MSSD students interning at the Library of Congress experience full inclusion
Preparing students to find and keep a job in today’s tough employment market is a top goal of the internship program at the Model Secondary School for the Deaf (MSSD). Research shows that high school students with on-the-job experience during their school years have a distinct advantage in securing jobs. MSSD places students in a wide range of work sites, and one of the most successful and long-standing collaborations is with the Library of Congress.
The Library employs 15 deaf staff, including two MSSD alumni: Marta Teklemariam-Carter, a digital conservation specialist in Library Services, and Eric Brooks, a library aide in the Law Library, who interned while seniors at MSSD. During their internships, Teklemariam-Carter and Brooks had the opportunity to pick up on the communication strategies and job skills needed to work in the world’s largest library.
“The Library offers so many possible career fields,” said Teklemariam-Carter. She digitizes newspapers, historic maps, and photographs, and also serves as a docent for visitors. Brooks and Teklemariam-Carter, along with other deaf employees meet with the current MSSD interns over informal lunches to check in with them, encourage them, and offer advice.
MSSD interns in Spring 2013
At the beginning of each fall or spring internship, MSSD students meet with Allen Talbert and Tyese Wright of the Transition Staff to discuss work placements. Students interested in the Library go through an orientation and a brief interview with prospective supervisors.
Student interns learn how to use and apply the technical and academic language required by the Library in both American Sign Language (ASL) and written English. The Library, which receives on average 10,000 new documents per day, catalogs information submitted in hundreds of languages.
This past spring, three MSSD students interned at the Library. Maria Guzman and Anthony Rivera worked in the Germanic and Slavic Division to help catalog 8,000 titles recently donated to the German collection. Serena Dorch worked in the Science, Technology, and Medicine section.
“My work focuses on checking to see what titles from the donated books are already in the Library of Congress system. If they are not in the system, I log them in, affix bar codes and label the books for shelving,” said Guzman.
The Library’s Gary Thomas, Library Technician, who is deaf and a graduate of both MSSD and Gallaudet University, trained the students. The students had to learn some German and to recognize the different characters in the German alphabet. “These MSSD students are handling college-level intern responsibilities. They have given us valuable help with processing a backlog of cataloging, using analytical skills that require attention to detail and visual matching capabilities,” said Thomas.
“The achievements of the deaf students have been phenomenal during the 12 years that the internship program has been in operation,” said Eric Eldritch, EEO Specialist/ADA Coordinator, who along with Toby French, Library Technician and vice president of the Library of Congress Deaf Association, supervises the Model Internship Program (MIP) for MSSD students at the Library of Congress. “The Library Services unit has been a great home for this program along with other service units including the Law Library and the U.S. Office of Copyright with deaf employees serving as mentors. It’s a pleasure to see employees like Marta and Eric come full circle, starting at the Library as interns and now as full-time employees themselves mentoring today’s MSSD’s students.”