"Study what you love and intern in what you want to do.”

Youth Services intern Sydney

“Study what you love and intern in what you want to do.”
Eva Chen, Children’s Book Author

Sydney, a high school senior, has been working at the Cottonwood Public Library as an intern five days a week through a program she heard about from Teen Librarian Specialist, Jan Marc Quisumbing during a school assembly. 

Soon, Sydney will be taking her acquired knowledge and experience with her into the wider world... much wider. She’ll be studying Russian and Japanese at Northern Arizona University and hopes to get a college job at Barnes & Noble, thanks to her library experience. Then, she plans to study abroad.

From there, Sydney will have a lot of choices. Interning at the library has given her an advantage in the skills she is able to apply and the activities in which she takes part. She initially chose this internship because it sounded fun - it is. However, in her time at the library, Sydney has moved beyond the basic contributions of shelving and checking in materials to considering deeper staff concerns: cataloging, budgeting, and scheduling. Her favorite part of her time here, though? The quiet and calm, the chance to do her work with limited interruptions.

“I love the high ceilings,” Sydney shares.  And then she tells me about her bird, a cockatiel named Flapjack, who sings. It’s easy to imagine Sydney with a singing bird. Similarly, she’s willowy and graceful, with large eyes and long blond hair.  But to imagine Sydney as a gentle Disney character isn’t accurate.  She is more like the art she creates, which she shows me on her phone as we chat: clean black and white lines that melt into color then suddenly pop vibrantly off the page, details that you don’t notice at first. “Once you get to know me, I’m not reserved,” she assures me, “I’m a nut.”

Some of the details that surface as I spend time with Sydney include her varied interests.  She doesn’t wear makeup, she says, because it’s too expensive... she’d rather invest in her hobbies instead. Drawing is one of them; also playing the electric guitar, felting, and designing her own clothes.  Sydney is Gen Z. She’s in touch with the pop culture of her own generation: anime, cartoons, videos. She loves playing open adventure games on the Switch and PS5: Mario, Legend of Zelda, Undertale. There’s also a timeless wisdom to her that transcends generation. She has a “thereness.”

Well rounded, that’s the impression I get of Sydney.  She’s a complete, bright picture at the center with wide margins to fill in with additional life.  Interning enhances the core characteristics of a person, rounds them off with experience and knowledge, pads their resume and their application letter... and their mind.  It has been the perfect choice for someone like Sydney, who likes a little bit of everything - a young person that wishes she knew the answers to the mysteries of aliens and the Library of Alexandria.

Sydney’s at an age and in an age that is all about growth within and adaptation to systems old and new. Talking with her is watching the future develop right in front of one’s eyes. Sydney makes me feel better about the days to come. One example? She says that the pandemic didn’t get her down. It was sad and hard, but she always had hope - and hope pulls you through.

I asked her what she hopes never changes. “As we progress, I hope we don’t stop having fun,” she says, “Even if we find a different way of doing it. New or old. New is good,” she says, then she thinks for a moment. “But newer is not necessarily better.” And, in that moment, I know we’ve made a librarian of her at heart.

*This interview was originally taken in April 2021. Sydney has since graduated and gone on to bigger and even better things.  Congratulations Sydney!

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