, successes and benefits of developing and implementing this virtual internship program, as well as a discussion of future research directions.