Behind the Scenes: SMU Libraries Research & User Experience Intern Program

The Research & User Experience (R-UX) Intern Program at SMU Libraries gives local Master of Library and Information Science students the opportunity to engage in librarian-level work including research services, teaching library instruction sessions for undergraduate students, and improving user experience through special projects and committee assignments. The R-UX Internship program has been a mechanism of growth, change, and cooperation at SMU Libraries, becoming an integral part of public services and instruction while providing a valuable UX approach to librarianship.

The R-UX Intern Program was started in August of 2016 with three interns under the leadership of Jonathan McMichael, director of the program and undergraduate success librarian. Since 2016, there have been 20 interns who have gained experience through the program, many of whom have gone on to secure positions in libraries across the United States and have received national recognition for their work as interns.

The R-UX Intern Program not only provides library science students with hands-on experience, but offers mentorship, networking, scholarship, and professional development opportunities. Interns begin the program with two main focuses: research support and instruction. Interns are first trained to staff the Ask Us Chat service, answering reference and research questions from multiple libraries on campus. Then in the spring semester, they are trained to create and deliver classroom instruction for first-year writing students. Outside of those two focuses, interns have the flexibility to explore various parts of librarianship through project work and committee assignments that can include:

  • Collection Development
  • Teaching and Learning Design
  • Web Design and User Experience
  • Equity, Inclusion, Diversity, and Access
  • Event Planning and Outreach

R-UX Interns collaborate with librarians on projects and receive weekly training on various topics (and topics of personal interest). Beginning in Spring 2021 interns receive a $600 stipend for continuing education through Library Juice Academy courses.  Interns are also eligible to apply for and receive the Friends of SMU Libraries Library School Scholarship.

How has the program impacted interns?

Leanne Stearns, R-UX Intern Alumni (Jan 2019-Dec 2021) shared how the program has impacted her.  “Through the internship program led by Jonathan, I learned confidence in myself and how to build my self-image as a librarian. I was also encouraged to be myself and how to utilize my strengths in the library field. Additionally, I got to learn the basics of how a university library system works with multiple libraries and how to coordinate between the various libraries.”

Current intern, Beatrice Downey (Jan 2020 – June 2022) stated, “The intern program has been a tremendous learning opportunity, and a safe space to gain experience while learning how to be a librarian. I have gotten to work on important projects with other librarians and on my own that have impacted the user experience for the campus. With a little over two years completed in the program, I feel confident about my abilities as I start my career.”

Some examples of projects that interns have worked on include:

  • Ask Us chat evaluations
  • Creating and updating training materials for new interns
  • Creating and updating research guides
  • Developing online learning modules
  • Producing finals week events
  • Writing blog posts
  • Accessibility and space assessments
  • Writing a collection development policy

How has the intern program impacted SMU Libraries?

Jonathan McMichael, Director of the Research & User Experience Intern Program shared how the interns have impacted SMU Libraries. “Interns have received national recognition as future leaders of librarianship. At the same time, they have become an integral part of the growth and progress of SMU Libraries. They have played major roles in expanding our instruction, revamping our public service model, redesigning our web presence, keeping our library functioning and growth through a pandemic, making our spaces more accessible and inclusive, and countless other initiatives. Their growth has become our growth. The SMU community has benefited from the talent, dedication, and expertise of the future best and brightest in our profession.”

Elizabeth Killingsworth, Associate Dean of Academic Initiatives and Director of Fondren Library stated, The interns are essential for our organization, not only because of their excellent delivery of library services and their substantial contributions to major projects, but because of the creativity and change that the interns inspire. Interns bring a spark of energy and focus as we collaborate together. Their growth means questioning and improving what we do and how we do it, and their enthusiasm is contagious. They have a direct impact on the success of our students in a multitude of ways, but they also have a direct impact on the positive growth of our organization. “

If you are interested in joining the R-UX intern program, you can learn more by attending an information session or by contacting Jonathan McMichael at