Experiences in U.S. Libraries for European Librarians

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About WESS

The ACRL Western European Studies Section (WESS) represents librarians and others who specialize or are otherwise professionally involved in the acquisition, organization, and use of information sources originating in or related to Western European countries.

WESS as an Intermediary

WESS will act as a contact point for European librarians and European library school students looking for a temporary experience with a library or libraries in the United States. WESS does not directly or actively match or seek libraries for the requester. WESS will transmit requests for placement to :its members using its electronic discussion group through a designated intermediary. WESS cannot guarantee a library will be found for an experience or that you will receive a reply from a library.

Examples of Experiences

An experience with US libraries may take many forms and some examples are discussed below. Specific needs and details should be discussed with the hosting library.


To US librarians an internship implies a person will receive training and instruction, and apply them in practical work or a project. It also implies a long-term stay, perhaps three to six months. For the typical institution this means a considerable amount of time and effort is spent by the library staff in training the intern. This is naturally a wonderful thing for the recipient but may represent a significant burden for institutions. The library will not be able to recover the staff time spent in training an inexperienced intern through contributed employment over three months. For budgetary reasons and US immigration laws, it is highly unlikely an intern will receive any pay. The applicant and the hosting institution must also comply with current US immigration laws and file documents with the U.S. government. Some of these processes may be handled by the hosting institution or third parties such as the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE). A person seeking an internship should begin at least six months prior to the internship. Eight months is a better plan.

Professional Exchanges

In this arrangement, two individuals and their institutions agree to move the librarians between two institutions on a temporary basis. Arrangements require agreements on details including time, salaries, responsibilities, etc. US immigration laws still apply. This arrangement implies the individuals are already highly skilled and experienced.

Professional Visits

Organizations may sponsor visits for employed professionals. Note this Web page for the US Embassy in Paris:


Student Exchanges

If you are a university student you should inquire with your institution about existing relationships with other universities in the United States. There are many possibilities for student exchanges. These web pages provides some information on exchanges and visas.

Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE)
US Embassy in Berlin

Official Tours

Libraries may be receptive to traveling groups wishing to visit a particular library or group of institutions for orientations or briefings. Arrangements and dates should be agreed upon before you depart for the United States.


If you are traveling to the United States on a tourist visa many libraries will be receptive to a person's request for an informal visit and tour. Every library has different circumstances so it is best to arrange for this in advance or the library may not be able to accommodate your request. Most libraries are open to the public but some will have unique services or restrictions.


American Library Directory: a Classified List of Libraries in the United States and Canada, with Personnel and Statistical Data.
An annual directory published by R.R. Bowker which lists information on US libraries and is organized geographically.
Deutcher Akademischer Austausch Dienst/German Academic Exchange Service
Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE)
US Embassy in Berlin
US Embassy in Paris:
Association internationale francophone des bibliothécaires et documentalistes (AIFBD)
ViceVersa: Le programme d’échanges professionnels (contains a database of exchange candidates)

Submitting a Request

To submit a request, send an email to:

Subject: US Libraries

This person will transmit your request to the WESS email discussion list and send you a copy of the posted message. A WESS member and their institution will contact you if they wish to discuss your request.

It is recommended that you supply information in your request to help the US librarians/libraries decide to contact you including: what kind of experience you are seeking, the desired duration, type of library being sought, geographic preferences (if applicable), the kind of library work you want to do or observe (specific or general), what experience you have in libraries and any special skills you possess which libraries would find useful.

For longer term experiences, you should expect libraries to request a formal application letter with details on your professional or career objectives, and a résumé (curriculum vitae, Lebenslauf, etc). Among other requirements, they may ask for letters of recommendation, information about your current institution, correspondence from your current institution, and a telephone interview with you.

For additional information, corrections or other matters about this web page contact: hank.harken@asu.edu
Revised 3 August 2006

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The European Studies Section (ESS) is a section within the Association of College and Research Libraries, which is itself a division of the American Library Association.

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