Academic journal article Education Libraries (Online)

The Role of Mentoring in the Leadership Development of Pre-Service School Librarians

Academic journal article Education Libraries (Online)

The Role of Mentoring in the Leadership Development of Pre-Service School Librarians

Article excerpt

Introduction

The research reported here is a subset of a larger study. The original study was designed to examine the social contextual variables that impacted the leadership behaviors of pre-service school librarians enrolled in a master's degree program. This degree program was specifically designed to emphasize leadership development. The participants of this study were recruited into the program because of their leadership potential.

Mentorship was just one of the social contextual variables studied. The program directors wanted each participant to have a mentor who was already established in the profession. The rational for including mentors in the program was to develop an additional support system that extended into the school district for the participants. Mentors were asked to help the participants with their coursework and to acclimate them to the profession. The directors relied on the school library media program supervisors in each partnering school district to identify suitable mentors.

Upon the conclusion of the research, it was discovered that the provision of mentors had a great influence on the students' degree program experience. This outcome was unexpected because mentorship was the least structured aspect of the program. While the directors knew it was important to pair each student with a mentor, they did not require specific tasks for each mentor. Instead, the mentors were invited to three meetings during the degree program. Otherwise, the program directors did not interfere in the development of the participants' interactions or relationships with their mentors.

The purpose of this study was to determine the impact of the availability of mentors on the self-perceived transformational leadership practices of the pre-service school librarians enrolled in the program. The following questions guided the investigation.

1. What were the characteristics of the participants' interactions with their mentors?

2. How did the availability of mentors facilitate the transformational leadership development of the participants?

There has been much discussion regarding how school librarians can develop leadership skills and improve the perceptions of their role in schools (Everhart & Dresang, 2007; Smith, 2010). One approach to changing the perceptions of school librarians and increasing their influence is to teach them how to be transformational leaders (Smith, 2009). The program the participants were enrolled in was an attempt to do so. For this reason, the findings of this study can help improve the understanding of how mentoring can be incorporated into school library certification programs to help school librarians learn transformational leadership skills.

Literature Review

The Connection between Mentoring and Leadership

Transformational leadership is the theoretical framework of this study. It is a bottom up leadership approach that emphasizes collaboration, harmonious relationships, and the ability of all community stakeholders to create positive shifts in organizational culture (Bass & Bass, 2008; Bums, 2003). While appointed leaders can practice transformational leadership behaviors, individuals who have not been officially assigned duties can emerge as leaders too.

The acknowledgement that anyone in an organization can be a leader makes transformational leadership particularly beneficial to schools. For example, research indicates that when transformational leadership is used to carry out educational reforms, the reforms often continue after school administrators leave due to consensus building process (Sheppard, 1996). The stability created by transformational leadership in schools also has an indirect positive effect on student achievement and progress (Griffith, 2004).

Transformational leadership focuses on the performance of organizations. Similarly, the primary purpose of mentoring is to develop the skills of an individual to improve organizations (Northouse, 2004). …

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