On Being a Librarian

Trends, Achievements, and Perspectives

Thing 11: Mentorship is hip

Recently I have been interviewing for academic librarian positions.  These interviews are modeled on behaviour response inquiry primarily scenario based.  At the end of these interviews I am invariably given time to ask the selection committee questions about the institution, policies, benefits, the specific position, etc.  I have a series of questions that I pose regarding mentoring.  Some that I ask are:

• What is the formal mentoring program offered at the library?
• What is the process for pairing mentor and mentee?
• If informal, how would I find a mentor and establish expectations?
• What is the documentation process?
• Are mentors evaluated or what is the mechanism for providing mentors with feedback?

None of the institutions where I was interviewed offered formal mentoring.  I was not surprised yet felt some disappointment.  Throughout my previous career in professional sales, mentoring and networking were expected and aligned with individual strategic plans.  Developing strong supporting relationships with other professionals created a synergy where respectful interactions produced alternative and rewarding client communications, creative marketing strategies, or dynamic close tactics.

Within library literature mentoring programs are discussed reviewing the importance and value of these initiatives.  Why are there none or so few established formal mentoring programs at Canadian universities and colleges? I do not have a clear answer for or understanding of circumstances that would either allow for the development of mentorship programs nor of obstacles academic libraries and librarians experience prohibiting the creation and maintenance of mentoring programs. Barriers might include:

• available time
• conflicting priorities
• lack of staff and / or leadership buy-in
• misunderstanding of mentorship principles
• staff apprehension regarding levels of commitment

Most of the librarians and human resources representatives on these selection committees gently nod their heads when the discussion of mentorship is broached.  There seems to be a consensus that such programs and initiatives are valuable but there is a gap from this awareness to designing and implementing such programs.  Some expressed frustration that they’ve not been able to get such programs underway. Some voiced their eagerness to become involved and others sighed in resignation that perhaps mentorship programs at their libraries would never be realised.

What is my part in mentorship?  I’ve mentored new salespersons but albiet briefly because the these industry programs were modeled for quick market and process introductions rather than long-term, comprehensive mentorship. I have often been asked by administration and colleagues to mentor others. I take this very seriously. It is not an easy responsibility challenging communication skills, professional networking, and other resources. A month ago I accepted a position as Sessional Faculty, Instruction and Reference Librarian at an innovative university in Western Canada. In this new profession and position I am eager to develop a mutually beneficial professional mentoring relationship. There may be an opportunity here and I will start the process.

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This entry was posted on 08/30/2011 by in Professional Development and tagged .
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