Are you looking to share your skills and knowledge? Do you want to inspire yourself and others? Join the ranks of YALSA members who are giving back to the profession one person at a time! YALSA’s virtual mentoring program pairs an experienced librarian (5 or more years) with a new librarian (4 or less years) in a year-long partnership. Participants are asked to devote 4 hours a month to the program. Since this is a virtual program, participants don’t need to meet face-to-face and can decide for themselves what the best way for them to communicate is. It could be email, skype, google hangouts, facetime – whatever works best for them. It is important to remember that because the program is virtual participants must be comfortable working in that environment and be committed to communicating regularly with each other.
The Mentoring Taskforce surveyed the most recent batch of mentors and protégés who completed the program to find out how the program impacted them. The feedback we received convinced us that the program is very worthwhile and something that benefits the mentor as much as the protégé. We received a variety of thoughtful answers to the four questions we asked. Here is a summary of the responses we received from mentors:
· Why did you decide to join the mentoring program?
We wanted to know what motivated the participants to volunteer their time and expertise and the responses we received from mentors indicated a desire to share their experience, learn from their protégés and give back to the profession. Survey respondents stated:
“I am excited about teen services and wanted to share my experiences as a librarian, and successes and challenges I have found in this aspect of librarianship.”
“I thought it would be both a learning experience for me and an opportunity for me to pass on some of what I learned in the last six to seven years to someone new to the field of YA librarianship.”
Another indicated she enjoyed the mentoring process: “When I took a job at a library vendor, I missed the chance to mentor in person, so I was happy to find an opportunity to do it virtually.”
· How would you describe the process?
Each pair is responsible for deciding their own goals and activities. Most of the responses indicated that for participants to get the most out of the program they need to be committed to regular communication and to devoting enough time to it. It is also helpful to decide on a project to work on or topics to discuss, although several mentioned they appreciated the mutual encouragement and opportunity to vent to another librarian. One mentor stated “Not only was the process mutually beneficial, we were able to communicate at a leisurely pace on an unobtrusive level. There were monthly discussion topics and my mentee and I had a few e-mail conversations back and forth relating to our perspective and how it related to our current work situation.” Another said “The process between me and my mentee was basically that she would write me long venting emails about her work issues and I would send equally long emails of encouragement back to her.”
· Would you recommend the program to others and why?
The overwhelming response was YES. Even participants who had difficulty with some aspects of the process of the program still found it beneficial. Among the reasons cited by participants were:
“Mentoring across library systems and regions is one way we can all share knowledge so no one has to reinvent/recreate the same programs, collections, and defenses over and over.”
“As an experienced librarian it is my privilege and duty (as well as my pleasure) to share what I have learned over the years. I like to try innovative services and it’s always fun to learn about what other librarians are doing in their communities.”
“The positive aspects of the program are far-reaching. The most important benefit is the networking. Having another librarian to vent with is extremely helpful.”
“Experienced librarians have plenty to offer newer recruits, particularly in the realm of ‘what they don’t teach in library school’. And it’s always interesting to me to see the strategies and priorities of new librarians.”
· How has what you learned aided you in your career?
The general sentiment from the responses was the program helped participants keep up to date and was rewarding to them personally. The answers ranged from “Mentoring someone one-on-one has been useful in examining the way I discuss teen services with other library workers.” to “Mentoring challenges me to continually practice what I preach and to learn new techniques and sharpen current techniques. Networking with the younger generation keeps me fresh.”
The mutual benefits of the Mentoring Program to the mentor and protégé in building skills and knowledge are undeniable. The experience will be unique to each pair and is driven by the interests, needs and commitment of the mentor and protégé. If this sounds appealing to you, it’s not too late to apply for the next round of the virtual Mentoring Program. This year’s program will run from August 2016 – July 2017 and applications are being accepted through June 1. Application forms and more information can be found at http://www.ala.org/yalsa/profdev/mentoring.
Gail Tobin is Branch Coordinator at the Schaumburg Township District Library. She is the current Chair of the Mentoring Taskforce and a former YALSA Board member.