I hope all my American brothers and sisters had a great Thanksgiving. It’s my favorite holiday – I appreciate any chance to eat good food and feel grateful.
On to this week’s question! I asked people who hire librarians:
I have had mentors throughout my career – peers in my cohort; older, wiser librarians with lots of experience under their belts; and networking groups in youth librarianship and feminist library networks (that have members from all types of libraries and career paths). I met most of my mentors at conferences, workshops and gatherings earlier in my career where we discovered our passion for youth services face-to-face; now it’s on twitter and through my blog.
I simply started to talking to colleagues and listening to their answers. It helped me hone ideas, learn how to navigate the culture of the libraries I worked in and spark creative ideas and innovation. All my mentors were and are generous to a fault. Without their input, I wouldn’t be the librarian I am today. This generosity helped to mold me as a mentor to newer librarians. Each time I work with someone I think of how I was helped and it feels like the circle is completed!
– Marge Loch-Wouters, Youth Services Coordinator, La Crosse (WI) Public Library
I have often wished I had a mentor-figure but I’ve never met anyone who ‘clicked’ in the right way. I’d love to know how to find someone! As part of my MBA studies at Henley Business School we were each allocated a ‘coach’, but I found the approach of the lady I was paired with was a bit ‘wishy washy’ and didn’t really help me. The method she used was basically to turn everything I said back on me and say ‘what do you think about that’ – I felt like I could just as well be talking to a mirror…
My understanding is that coaching is to help achieve a defined goal, for example by improving skills and performance, while mentoring is having a more general guide or someone to bounce ideas off of, and help with decision making about life, career, etc. While I have had in-house coaching at various workplaces, to improve skills in order to perform the job better, I’ve never had anyone I could call a life or career mentor.
On the other hand, part of my work is with library professionals as a career coach for them, helping them write more effective resumes/CVs, define their career goals, audit their skills or improve their interview techniques, so I have experience from the other side of the fence. I think that people gain confidence in their own skills and employability from working with someone in that role, as well as learning how to better represent themselves to employers.
– Nicola Franklin, Director, The Library Career Centre Ltd.
First, my boss is a fantastic mentor. He hired me when I first started here part-time, and we’ve continued to work closely together as we’ve both moved up to our respective positions. I value his advice because I know that he started in the same boat I did — he worked the front lines part-time, just as I did, and he has worked as a department head, as I do now. Now that he is the director, he is not simply an administrator but someone who has worked all levels within the same library. He’s also had varied experiences outside of the library and he realizes that this is a job, not anyone’s life. When giving advice, he is willing to make suggestions but also to listen and defer to others when necessary. I have a lot of respect for him and for how he has handled situations over the years.
Second, I go to my husband frequently for advice. He has never worked in a library — in fact, his background is philosophy, computer programming, and retail. It helps that he’s known me for about 14 years and knows the way I think. Even when it is a library-specific concern, he is great at piecing out what is really important in the situation and being objective. When I have ideas about work, he approaches the situation from the patron perspective. Sometimes all of us professional people get caught up in the library side of things and forget that patrons don’t always see that side, so his non-library perspective is very helpful.
Don’t be afraid to seek advice from someone outside of the library field — they may have some really great insights for you.
– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library
My mentor was my first library director, Barbara Doyle-Wilch, who I met after my first year as a professional librarian at Augustana College (Illinois). She was the first administrator who let me know that I was a good librarian and that I could do the job and do it well. After a year of being reminded that I was a rookie and did not have much to offer to the veteran librarians, it was a drink of water in an emotional desert.
She moved on to other colleges, but many of us who worked for Barbara have found her career advice worth its weight in gold. Her philosophy of librarianship and native shrewdness made her counsel invaluable. Sadly, she has retired and I have lost track of her.
The last time I was in need of some career counseling, I sought out Jim Elmborg, a faculty member at the University of Iowa, who was not one of my professors, but somebody I have met at various information literacy conferences where I have presented.
In both cases, I sought colleagues whose professional philosophy and temperament were similar to mine. What I have found valuable from both Barbara and Jim is their ability to give me a reality check to see if my perception of a situation is sound. Sometimes perception is difficult inside one’s personal bubble and an outside perspective is helpful. It is also incredibly valuable to hear from somebody who believes in your abilities. That is what Barbara did for me.
– Randall Schroeder, Department Head of Public Services, Ferris Library for Information, Technology & Education
There is a library director at a small state college in New England whom I highly respect and whom I’ve gone to for career advice. I originally met her through ACRL’s College Libraries Section (CLS) when she was president of CLS and I was a committee co-chair. She is a library director of a college library of similar size to the library where I work. I greatly admire and respect her approach to librarianship and her ability to remain active professionally in addition to managing her responsibilities as a director (and while completing a PhD!). She has given me some very good advice on how to stay active in professional organizations as well as how to increase my professional development interests and how to seek out ways to network with other librarians in my state. She is a very warm, down-to-earth and approachable person with a great sense of humor and an understanding of the demands on working parents. Although she is not officially a mentor to me, I consider her one because of the example she sets for others in our profession. I’m sure others who know her and work with her would think the same.
– Samantha Thompson-Franklin, Associate Professor/Collections & Acquisitions Librarian, Lewis-Clark State College Library
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