Notes from the Trenches

The ALAO Mentoring Program: In Our Own Words

NOTE:  We recognize that the mentoring program is a personal experience and for many mentoring relationships to succeed, confidentiality is a critical component.  We are choosing to share our experience because we truly enjoyed working with each other and we hope that by sharing our story, others who are curious about the mentoring program can understand what it involves.

Josh:  When I signed up for the ALAO mentoring program, I had already received my MLIS degree and worked in an academic library for three years. Now I wanted to see what I could do to increase my professional development and engagement. I hoped to receive advice on what I could do to enhance my reference approach, develop my student worker management skills, and learn more about the LIS research process. These areas became our program goals, around which we had structured discussions. Through sharing our experiences, we were led down unexpected avenues, taking us beyond these goals.

Heidi:  I signed up for the mentoring program because ALAO has been a great organization for me and I wanted to give back.  The mentoring program is an easy way to establish a more in-depth connection with a colleague, something that can be difficult in a committee setting.  My goals were more general, but in addition to working with Josh in a way that was beneficial to both of us, we talked about how Josh uses LinkedIn, a platform that I use only infrequently.

Josh: Heidi has worked at public as well as academic libraries, so she was able to give me a diverse perspective on reference. Our valuable discussions of the reference interview, sources, and searching helped to clarify my own approach. It was valuable as well to discuss library student worker management. We both work at Catholic, liberal arts institutions, so it was interesting to see where our recruitment and training strategies aligned or differed. Heidi also alerted me to research opportunities at the ALAO conference–particularly the poster session, an excellent option for the beginning researcher. Furthermore, I learned of the importance of connecting with the university community through presentations, workshops, and demonstrations. This is particularly relevant to my professional situation, as librarians are not able to achieve tenure at Mount St. Joseph University, making our degree of visibility even greater importance.

Heidi :  The mentoring program is nice because it’s what the partners agree to make of it.  Josh had very clear goals and my experience aligned with his aims, so it worked really well.  We met for an hour via Zoom every other month this past year.  Josh is a very easy-going person, so once he shared his goals, the conversations were great–there were a couple times when we had to continue our topic the following month because we ran out of time.  It also helped that Josh prepared questions to guide the conversation.  Once Josh shared some of his interests and career plans, I could more easily spot opportunities that he might consider. I also benefited from hearing about his experiences at his library, as it’s always helpful to hear how others tackle similar issues. Josh and I had a good connection and learned from each other during this mentorship.  Even though I’ve been a librarian for a few years, I approached this program as a learner–while I was happy to share my experiences with Josh, I was also there to learn about him as well as from him.  

Josh:  The most valuable part of my experience in the program was the encouragement I received from Heidi to pursue new professional opportunities. As a new librarian, it is difficult to develop and maintain professional confidence. My mentor alerted me to opportunities for leadership, development, and advancement that were always in my grasp, and through her support, I felt more confident in my ability to pursue them. As a result, I served on the spring workshop planning committee of the Special Collections and Archives Interest Group (SCAig). A few months later, I was accepted as SCAig co-chair–something I probably would not have applied for prior to my mentorship experience. This is why I recommend the program to new LIS professionals. When you are struggling with professional timidity, having someone to give you those little pushes is so pivotal!

–Joshua Zeller, Special Collections & Archives Interest Group Co-Chair Head of Access Services, Mount St. Joseph University
–Heidi Gauder, Coordinator of Research & Instruction, University of Dayton

This entry was posted in Vol. 39 no. 4 (Dec 2021) and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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