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Two mid-life library people walk into a mentoring match…

By Jennifer Peters and Toby Malone

Toby Malone – Mentee

A complete career pivot in your mid-40’s is a major challenge. After a decade as a faculty professor at universities in Canada and the US, and before that, twenty years in professional theatre, I decided I could no longer resist my long-held ambition to become a librarian. In 2022, once the worst of COVID passed, I walked away from a tenure-track faculty position at a New York university, and enrolled in Western’s MLIS. The MLIS content was all so new and invigorating: a different angle on a field I’d only known as a user. It was immediately clear there was so much I had yet to learn, not least of which was what I would do once I graduated.

I applied to join OLA MentorMatch, motivated to connect with an academic library professional who would help me understand the day-to-day of the library world before I entered the job market. I got far more than that from Jennifer Peters, who tailored our semi-regular meetings to practicality. I had fewer questions on interview technique and classroom management: Jenn recognized my gaps lay elsewhere and structured our meetings accordingly. She suggested she introduce me to her network, which was a game-changer: through a collection of vital informational interviews with career librarians, I gained invaluable insight into the field.

As I connected with librarians, I was able to assess my place in the conversation, and could see which prior skills I could adapt and what areas I might cultivate. Now, when MLIS students ask for career advice, my first suggestion is always MentorMatch and the value of informational interviews. While a mid-life career shift presents a welcome major opportunity, this program offered me the chance to ask questions, make connections, and confirm I was on the right path.

Jennifer Peters – Mentor

I have been a mentor for about a decade, and each experience offers a unique situation. When I was assigned Toby – a masters student who is close to my age with an entire career already under his belt – my first thought was, what help could I possibly offer?

Through our initial conversations, it became clear I did have help to offer: connecting him to my network. I have many connections in GTA libraries solely because I volunteered with OCULA for twelve years. During that time, I was the editor of this very publication, a councillor-at-large, a thrice-time super conference planner, president of OCULA, and member of the Mentoring Committee. You can imagine how many people I worked with from GTA libraries of all kinds through those positions. And so, I started to play matchmaker.

We set meetings for Toby with librarians, library technicians and managers from George Brown College, Centennial College, York University, University of Toronto Scarborough, OCAD, Toronto Public Library, as well as a volunteer spot at the college library event, Connect5. Through these meetings, Toby was able to learn more about library work in each type of library and decide where he wanted to focus his job search.

I was happy to share my network with Toby, and was especially happy that he was able to meet all the folks I respected and enjoyed working with so much. In the end, Toby ended up working with me, as the successful candidate for the part-time marketing liaison librarian at Seneca. So it was a successful mentoring match all around!

For mentors who are wondering what they have to offer, or are experiencing some imposter syndrome, just know that you have much to offer many different mentees from all backgrounds and in different stages of life. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to just offer a door into the community.

Jennifer Peters is currently the Manager of Library Literacies & Instruction at Seneca Libraries. Jennifer can be reached at

Toby Malone is an Australian-Canadian liaison librarian at Seneca Polytechnic in Toronto. Toby can be reached at and

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