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Helping New Academic Librarians Apply What They’ve Learned: Our OLA Mentoring Experience

By Nadine Anderson and Joe Qiu

Joe’s Perspective – Mentee

As an international student I know that, compared to my domestic peers, I lack local connections. Fortunately, as an undergraduate at the University of Toronto, I received much help from my professors, advisor and classmates in discovering myself and gaining insights into the world of academia. This awareness of the need for meaningful connections, along with my interest in academic research, drove me to be on the lookout for mentorship opportunities. 

I was lucky to have Ms. Nadine Anderson as my mentor. Nadine was everything I could hope for in a mentor and more. Not only does her role as an embedded librarian align with my personal interests, but her extensive knowledge and insights into academic librarianship as a seasoned practitioner have helped me immensely in my personal and professional development. 

One of the most important things I learned from Nadine was the significance of fostering relationships with stakeholders in and outside of the library, and coordination with colleagues and community partners to better support our users. Nadine also made me aware of the value of assessment, which is becoming an increasingly crucial field for academic librarians, given the recent budget cuts of many university and college libraries. Under this context, evidence-based reports are not only a way to assess the performance of library staff and services, but also one to ensure the vitality of the libraries themselves. 

I have already had several opportunities to put lessons from my mentorship into practice, including as a Student Library Assistant at my faculty library — which Nadine helped me apply for — and as a Technology Tutor at the London Public Library. For LIS students like myself, having regular conversations with your mentors can help you situate what you learned in class, which can then be put to the test in your everyday work. 

Nadine’s Perspective – Mentor

I came to mentoring as a mid-career academic librarian because, as a First-Generation student and white-collar professional from a rural blue-collar family, I have benefited from formal and informal mentoring. This instilled in me the importance of mentoring as a professional duty and first-hand knowledge of the impact it can have. I signed up to be an OLA Mentor Match mentor in 2020, and have worked with four mentees so far: two new academic librarians and two MLIS students.

Tianyang “Joe” Qiu, was my mentee from October 2022 to August 2023. Joe was a first-year MLIS student, full of energy and enthusiasm, and many great questions and ideas. I helped Joe contextualize what he was learning in his classes to my work as an academic librarian. We discussed the teaching and collaboration tools and strategies I’d honed over the years, as well as the importance of assessment and evidence-based reporting. It’s great to do our jobs well, but we also need to develop good collaborations and relationships outside the library  so that we can effectively communicate our work to library and campus leadership; doing so helps prevent the library layoffs so common in higher education.

Mentorship is important for helping new librarians learn effective professional strategies and manage the challenging situations and problems they’ll encounter in their workplaces. In the process of providing advice and guidance, I’ve had to reflect on my own professional journey, accomplishments, and challenges, as well as sift out my effective approaches and strategies from my ineffective ones. Mentorship prompts self-reflection.

I’ve found the personal satisfaction of giving back as a mentor is a great antidote to burnout. Mentoring meetings energize me and are often the favourite part of my work week. I recommend the MentorMatch program to anyone interested in helping new librarians meet their goals and reach their full potential.

Nadine Anderson is a Behavioural Sciences and Women’s & Gender Studies Librarian at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Nadine can be reached at

Joe Qiu is a MLIS candidate at Western University. Joe can be reached at and through Linkedin.

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