October 01, 2015

When Sarah Myers ’12 first came to Susquehanna University, the history major imagined a career as a professor or teacher. But an internship at the National Archives and Records Administration during her junior year completely changed her outlook.

“That was my first hands-on experience with primary sources,” Myers says. “I was spending every day with the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.”

After graduation, Myers completed her master’s degree in library science at Clarion University and did another internship in Washington, D.C., this time at the Library of Congress.

Myers credits the internships with not only igniting her interest in research library science, but also for landing her a job at a newly opened library dedicated to research on America’s greatest founding father, George Washington.

Around the time Myers was completing her master’s degree, Mount Vernon’s Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington opened, and a year ago, she began working there as access services librarian.

Knowing how much internships had changed the trajectory of her life, she set out, within months of taking the job, to extend the same opportunities to other Susquehannans. “When I was a student representative on the Board of Trustees, that experience allowed me to see the bigger picture of how alumni experiences and networking work to the advantage of enrolled students,” Myers says. “I started to wonder, ‘How can I give back in [these] nonmonetary ways?’”

When she got on the job, she found plenty of work to be done but not necessarily staff to do it, so she approached her supervisor about developing an internship program. With the library’s approval, Myers worked with Susquehanna’s Career Development Center to secure internships for history majors Kaitlyn Tanis ’15, of Oakland, N.J., and Michaela Feltman ’16, of McAlisterville, Pa., both of whom worked alongside Myers in the library at Mount Vernon this past summer.

Benefits of Alumni Support

In her role, Myers provides access to all of the library’s resources, conducts preliminary research on topics visitors are interested in, and creates research guides to assist library patrons in their work. Additionally, she answers about 90 percent of the questions that are emailed to the library.

Tanis, who began a graduate program in library and information science at New York University this fall, spent the summer organizing the personal letters and documents of the Peter family, the family into which Washington’s step-granddaughter married in 1795.

Meanwhile, Feltman was organizing architectural drawings of Mount Vernon and its many outbuildings. These historic drawings are routinely referred to by the facilities crew at Mount Vernon in order to maintain the 500-acre property in a historically accurate way.

Like Myers before them, Tanis and Feltman lived in apartments in Arlington, Va., provided through Susquehanna’s partnership with the Lutheran College Washington Semester. Myers picked up the women every day at the Metro station so they could head to the library together.

“For me, having a friendly face and knowing there was support behind me is important,” Tanis says.