The best people to mentor librarians aren’t always other librarians – thing 11

Thing 11 of CPD 23 is a really useful one for me to reflect on. Upon reading the blog article, I realised that I have benefitted a lot from mentors in my career so far, but many of them weren’t people I would have consciously thought of in that sense, let alone explicitly asked to be a mentor. Indeed, the only “official” mentor I’ve had was the wonderful Ferelith Hordon, whom I was lucky enough to have as my mentor through chartership. I found that experience really productive, but as it is constantly linked to the portfolio work, it was also quite a linear experience. It needed to be like this, as it was a mentorship with a specific aim, but that also means that it’s a specific mentor/mentee relationship, with a fairly short life. Maybe if Ferelith and I had worked for the same authority our paths would have continued crossing, but as things were we didn’t continue meeting once I’d got those extra letters after my name.

On the other hand, I can see that in both my last positions I’ve “used” someone as a mentor, and neither of them were librarians. And, you know, I think that’s a really healthy thing. Whilst you often need to look for people to teach you certain specific things in a “how-to” fashion, I think mentors are people that you see continuing to live by their principles, encouraging you to think that that is possible and something to hold on to. And librarians aren’t the only people who have principles (though we may be slightly more likely to have them on average… 🙂 ). In Mexico working at NPH, a fellow volunteer who was teaching English was someone I saw as a mentor. I really respected her for the amount of time she put into her job – she taught English at the local school each morning, but also spent nearly as much time as a caregiver in the afternoon as the volunteers whose core responsibility that was. Her Spanish was much, much better than mine, and she tended to stick to using correct grammar rather than slipping into the way everyone else at the orphanage spoke. When I had tough times, seeing her at her work made me look at mine and think that something better was possible. She was my best friend that year, but if I look back and think of who I learnt from professionally, I think I learnt most from her.

Out here in Bangkok, it’s a very different work situation, but I would say I do have a definite mentor, who again isn’t a librarian. It’s a much more specific mentor/mentee relationship though – they are senior to me within the organisation, and it has been very much a case of, as Meg has described “though busy people, they took an active interest in my work”. This in turn has led to a strong sense of loyalty. This mentor is not a librarian, but I’ve never worked in a business environment which is so corporate, or where my budget is so big, so those are non-lib things it’s been good to get some wise counsel on. In addition, I think where I need to develop most is in learning how to get non-librarians at the school interested in the library, so a non-librarian mentor is a good place to go for that.

What am I taking from Meg’s article, if I think I already have a mentor? I think to make the most of my mentor this year, and consciously ask for advice. Oh, and maybe say thank you at some point too!


About angellibrarian

Children's/teen librarian working in an international school in Thailand.
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