News & Opinion

Help Wanted: A Call for Mentors and Mentees

by on February 28, 2013

Where can a new library professional turn to for guidance, tips, real-world learning, and an occasional confidence boost? The answer: a mentor. A mentor can assist professionals in navigating the many roads of librarianship.There are many new librarians (and library science students), who are in need of a mentor. In a 2011 article on Library Journal’s website, Michael Stephens discusses the benefits of mentoring peers. It’s true that many  librarians may not have sufficient time to mentor another professional or library student. However, becoming a mentor (or mentee) is a wonderful idea to consider.There are people, like myself, who understand they need mentoring and hope, in the future, to find an obliging colleague.

Stephens suggests a more “formalized” process of mentoring involving library staff, administrators, and library school professors that could “create connections” for new librarians.[1] In this way, new librarians can learn about the field on the “front lines” and “behind the scenes.”[2] I can think of so much that I have learned, but have not had sufficient opportunities to practice or execute it all in “real life.”Mentoring can benefit both parties involved. One person teaches, another learns specific skills, and both learn to listen. Mentors help to “bridge the gap between learned theories and practical application.”[3] They can provide feedback or a simple pep-talk. The American Library Association does have a mentoring webpage. It contains various library association links where interested candidates can find more information about mentorships.

While Stephens’ approach is a worthy one, I would also appreciate a more informal offering of advice from an experienced colleague. Jerilynn Williams proposes that even “informal communications” can promote effective “synergistic relationships.”[4] One never knows, but future colleagues could become mentors almost unintentionally. Williams also points out that lending a “helping hand and sharing resources” is important to librarianship, and that mentoring is a “powerful means” to facilitate this.[5] The point is, mentors are needed, and whether the process starts formally or informally, mentors and mentees can mutually benefit from the experience.



[1] Michael Stephens, “The Role of Mentoring: Office Hours,” Library Journal, September 15, 2011, http://www.libraryjournal.com/lj/community/libraryeducation/891738-272/the_role_of_mentoring_.html.csp .

[2] Ibid.

[3] Lisa O’Connor and Emily Rae Aldridge, “What They Didn’t Tell Me in Library School is That My Colleagues Would Be My Biggest Asset,” Reference & User Services Quarterly 52, no. 1 (2012): 28-29. Library Literature & Information Science Full Text, (accessed January 23, 2013).

[4] Jerilynn A. Williams, “On Mentorship,” Texas Library Journal, 87, no. 3 (2011): 72, Library Literature & Information Science Full Text, (accessed January 24, 2013).

[5] Ibid.


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