Carolina Academic Library Associates

The Carolina Academic Library Associates (CALA) program is a paid, practice-based supplement to academic coursework that allows selected graduate students the opportunity to enhance their Library or Information Science education with practical experience in an academic library. The program also provides students with tuition and fees support, paid health insurance, and career development and mentorship.

CALAs are assigned to a variety of departments within the University Libraries at UNC-Chapel Hill, according to their background, interests, and experience. Assignments and work duties seek flexibility to match students’ developing interests as they learn and grow in their education and career plans.

The Libraries’ goal is to provide an enhanced graduate experience that introduces students to key issues in librarianship and information science and to the culture of the professions.

The program assists in preparing students for their first position in their career through hands-on work and gives them opportunities for professional networking and creativity during their graduate work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

If you’re interested in applying to be a CALA, there is no separate application. For more information visit the Prospective Students page.

History of the Program

In the fall semester of 2000, the University Libraries introduced the Carolina Academic Library Associates (CALA) program for graduate students in the School of Information and Library Science interested in preparing for careers in libraries and information science. The program is a collaboration between the University Libraries and the UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS), and the librarians and staff of the University Libraries value highly the relationship with the faculty and students at SILS.

Graduates of this prestigious program have gone on to hold positions like Head of Software Development, Head of an Art Library, IT Specialist (Usability), Humanities Research and Digital Instruction Librarian, Manuscripts Research and Instruction Librarian, Biomedical and Life Sciences Librarian, Head of Research and Instructional Services, Outreach and Engagement Program Librarian, and Library Director.

Alumni Testimonials

Picture of Christina in Library
Kristina Bush, CALA ’19
“This program has had a huge impact on my career in academic libraries. Being able to work while taking classes helped me learn about all aspects of academic librarianship and focus what I want in a job. The CALA program has offered a lot of career support and guidance which has been incredibly valuable. The connections that I made with UNC library staff as a CALA have also been valuable. Everyone went out of their way to help me to succeed. I have grown personally and professionally through being a CALA and developed confidence in this profession.”
Picture of Christina in Library
Christina Cortland, CALA ’19
“Coming from that West Coast tech startup life, I entered SILS with no (practical) idea of how I wanted to interact with and contribute to the library field. The CALA program allowed me to learn by doing. The flexibility to contribute to multiple projects across departments in the UNC Libraries was critical for helping me shape my post-graduate career goals.”

Picture of Hong in Library
Hong Dong, CALA ’19
“It would be difficult to find a program that can offer a similar learning and work experience—the CALA program provided me the companionship of students with similar aspirations and mindsets. Additionally, I couldn’t have asked for a better CALA supervisor. Thanks to the program, I gained both a valuable professional connection and a friend.”

Picture of Cait in Library
Cait Kennedy, CALA ’19
“The CALA program was invaluable for me as a person and librarian! I had opportunities to build new library programs like Adulting 101 UNC and the Wilson Library instruction page, which will continue to impact students and our library community after I leave. I also had consistent guidance and trust from my supervisor, library director, and library colleagues. The CALA program has provided enormous space and support for me to discover new library interests, find out what I’m good at and where I can still improve, and take concrete steps to build work experience in many areas of academic librarianship.”