Last year I read a post about the ALSC Mentoring Program, and it struck a nerve. To apply for the program, I had to fill in some basic information and state whether I would like to be a mentor or a mentee with another fellow librarian. ALSC would set up the match, and shepherd us through the program by offering helpful tips and guidelines.
When I came to the part where I had to check if I’d like to be a mentor OR a mentee, I checked both. Feeling a bit schizophrenic that day? No, I just could see myself in both positions. Even though I’ve been in the library world for about 10 years, I don’t feel that I ever had a true mentor. There was never one person who took me by the hand and showed me the whole world of librarianship, taught me what to do when a child started crying hysterically in storytime, or learn how to incorporate early literacy practices into my programs. Maybe I was asking for too much and should realize that most people aren’t lucky to have this kind of a mentor, or maybe this kind of person doesn’t even exist!
When the blogosphere exploded a few years ago, I suddenly had the internet at my fingertips and couldn’t learn fast enough. I pored through blogs like Mel’s Desk, Storytime Katie, and Abby the Librarian. Suddenly there were people out there that I could learn from, and boy did I learn. I actually contacted Melissa, of Mel’s Desk, one day when I recently started the Tiny Tots program for children aged 0-12 months. She was so kind to reply in a timely and caring fashion and her advice was invaluable. I almost cried because I wished she lived closer!
So, not having a mentor made me realize how important it is to help others along the way. I also have an elementary school teacher upbringing and educating is in my blood. I love to present ideas to people, see how they are collected, and watch them bloom. I know that I could really benefit from having a mentor, but maybe now was not the time. Maybe it was time for ME to help someone and give them the guidance I feel I lacked.
ALSC matched me with a wonderful young woman named Mary. During our first phone call, I knew that something would be a bit different about this match. Mary was also going to San Jose State University for her MLIS program, and she had started just about the same time I had. Not only was she going to graduate school full time, she was also working in a library, and teaching dance classes. Wow, she has energy!
Mary is almost the same age as my oldest daughter, so one would think that I should feel more mature and experienced. Not so, though! With all of her energy and enthusiasm, Mary has taught me more about the library world than I think I’ve taught her. She is dedicated and determined, and is already connected to committees and book award groups.
I hope I’ve helped Mary during this year, but I have also gained so much from her. We have talked about graduate school classes, shared book titles, and learned about the different book award committees we attend. It’s been a definite win-win in my opinion!
In a less formal manner, I have also been mentoring another young woman at our library named Alyssa. This came about because I told our Head of Children’s Services that I really wanted to gain some supervisory experience. She suggested that I mentor Alyssa with her first story time program – which would be a pajama story time. This was so exciting because I was able to work with Alyssa from the ground up. We discussed what books she would use and the songs she would sing. As we talked about the merits of certain titles, I could see that she was beginning to understand how a book would work in story time, and what would be the most engaging for the audience.
Working with Mary and Alyssa has taught me that my way of doing things is not always the right way, and I should offer guidance, but let them try and figure things out for themselves. I started the mentoring process because I hoped I could offer help to both young women, but I’ve learned more from them than I expected.
Our guest blogger today is Allison Murphy. Allison has worked in the marketing department of a number of children’s book publishing companies. She has been a children’s library programmer and most recently, a children’s librarian, for about 10 years. Allison has been on the CT State Nutmeg Award committee and is currently pursuing her MLS degree from San Jose State University. She hopes to finish before she has grey hair or grandchildren, whichever comes first!
Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.
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