By Jordan Williams, W&M Libraries
William & Mary Libraries has partnered with The Next Move Program to provide summer internships for young adults with disabilities.
Based out of Richmond, Va., Next Move is a non-profit organization dedicated to preparing young adults with disabilities for life after high school. Members receive education and job training to equip them with the skills necessary to succeed in the workforce.
The program was created in 2010 and gradually spread through the Richmond area. With grant funding from the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities, the organization was able to plant roots on the W&M campus in February 2019. The local efforts of Next Move are under the direction of a pair of faculty members in the School of Education.
Lead teacher Joseph Isley is one of the primary facilitators in coordinating work opportunities on campus. Isley said Next Move launched its first session during the spring and experienced great success collaborating with W&M Libraries.
“The library offers a lot of different stuff here,” Isley said. “Special Collections and Content Services were both great in that they had perfect little projects for us that a supervisor could have done themselves, but it would have taken up hours of their time.”
Isley explained that Next Move strives to assign each intern with tasks tailored to their specific abilities. In order to make the work meaningful, participates completed projects in the spring that were meticulous and detail-oriented.
Head of Cataloging Libby McDaniel has a special place in her heart for those in the disabled community. Therefore, the opportunity to support Next Move was a no-brainer.
“I’ve done some work with adults with disabilities, and I think it’s really unfortunate that it’s so hard for them to find jobs,” she said. “Many of them want to work and be contributors to the community.”
After a successful launch in the spring, the library's Content Services department was eager to accept a summer intern. McDaniel praised Next Move for its job training, support and feedback. On top of that, the previous intern was a great employee and contributor to the work environment.
During its current session, McDaniel and cataloging assistant Bonnie Shaw received approval from Next Move to assign larger projects. One of them is helping content services physically process books.
Next Move intern Adam Helsel said he was thrilled to gain real-work experience at W&M Libraries. He already had an appreciation for library resources prior to his internship.
“I always loved the library,” Helsel said. “I like to read books and check out movies. I was always interested in the fantasy genre. I love magic and different styles of fantasy.”
A key objective for the program is teaching the interns the regulations and procedures of the work environment. With the help of the Next Move instructors, Helsel is learning how to communicate with a supervisor, interact with colleagues and other general guidelines.
Isley and the rest of Next Move are aspiring to ultimately establish permanent employment options on campus for the disabled community
“I would love to find more spots in the library for long-term employment,” he said. “That is one of our overall goals for everyone on campus. We have been working with HR to expedite that process.”