The LibTech Practicum Experience

As a LibTech student I was particularly grateful that the Langara program offered practicum placements, giving students the opportunity to ‘try on’ different library settings and get a feel for where they might want to work following graduation. Now that I am working in the library field I get the opportunity to be on the other side of the coin, introducing practicum students to my work and hoping to engage them with the operations of a special library. This past summer we were lucky to have a visiting first-year Langara student named Jennifer who was gracious enough to permit us to post her practicum log, giving our readers an inside look at her two-week experience at a small medical library. Thank you to Jennifer, and her instructor Susan Burdak, for contributing to our discussion.

Practicum Daily Log
Small Medical Library

My practicum was at a small medical library. As a small specialized library there are generally only around five patrons through the door in a day. Most of the communication the library has with its patrons is by e-mail, mail, phone, and fax. Items are sent to patrons by mail, e-mail, and fax. The librarians generally answer two to three reference questions a day, depending on the difficulty of the question.

During my practicum I was assigned time to sit with every staff member and have them explain what it is they do at the library and how it fits into the big picture of the library. I was also given three projects to work on throughout the two weeks.

My three projects were inventory of the print collection, checking links in the OPAC, and an inventory of one of the library’s specialized collections. Both inventory projects involved taking the ISBD shelf list cards and checking them against what was actually on the shelf. I made note of the items that were missing and the items that were on the shelf but had no shelf card. For the specialized collection, once I had checked the shelf list against the shelf, I printed the shelf cards that were missing and then went through the catalogue records for each item in the collection and updated the call numbers. For the OPAC link checking project I had a list of all the items in the OPAC that had links in their records to electronic items. I checked every link to see if it still led to the item it claimed to. For some I found more current links, others I just noted whether they were working or broken.

By sitting with every staff member in the library I learned about everything that the library does. Just on my first day I sat in on a meeting with an EBSCO rep, sat in on a reference meeting, observed one of the librarians go through a reference question, learned how the library borrows items from UBC for its patrons, used the library’s DOS-based circulation system, and assisted with scanning and e-mailing articles to patrons.

My biggest problem during my practicum was the feeling overwhelmed by all of the information I was being given. Having previously worked in a public library, I found my practicum very beneficial in that it gave me an idea of many of the differences between public and special libraries.

The staff at the library are extremely friendly and very open to questions. I really enjoyed my practicum.

Week 1

  • Introduced to library staff
  • Sat in on meeting with EBSCO rep
    • EBSCO rep presented new products that the library may be interested in to assist with reference
  • Meeting with HR
    • Signed a bunch of forms including a confidentiality agreement
  • Sat in on reference meeting
  • Sat with one of the reference librarians and watched her work through a reference question
    • Learned some of the procedures for filing reference questions


  • Assisted with checking in items returned to the library
  • Shown monthly searches
    • These are pre-programmed searches that are run once each month for the most current information on a particular topic that a patron requests
  • Used the library’s DOS based circulation system to check in in-house items to record their use
    • Most in-house items are ones that have been used to answer reference questions


  • Shown the e-mail that general inquiries come to
    • Talked about the different type of requests the library receives
  • Looked at library website and how to edit and change the website
  • Talked about renewals
    • The library will continue to renew items for up to 3 months unless the item has been recalled


  • Photocopying
    • Shown how to work the two photocopiers
  • Shown library’s monthly publication
  • Transactions record keeping
    • Looked at the library system for recording every time a patron is helped
    • Entered transactions into the system


  • Went to UBC (with a staff member)
    • Photocopied requested articles from UBC print journals
    • Checked out books on the library’s card to be sent out by the library as an ILL to a patron


  • Went through the electronic journals subscriptions
    • Looked at the different subscriptions the library has and the back area of the software used to manage them
  • Looked at the book lists produced by the library
  • Look at what the library does to processes items
    • Library does minimal processing as items do not have very high circulation
  • Went through and started link checking project
    • This project was to go through a report of all the links in the OPAC to check if they were correct and up to date


  • Looked at the vendor from whom the library buys the majority of its print material from
  • Talked about National Library of Medicine Classification which is used by the library
  • Talked about MeSH (Medical Subject Headings) and how the library uses them in cataloguing
  • Looked at the Cataloguing module of the library’s ILS


  • Sat with one of the reference librarians and worked through a reference question from start to finish


  • Looked through print medical journals for articles that would be of interest to the library’s patrons


  • Worked on the Link Checking Project
    • Discussed where I was at with the two staff members involved in the project

Throughout the first week I also worked on the Inventory project, which consisted of checking shelf cards against what was actually on the shelf, whenever I had a spare moment.

Week 2

  • Given an overview of accounts payable and accounts receivable
    • Talked about what services patrons are invoiced for and what services they receive as part of other fees
  • Talked about Donations
    • These are generally monetary
  • Talked about memberships
  • Talked about the library’s tracking of their own vacation and sick days
  • Talked about the Library Committee
  • Talked about the kind of statistics the library keeps
  • Worked on Inventory Project


  • Talked about document delivery
  • Talked about drug names and searches
    • The names of drugs that are used in reference questions are sent to UBC to used in a study
  • Shadowed a librarian doing reference
  • Talked about the kind of statistics the library keeps
  • Worked on Inventory Project


  • Went through library’s collection development policy
  • Looked at methods for book selection
  • Talked about the past weeding project and future weeding
    • The library generally weeds an item for each one they buy as the information in their collection needs to be up to date
  • Talked briefly about challenges to the collection
    • Have never been any in the time the librarian has worked there
  • Talked about the book budget


  • Worked on Link Checking Project
  • Worked on Inventory Project


  • Worked on specialized collection project
    • This involved refilling shelf cards, inventorying what is actually on the shelf, changing call numbers


  • Practicum assessment


  • Talked about serial subscriptions – print and electronic
    • Management of serials module
    • Focus on physical items
    • Cut about $50 000 from serials budget
    • Annual weeding — current 20 years for most titles
  • Talked about the phone schedule
    • Everyone at the library takes turns answering the phones throughout the day, the schedule changes weekly based on people’s schedules


  • Finished specialized collection project
    • Changed call numbers, printed new shelving cards


  • Finished OPAC links project
    • Finished going through the links and printed the report
    • Went through the major problems with the staff involved in the project
  • Summarized the Inventory Project for the next person working on it


  • Shadowed a librarian on reference
    • Did several reference questions
  • Debriefing with two of the librarians about what worked and didn’t work for the practicum
    • Student needs classification explanation as early as possible
    • Library and staff are awesome

One thought on “The LibTech Practicum Experience

  1. As a Langara student soon to do a Practicum I found these two posts excellent. Thanks Jennifer for taking the time to share with the rest of us ! N. Barry, South Okanagan.

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