Breaking into the library profession can be tough. Especially if you don’t have any experience or contacts.
That’s where mentors come in: “We want to make it easier for the new person who doesn’t know how to find their way into the profession,” says Laurie Morrison, chair of the Ontario Library Association’s new Mentoring Program. “We’re reaching out to give them a helping hand.”
The program launched this fall and has matched about 50 mentors and mentees so far. Response has been strong from both sides. Mentors already employed in libraries are eager to share their experiences and insights, while students, job-seekers, and other mentees are grateful to benefit from the support and expertise.
Morrison, Head of Liaison Services at Brock University, has a long history of helping aspiring librarians by volunteering for projects including the Career Centre at the OLA Super Conference. The Career Centre offers services including mock job interviews, resume/C.V. critiquing, and networking. Job-seekers and library employees who met during these formal, one-time activities often ended up developing informal mentoring partnerships that continued after the conference. The OLA Mentoring Committee formed in 2012 “to make this more purposeful. This is a concerted effort on our part to get the word out to people that mentoring is available.”
To promote successful experiences, the committee has created formal expectations for mentoring and has delineated roles and expectations for both mentors and mentees. While each partnership can work out its own parameters, mentors are expected to lead the process, initiate contact, and set up patterns for communication, says Morrison. She notes that mentors should have a passion for libraries and be willing to provide advice and direction for people new to the profession.
Mentoring seems like a natural fit for a profession whose members are usually eager to help. While she has not been part of a formal mentorship, Morrison has experienced both sides of the relationship. Working in the circulation department at Hamilton Public Library, she was mentored by co-workers who encouraged her to go to library school. Since then, as she has advanced in her career as an academic librarian, Morrison enjoys returning the favour by providing informal career counseling, reviewing job applications, and arranging mock job interviews for library school students.
Morrison is eager to monitor the success of this new formal program and is looking forward to feedback from the first batch of mentoring participants.
Meanwhile, the next call for mentors and mentees will go out after Super Conference 2014 in February. The Mentoring Program is open to any OLA member and efforts are made to match mentees with mentors working in their preferred setting.
For more information, visit the OLA Mentoring Program website at: http://olamentoring.wordpress.com
Elizabeth Yates is Editor-in-Chief of InsideOCULA and Acting Head, Liaison Services/Scholarly Communication Librarian at the James A. Gibson Library, Brock University. She can be reached at eyates[at]brocku.ca – or Tweet her @LibraryWriteHer.