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Mentoring: You Too Can
Make a Difference
Librarian Relations Consultant
A Google search on the word mentoring will yield results
in the millions. A LexisNexis news search easily yields over three
thousand results. What these examples illustrate is the fact that
mentoring is a widely used means by which institutions, companies,
and organizations prepare new members for success.
So what exactly is mentoring? How can mentor/mentee relationships
be fostered? What can you, as a librarian, do to impart your knowledge
and experience? This column will briefly address these questions and
also provide a list of resources containing more detailed information.
What exactly is a mentor?
Derived from Greek mythology, Dictionary.com defines mentor as a
wise and trusted counselor or teacher. Simply put, by being a mentor
you are imparting your knowledge onto someone who has less experience
than you do.
Many of us mentor in an informal way throughout the course of the
day. An example of this can be seen by reviewing messages posted to
listservs. Questions beginning, "Has anyone ever..." are continuously
posted to listservs across the country. And quite often replies are
compiled and disseminated for all to see. It is from these types of
inquiries that librarians get a sense of whom to contact when an
expert is needed.
Another informal way librarians participate in the mentoring
process is by being active participants within their library
associations. By attending meetings and social events, you are
networking, exchanging ideas, and broadening your knowledge base.
Informal mentoring continues to be a popular way of sharing
experiences. However, this author, as well as many national and
local organizations don't think this type of mentoring is enough.
How can mentor/mentee relationships be
In 1999, AALL established a mentoring committee whose charge is as
The mentoring committee shall be responsible for providing information
and networking opportunities by advising and mentoring newer
Association members or those contemplating job changes or desiring
career guidance. To accomplish this goal the committee will plan,
promote and present the Annual Conference of Newer Law Librarians (CONELL)
and pursue additional efforts to orient newer members to the benefits
and opportunities of Association membership.
Attendance at the CONELL meetings is always overwhelming. In
previous years, CONELL was limited to 90 participants and always
filled early. The AALL Mentoring Committee hopes to remove the
participant cap in 2005 and offer CONELL to everyone who wants to
enroll. The Committee also offers its Mentor Project, which
matches mentors and mentees from all types of law libraries in
cooperation with the AALL-type Special Interest Sections: ALL-SIS, PLL-SIS
and SCCLL-SIS. Applications for 2005 mentor matches will be
available after the first of the year.
Other library associations also provide mentoring opportunities.
But mentoring can also take place within ones' own organization.
Internal mentoring can be very beneficial. Seeking out a colleague on
the staff to be a mentor can strengthen the relationship of staff
members while at the same time provide knowledge of how best to work
within the department. Additionally, seeking a mentor outside of your
department can provide you with a deeper understanding of how your
institution functions as a whole.
According to a managers survey by Manchester Inc. in March 1999,
employee retention is the top reason given why companies start
What can you do?
So what can you, as a librarian, do to impart your knowledge and
experience to newer members of the profession? Simply put, get
Although most of the local chapters of AALL do not have formal
mentoring programs, most organize special programs and events to help
transition students into library profession. For example, in New York,
the LexisNexis Librarian Relations Group sponsors a student
breakfast/lunch program organized by the local association (LLAGNY).
The program consists of an introduction, library tours, and meal
(breakfast/lunch). During the introduction, librarians and firm
attorneys address the students. They discuss the role and importance
of the library and outlined responsibilities. This is followed by
tours of three law libraries where the students get first-hand looks
at library settings, resources and staffs. Afterwards, a
breakfast/lunch is held in which students meet and network with other
library association members. This continues to be a very successful
program and LexisNexis is proud to lend its support.
Whether you participate in a formal or informal
mentoring program, the literature supports the fact that the benefits
of participation will have a positive lasting impact on both mentors
and mentees. So what are you waiting for?
For more information on mentoring:
AALL Mentoring Program
DeShane, Abby "Mentoring: An Annotated Bibliography." Business &
Finance Bulletin, no. 113, Winter 2000: 23-29.
Konieczko, Jill. "Guiding Lights: The Art of Mentoring in the
Information Professionals Community," IMPACT! Spring 2003 p.
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