Field Study Spotlight: DC Prep-Benning Elementary

MLS student Jamilla Coleman completed her field study in Spring 2015 at Benning Elementary. Today, we learn what the internship is all about and why you should considering applying for the internship for Fall 2015 (the internship description is at the bottom of the post).

How Can You Make Difference at Benning? 

Here’s a little secret: You don’t have to like fairy tales to work in a children’s library setting. Some of the favorite titles at DC Prep’s school library include:

  • Lego Ninjago
  • Star Wars
  • Avengers
  • Frozen
  • Doc McStuffins
  • Joke books
  • Biographies
  • Sports
  • Graphic novels
  • FrozenFrozen, oh and did I mention Frozen?

An internship with the school library at DC Prep-Benning Elementary is not only preparation for working with children; it is an experience that speaks to the Diversity and Inclusion specialization that the iSchool offers. By working with kids at a school where 80% of the population live in poverty, you will learn how to provide inclusive information services and develop a better sense of cultural awareness. These qualities can only improve how you relate to others in your career, whether you work as a public librarian in a bustling urban setting or as an administrator in an office where you direct a diverse team of individuals. Even librarians who sit behind desks need people skills, and truly, there are no better people to develop a rapport with than children and their teachers.

Benning Prep loves their library. You are starting off on a high note simply because you’ll be regarded as the keeper of the books. From that point there are so many possibilities—I celebrated National Poetry Month by reading Shel Silverstein, among other poets. The students and I talked about chores we had to do, which led into a reading of Silverstein’s Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout, a poem about a girl who refused to take the garbage out until she just…disappeared under all of it. They loved hearing how the garbage piled up to the ceilings: / Coffee grounds, potato peelings, / Brown bananas, rotten peas, / Chunks of sour cottage cheese. Imagine a 2-page poem with such imagery, read aloud with interjections of “EEEEW”s and laughter, along with some vocabulary review to discuss the meaning of “rancid” and other words about spoiled food. A poem by Jack Prelutsky called “Eyeballs for Sale” also stirred excitement. (In case you couldn’t tell, I was using the gross-out factor to hold their interest.) Ultimately, it was great to see how often children checked out poetry books after these and other poetry readings.

The internship is high-energy—lots of class visits for story times and checking out books. It is a lesson in scholarship and content knowledge so that you can learn to support teachers in their instruction. If a teacher needs books about outer space, what will you recommend, and why? What about public transportation? Families with same-sex parents? (Don’t worry—Paula Langsam, the Children’s Librarian at the Dorothy I. Height/Benning Public Library, will be there to help and give her expertise.)

Despite the fact that a lot of the Prep kids live near a public library, many of them have yet to visit one. How will you change that? What will you do to help them get access to more books? Don’t feel sorry for these kids—they are bright and will point out things in books that you didn’t notice, and request very specific titles that they want to read. But how will you help to ensure that you are contributing to the work of keeping them on a trajectory for success?

-Jamilla Coleman

Children’s Library Intern, DC Public Library, DC Benning Prep Elementary (unpaid)

The DC Public Library (DCPL) and DC Prep – Benning Campus Public Charter School are collaborating on a pilot project to establish a lending library in the DC Prep – Benning Elementary School. DC Benning Prep Elementary serves approximately 430 children from Pre K through third grade.

This pilot will go far beyond simply lending books at the school: DC Prep will fully integrate the library into school activities, including using library materials to support the curriculum, having classes visit the library during school hours, and having a library intern and DCPL librarian assist teachers with classroom instruction on relevant topics.

The pilot project will evaluate the impact of a school library based on student opinions about reading and libraries, student reading time, student achievement, and the school’s connection to the Benning neighborhood library.

A Children’s librarian from nearby Dorothy I. Height/Benning branch library will work a few days a week at the school assisting with the training of the intern, with the development of the services in the library, and with the measurement of the impact of the library

The intern will participate in the following activities:

  • Lead class visits in story times, book selection and programming specific to school unit themes and activities.
  • Collaborate with DCPL Children’s librarian for resource sharing, outreach and programming activities.
  • Collaborate with faculty on instruction, library programing and visits to Dorothy I. Height/Benning branch library
  • Assist in coordination of reading survey and questioning of focus groups for evaluation of student change in reading habits and opinions of reading and libraries.


  • A strong interest in librarianship, youth services and outreach required
  • Must be a current MLS student

Applicants must commit to a semester-long, 120-hour internship working for the DC Public Library at DC Benning Prep Elementary. Interns are expected to commit to 10-20 hours per week.  Open deadline for resumes and cover letters.

To apply, email with your resume and a statement of why you would like to intern at DC Benning Prep, and what you hope to learn from the experience. Indicate whether you are requesting a for-credit internship, and the timeline for development and approval of the field study contract that is required by your school.

Once applications are reviewed, we will contact applicants with a response and those selected for potential internships will come for a meeting with the Programs and Partnerships staff. Please note that at that time, paperwork for a background check will also be processed.



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