YALSA’s Virtual Mentoring Program: A Survey of Participants

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.”

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Serving on YALSA’s Mentoring Taskforce

Have you been looking for a way to get involved in YALSA but not sure where to start? Try volunteering for a taskforce. The nice thing about a taskforce is the work is focused and is carried out over a shorter period of time than a committee. It also gives you an opportunity to work with and get to know some of your fellow YALSA members and increase your own professional skills at the same time.

This is my second term serving as Chair of the Mentoring Taskforce and I found it to be a very rewarding experience. The taskforce reviews the applications submitted for YALSA’s Mentoring Program and matches mentors and protégés. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people on the taskforce and I enjoyed learning about the people who applied for the mentoring program. I also gained a sense of accomplishment by getting involved and giving back to YALSA and knowing these mentoring program participants will learn from each other.

So what was it like being on a virtual taskforce? We did most of our work through email. This allowed us to work at our own pace when we had time and eliminated time zone conflicts. Even though our taskforce worked asynchronously and we had a very short turnaround time to complete our matches, everyone was quick to respond to communication and we stayed on track. In early July I asked the committee members to introduce themselves to each other via email so we all had a feel for who we were working with. By the last week of July we were reviewing suggested tasks and matching protégés with mentors. We only had the information provided in the applications to decide who would make the best matches. We turned in our final matches by the second week in August. I feel good knowing that we were able to work so efficiently without ever meeting face-to-face.

If you are thinking about getting involved but haven’t wanted to make the commitment, I would highly recommend volunteering for the mentoring taskforce, or any taskforce, when you see the call go out via the weekly YALSA e-news. It’s a great way to give back to YALSA and meet other like-minded professionals without making a huge time commitment. You don’t have to commit to travel, either, since virtual members are not required to attend ALA conferences. Who knows? Maybe it will inspire you volunteer for more committees or even to run for the YALSA Board! Check out the different ways you can get involved at: http://www.ala.org/yalsa/getinvolved/getinvolved

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.

Jennifer & Linda Talk About Working with Administrators

This is a collaborative blog post written by a protege and mentor in YALSA’s mentoring program. Jennifer is the protege and Linda is the mentor. We’ve been working together over the past several months talking about how to effectively gain support for teen services and how to work with administration to let them know all about the great activities and work being done by teen librarians. As our conversations developed we realized that what we were talking about made for a great blog post, or series of blog posts. Our first post is on how to gain support from administration for teen projects. Continue reading

Serving on the Mentoring Program Task Force

Earlier this summer, Melissa Rabey reflected on her experience so far on the Printz Committee. While I think a number of us one day aspire to serve on a selection committee, we may not be ready to make that kind of commitment yet, or we might feel like we don’t have the experience within YALSA to do so–but there are other ways to begin your involvement within YALSA. For new members especially, a task force can be a good way to try out professional service, so I thought I’d talk about my experience on the YALSA Mentoring Program Task Force.

The call for task force members went out a few days before I graduated. I’d been looking for avenues for getting more involved in YALSA, and a task force seemed like a manageable way to start. I’d applied for the mentoring program itself, too, so I made sure to mention that in my task force application. When I was asked to join the task force, I was told I just needed to recuse myself when my own application came up, but that I could still evaluate the other applications and help match proteges and mentors (and it turned out that one of the other members of the task force was an applicant to be a mentor!). Soon after the mentoring program application deadline passed, the chair of the task force emailed all of the members asking us to introduce ourselves to one another, and we began our work.

One thing that makes a task force a good place to start for people who are looking for their first way to get involved with YALSA is that many of them conduct their business entirely virtually. We did all of our work by exchanging emails and chatting via Skype, which was a great way for a group of people across the country with varying schedules to be able to collaborate. Of course, there are pitfalls in communication done primarily by email, but it opens task force work to people who can’t afford to travel and lets members work asynchronously.

Since task forces have a specific project to carry out, task force work is also usually done over a shorter timeline than a selection or process committee. We began our Mentoring Program Task Force work in early July and submitted our final recommendations at the end of August. If you’re anxious about how to get started with your YALSA involvement, a few months is a great trial period to see how you like it.

Joining a task force–or serving in any capacity with YALSA–is also a fun way to get to know your fellow YALSA members. Especially if you’re a new member, I think that trying to jump into a huge crowd of people you don’t know to make connections and friends can be intimidating. A task force is a good way to narrow that crowd to a friendly few and to start to put personalities and faces to the names you may have seen on listservs. While I’m not going to be able to make it to Midwinter this year since I’m going to the YA Lit Symposium in November, I’m hoping I’ll be able to meet up with some of the other task force members at future conferences.

I was a little nervous heading into my first professional involvement experience, but I had fun and I’m proud of the work we did. If you’re thinking about getting involved with YALSA but you’re not sure where to start, keep your eye out for calls for task force members. You’ll likely be able to work virtually, it’ll be a relatively short and easy introduction to serving within your professional organization, and you’ll come away from the experience with new connections and maybe even friends. And once you’ve got one task force under your belt, you’ll be ready for another opportunity to get involved!