Internship Week 14: The Show Goes On

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Last Friday was my last day as an intern at Open Development Cambodia. If you’ve been following this blog, then you know about my adventures as a library and information management dude, as a socializing outreacher, as a presenter at events, as an explorer and adventurer here in Phnom Penh. For those of you who don’t know much about my experience, the best way to get a good understanding is by reviewing the previous posts.

In short, as this is supposed to be a “Summarize and Profess the Future” post, I’ll do just that. First, the mandatory blanket statement: working with ODC was a fantastic experience. For better or for worse, the internship was quite short (at around 3 months in length) and could have easily been double that. But the timing seemed quite well, too, as my projects and daily routine were becoming routine. Had I continued on in the same liminal intern mode, I probably would not have achieved my potential (see below). And so I’m glad that it’s over. But I must not discredit the experiences, and there were so many, I encountered and learned through while in that amazing office. From learning about cultural norms and language, from learning about management and influence, from learning about the library and what it means to be “open,” from learning about the many, many challenges in political and social upheaval and difficulty, from learning about communication and teamwork and group membership, the experience with the project was powerful, important, and well worth it.

That’s not to say the internship was perfect, as nothing is perfect. There were some major goals I had, particularly around design, that simply were not met. Many of these goals were not failed because of me, but due to limitations in software, or a lack of resources to help support getting the work done. Understanding these unaccomplished tasks is extremely important and reflective of how many of my professional experiences have gone. We come up with friction and tension in our daily lives. Being a grad student in a realm of the abstract and ideas, at times the ideal solution to an issue, the answer that will make everything infinitely better, seems like it can be more obtainable than another circumstance, like a pre-grad-school job. But not being able to successfully complete a task or project in the ideal has been quite the learning experience. In a way, it’s numbed me to reality. Despite the “Ever thing/Anything is possible” way of life, we need to understand that in some cases there is reason for something to be not completed, something not to go full-way.

In other cases, there is compromise. For example, if ODC has one task that will have higher utility or impact the website or the way of life for researchers/visitors to the site more than, say, updating meta-data in the catalog, then that other task will take precedence. It’s okay to look at your own needs and put them behind others. This is what working on a single project is all about: figuring out the order and structure of the project as whole. In many ways, the ODC project, because it has no clear end-point, no clear ultimate goal, is beyond the scope of my understanding on Project Management (I wish my professor had taught about those types of projects, those that are persistent, for lack of a better word). But in many ways the word “project” is thus an inaccurate term, at least in the PM world, is it not? I’m not entirely sure.

Let me change tracks of thought and say this: despite completing the internship, I’ll be back at ODC in a couple of weeks. From January to June, I will be working 20 hours a week for ODC. I’ll be doing a lot of what I had been doing during the internship, except that it will be a paid gig (and one of my first paid library gigs, to be honest). So that’s quite exciting. I’ll be showing up also to train (hopefully, ideally) someone who will become the library staff person. This goal was part of my original TOR for the internship, but it was never accomplished because we (meaning me and other crucial members of the ODC staff) never focused on finding someone to work at ODC. There were interviews for a new editor position but none of the applicants appeared capable of being trained for the library position on top of all their expected editorial duties. So it will be time to escalate this task and truly get it done, complete, ready to bring about the positive change for when I no longer am in Cambodia. Other duties will include much of what I’ve already put into motion: a continuation of all general cataloging responsibilities, establishing relationships with other information centers throughout the city (which has already been put into motion), and generally improving the library’s design. But more importantly, there will be some major changes happening with the website (potentially a switch away from WordPress) in the future, and though it might not happen while I’m in Cambodia, the planning will happen, and having the library consultation (both through me and Margaret), will be invaluable. I honestly can’t see a data migration being anything but messy with NewGenLib, but maybe it will be easier and more imaginatively substantial than I can currently imagine. My one hope is to have the search interface augmented by a discovery layer in the next site, and maybe having a site that runs beyond MARC records will allow for a metadata schema that will be more specific to the needs of ODC.

In addition to working part time for ODC, I’ll be working part time for FCC, a local hotel and restaurant in Phnom Penh, where I’ll be doing blogging and marketing support. I’ll also to be doing another internship with Mao Kolap for the Cambodia Library Association: I’ll be working on information literacy workshops that can be taught to first library staff throughout Cambodia and then applied to students and teachers at universities. As if that wasn’t enough, I’ll be spending time working on two courses: my final project on the DPLA and one course on information literacy (which will support and will be supported by the internship).

In short, the first chapter of my time in Cambodia may be over, and the first of two major experiences with ODC may now behind me, but my time in Cambodia and my time with ODC is not yet over. And that’s very exciting, because I’m constantly learning, and constantly changing the more I live here. Maybe that’s apparent through these blog entries. Maybe not. But that’s for you to see and me to see later. About the future of this blog: I will actually use this blog for similar posts when my next internship occurs, as I will have similar requirements to fulfill. I expect the posts will be shorter because the internship will technically be shorter in terms of academic credit and total work performed. But you will have to continue to follow me to see for yourself how I approach it.

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