Mentoring Library Students for Career Development & Succession Planning

By Leuzinger, Julie; Rowe, Jennifer et al. | Texas Library Journal, Summer 2016 | Go to article overview

Mentoring Library Students for Career Development & Succession Planning


Leuzinger, Julie, Rowe, Jennifer, Brannon, Sian, Texas Library Journal


Earning a Master of Library Science Degree is necessary in most cases to obtain a position as a professional librarian, and it is valuable for students to acquire deeper understanding about the profession. The American Library Association (ALA) says that "a person graduating from an ALAaccredited master's program in library and information studies should know." various core competencies including foundations, information resources, technological knowledge, references services, administration, and more (American Library Association). These areas are certainly taught in library schools and are helpful in obtaining professional positions.

However, adding a mentoring relationship with an experienced librarian to a student's pursuit of a degree is beneficial for career advancement and provides professional networking opportunities. It also permits the student to obtain some of the more nuanced competencies referenced by ALA. The student gains a realistic sense of ethics, knowledge of trends, and experiences the realities of practice. A mentoring relationship provides future librarians with an advantage over nonmentored library students: an early start on the road to career development and professional goals.

Ask any two librarians, and you will probably get two different definitions of what a mentor is or does. For our purposes, a mentor is a close, trusted, and experienced guide, teacher, tutor, and coach. Succession planning naturally builds on mentoring, because its purpose is to identify and prepare future leaders from within the organization through mentoring, coaching, training, and work assignments.

Below, we will see the benefits of mentoring, and the impact it has on these individuals, from the perspectives of both a mentee and mentor, and also see the relationship of mentoring and succession planning.

The Mentee's Perspective

Jennifer worked as a graduate library assistant (GLA) while earning her master's degree. It was in this position that she first met with her mentor Julie. This was a crucial developmental period for Jennifer, in that she needed to build her resume and increase her confidence and knowledge. She says that the mentoring she received from Julie was beneficial in many ways.

* She was assigned professional-level tasks.

* Julie helped her decide which types of library jobs were most suited for her skills and interests.

* She was introduced to many librarians who became "unofficial" mentors.

* She began to understand the expectations of potential employers in interviews.

* She was exposed to professional organizations and committee work.

One of the actions Jennifer found most helpful was when she was asked to identify her interests and goals. Julie used this information to create special assignments that encouraged growth in specific areas, such as a meeting with the principal cataloger, during which time Jennifer learned about being a cataloger. That meeting led to Jennifer becoming a volunteer in the cataloging department, which increased her professional network and allowed her to gain additional skills and knowledge that would prepare her for the job market.

The Mentor's Perspective

As Jennifer's mentor, Julie used her past experience as a mentee in order to build a great experience. She worked diligently to ensure that Jennifer was able to benefit from:

* exposure to professional level work and academic library culture in general;

* networking connections (so Jennifer would benefit from the expertise of more than just one person);

* coaching in applying for jobs, writing cover letters, and preparing for interviews;

* insight into the culture and the politics of academia;

* practical experiences like instruction, attending staff meetings, and cataloging;

* different perspectives about librarianship; and

* discussions about trends and experiences.

Julie sees mentoring as having a very large personal side benefit - fresh eyes. …

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