Blogger Kathia Ibacache

Mentoring Program: Symbiotic Learning

The mentoring program enables symbiotic learning. The ALSC Mentor/Mentee Mentoring Program pairs two members from the youth librarianship world to work together to build skills, encourage networking, create awareness in the competencies needed to serve children in the public library setting, and develop leadership skills leading to empowering a peer. The mentoring lasts one year in which mentor and mentee’s active communication is paramount to the successful fulfillment of goals.

A Few Words about my Mentee

The mentoring program matched me with Crystal Laiben, a librarian who serves in rural Bath County, Kentucky. Crystal is an energetic and self-motivated Children & Youth Services Coordinator, who has the crucial responsibility of serving both children and teens alike. In any urban or even suburban setting this task can be manageable. However, Crystal is serving a town of 1,000 people where transportation is scarce, illiteracy is high, and where 80% of the county population lives in poverty.

How did we do it in this Mentoring Program?

We got to know each other – Conversation Starters

  1. We set up a phone meeting time and talked for almost an hour. Our topics were:
  • Us: sharing our responsibilities working with youth.
  • Sharing information about our libraries and communities.
  • Sharing information about the schools.
  • Sharing some information about us.
  • Exchanging ideas relevant to program creation.
  • Exchanging ideas relevant to continued learning in the field.
  1. We scheduled monthly phone meetings in advance making sure we communicated at least once a month.

Our monthly meetings offered me a factual opportunity to learn from Crystal and for symbiotic learning.

Exchange Information

  • We discussed programs with emphasis on volunteers. In this step, it is essential to take notes. The exchange of information will broaden the mentor’s knowledge to help the mentee prepare goals.

Mentoring and Points of Connection

  • Kathia: In our case, mentee and mentor liked education. From the mentor point of view, establishing a point of connection opens a pathway of communication. It also might present clues as to what areas the mentee needs to address.
  • Crystal: From the mentee’s point of view, I was able to better relate to Kathia because of our shared interests. This connection aided the free exchange of ideas.

This was the first mentoring experience for both of us. Therefore, we wanted to make sure we set clear expectations for the mentor and the mentee. As we submersed in this symbiotic learning, we recognized points of connections and differences that helped us grow during the program.

Photograph depicts arms and hands of women and men wearing a white shirt and holding hands
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Mentee’s Goals

  • We set up a timeline to prepare goals and a schedule to fulfill them.

Crystal worked on two goals during the mentoring program.

Goal 1: Crystal was looking for opportunities to broaden her professional development. Thus, as part of goal 1, she attended conferences, took webinars, read ALSC blogs, learned about literature resources and new trends, and participated as an ALSC guest blogger.

Goal 2: Crystal wanted to open a channel of communication with her local schools by offering STEM activities for fourth and fifth grade classrooms during four months. Crystal also prepared a brief portfolio summarizing the STEM activities she presented in the schools and her experience with this type of outreach programing.

Mentor’s Thoughts

The mentoring program offers a symbiotic relationship that will enable a learning experience for both mentor and mentee. As a mentor, I appreciated my mentee’s honesty assessing her community and addressing the challenges her library has to overcome to bring people to the library. Moreover, it was my mentee’s assessment that determined her goals and helped us establish activities to fulfill her goals. For my part, I documented all our meetings, which helped me keep on target and use our phone meeting time assertively and productively.  To conclude, my mentee taught me a great deal about the reality of people living in underrepresented communities where the work of the library is paramount to convey information literacy and break the digital and technological gap affecting these communities.

Mentee’s Thoughts

Despite the very different communities that Kathia and I serve, we were able to establish that there were similarities in how we addressed their needs. Through the mentoring program, I was able to connect with someone who has more experience than myself and I opened myself up to learning from her. My mentor taught me a great deal about continuing education throughout my career, organization of my programs, and self-assessment. Additionally, she gave me the courage to reach out to teachers in the elementary school so that I could establish relationships and reach the community in new and different ways. I hope to take what I’ve learned and apply it to the other elementary school in our county in the coming school year.

Kathia Ibacache, is a Youth Services Librarian at Simi Valley Public Library. She has worked as a music teacher and Early Music Performer, and earned her MLIS from San José State University and a DMA from the University of Southern California. She loves to read realistic fiction and horror stories, and has a special place in her heart for film music.
Crystal Laiben, is a Youth Services Coordinator at Bath County Memorial Library in Owingsville, KY.


This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competency: VII. Professionalism and
Professional Development.


  1. Emily

    Collaboration is an excellent way to ensure quality libraries for all communities. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Kathia Ibacache

    Hi Emily,

    Thank you for your comment.

    I agreed with you completely. Sharing of knowledge allows us to build our professional development and to offer better quality of service as you point out.
    Have a delightful day,

  3. Pingback: ALSC Mentoring Program Perspectives #mentorALSC - ALSC Blog

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