Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Mentoring, part 2

When I first started considering librarianship as a career option, I was lucky enough to have a readily available mentor, my mother. We talked for hours about what career options would be available to me, and if I did go to library school, the courses she considered to be of vital importance to the education of new librarians. Sometimes we bore our other family members when we start riffing on library issues, but it’s a neat feeling to have ready access to a mentor.

Let’s back up a bit though. What’s needed in a mentoring relationship? By the way, the majority of this is going to be from the mentee perspective. To me, the number one requirement is respect. Specifically, professional respect. Personal respect helps, but not necessary in the beginning. Why professional and not personal? For the simple reason that if you don’t respect what your mentor has accomplished in the field and the point she has gotten to in her career, you’re not going to be inclined to take her advice. The second requirement is the willingness of both parties to be in the relationship. This is more clearly stated in a formal mentoring relationship, but expressed at some point in an informal one.

How you approach your career is always up to you. You may feel the need to seek out a mentor, you might not. You might find a mentoring relationship has snuck up on you. I’ve never felt the need to seek out a mentor, at this point in my career, because of my relationships with my mother and with one of my co-workers at my part-time job. Both of these are informal relationships, mainly due to the fact of living circumstances and work schedule putting us in the same space on a regular basis. If I need advice or just talk about something, I can do it without having to schedule an appointment.

In many ways, informal mentoring relationships grow out of personal relationships. Formal relationships have the benefit of not requiring a pre-existing personal relationship. These usually come about either because you’ve sought out a mentor, or someone has offered the services of a mentor. I’ve had friends where a third party arranged the relationship. With a few exceptions, the third party arrangement is the least tenuous because the mutual agreement factor may be, and often is, lacking. The New Members Round Table offers a mentoring service every year. I find this to be the most useful of third party arrangements because while the committee is the one arranging which mentor the mentee will be paired with, both parties have volunteered to be in a relationship with this understanding. If my job situation changes to where I don’t have constant access to my mentors, I expect I will probably seek out a more formal relationship.

And that brings me to an important point. I don’t expect to have the same mentors throughout my career. A friend of mine once said (and I’m really paraphrasing here as I can’t find the original e-mail), the majority of relationships end. It takes a strong person to recognize when they do and just end it rather than holding on to it for sentimental reasons. Mentoring relations will end. If you’re lucky, you can have a relationship with your former mentor beyond it. I’ll always have a relationship with my mom; mentoring is just a small part of it.

And with that, I will leave you for the holidays. If I post again before January 9th, consider it a bonus :) Also, I will not be checking my YL e-mail on a regular basis during this time period, so you may have a bit of a wait for a reply. Just warning you. I hope everyone has a happy and safe holiday season. And because this is what I celebrate, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Mentoring, part 1

I’ve run out of time this morning to write up the long entry I have planned for this topic, but I wanted to point out a few articles in preparation:

LISCareer.com - Mentoring section
Mentoring Programs in Libraries - ALIA program summary