“How to Grow Your Mentoring Network’ was the topic of the Core e-Forum for March 2022. Throughout the discussion on mentoring, 16 individuals shared their experiences, suggestions, and resources.
There is a wide variety in the practice and effectiveness of mentorships. From the mentoring toolkit from UC Davis, we defined mentoring as “an interactive relationship which involves both teaching and learning between the mentor and the person being mentored.” Although supervisors can sometimes mentor those who report to them, we focused on mentoring that happens outside of reporting lines.
We shared mentoring experiences we have had in the past. Examples included mentoring between colleagues at the same workplace, with previous colleagues, through associations, and between professionals and students. Participants described experiences that provided mentoring without labeling it as such. And a few have also been involved with organizing and coordinating mentoring programs. When considering areas of focus, participants had experience with mentors who supported orientation, career, context, discipline, leadership, teaching, and research development. Some participants described peer mentoring experiences, where each person served as mentor to the other. We also reflected on mentoring experiences we may seek in the future.
We shared opportunities through formal mentor programs. These were some of the formal programs mentioned by name that are available beyond a single institution or library system:
- American Library Association
- Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL)’s Rare Book and Manuscripts Section (RBMS)
- Core mentoring program coordinated by the Leadership Development and Mentoring Committee
- Reference and User Services Association (RUSA)’s History Section’s Academic Librarians Committee
- PeMento: Peer Mentoring for Mid-Career Library Workers
- Special Libraries Association (SLA)
- Virginia Library Association’s New Members Round Table
We closed out the first day by sharing tips for finding and reaching out to potential mentors outside of a formal program.
In the second day of the e-Forum, we thought about mentoring experiences that benefited our careers. Demonstrating a genuine interest in the mentee was recognized as an important characteristic of being a good mentor. Getting to really know the person allows the mentor to provide more personal and productive advice for the mentee. Finding a mentor who can also identify with your lived experience can be especially beneficial. It was reiterated from yesterday’s discussion that mentees may intentionally seek out mentors who they perceive as being successful in an area they would like to develop. Taking a peer mentoring approach can help level power dynamics and allow both individuals to learn from one another.
Next, we turned to strategies for effective mentoring. The ARCL Instruction Section offers Resources for Mentors and Mentees through their mentoring program. Their advice to both mentors and mentees includes keeping communications open, defining expectations, taking initiative, being available, being reliable and consistent, allowing for honest feedback, being innovative and creative, and respecting confidentiality. Mentoring 101: What Every Leader Needs to Know by John C. Maxwell was recommended as a quick and helpful read for mentors.
We also addressed goal setting for creating direction and accountability in a mentoring relationship. For example, the SMART goal is a framework for creating specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and timely goals.
We wrapped up our conversation with an invitation to share takeaways from the forum and any ideas we plan to further explore.
– Jennifer Keach and Malia Willey, e-Forum moderators
Core e-Forums are two-day, moderated, electronic discussion forums that provide an opportunity for librarians and library professionals to discuss matters of interest on an email discussion list. These discussions are free of charge and available to anyone who wishes to subscribe to the email list.