Wages for Intern Work

Denormalizing Unpaid Positions in Archives and Libraries


  • Karly Wildenhaus UCLA MLIS, 2018




While no comprehensive studies have yet been published quantifying the extent of unpaid internships within archives and libraries, their prevalence is easily recognized as widespread. Unpaid internships are offered and facilitated based on the implication that they correlate positively to future job prospects, although recent studies point to evidence that complicates this idea. Instead, the prevalence of unpaid internships may negatively impact efforts for diversity and inclusion among information workers while contributing to greater precarity of labor throughout the workforce. Meanwhile, professional organizations and academic programs often do not discuss the realities of unpaid internships, and some MLIS programs require or encourage students to work without remuneration for course credit at their own expense. Situating unpaid internships within larger questions of economic access, labor laws, indebtedness, and neoliberalization, this paper advocates for the denormalization of unpaid internships within archives and libraries, especially for those institutions that articulate social justice as part of their institutional values. Although rendering these positions obsolete is likely beyond the power of any one entity, this paper identify strategies that can be taken at the individual- and institutional-level to advance economic justice and the dignity of all work that occurs in our respective fields.

Pre-print first published online11/25/2018