Mar 01 2004

Mentoring Tenure-Track Librarians

Published by rachel at 8:13 pm under mentoring

by Karen Evans

So, you have been asked to mentor a new librarian? Congratulations! Being asked to serve as a mentor is an indication that your administration and/or peers believe you have the skills and ability to assist a new employee settle into his or her position.

Don’t simply look at mentoring as one more job duty. Mentoring gives you a chance to rejuvenate as a librarian. The majority of new employees arrive with enthusiasm for their new position. Do not destroy their excitement! Instead, use their eagerness to reconnect with the discipline. Remember how excited you were when you were offered your first library position? When your first article or book review was published? If you are feeling jaded about being a librarian, let mentoring draw you back into the excitement of the profession.

Establish Expectations

Discuss your duties and goals as a mentor with your mentee (the newly hired librarian). Are you a hands-on mentor who will check in every day or once a week? Will you be more laid-back, and just be available to answer questions or offer encouragement? Encourage the mentee to ask questions or request clarification on duties or committees. Some mentors and mentees set up weekly appointments for the first few months to discuss any issues or questions that have come up. Remember, your job is to help the new employee feel comfortable in his or her position.

The first few weeks may be a confusing time for a new employee; trying to learn a new library layout, meet new faculty and staff, and settle into the duties of a new position. Make it easier for your mentee. Take the person on a tour of the library, pointing out the staff lounge or the quiet places to conduct research. Introduce them to faculty and staff, always including their position with their name.

Take the mentee out for coffee or perhaps lunch - try to get away from the library. Your mentee may be more comfortable asking questions without the chance of anyone overhearing. Encourage questions about the library, campus or position. Be wary about personal questions concerning faculty or staff.

Tackle Tenure

Being a newly employed librarian and on the tenure-track can be overwhelming for some librarians. Give the new librarian a couple of weeks to settle into the position and the library. Then, re- introduce the idea of tenure-track and the responsibilities of tenure. One of the most important details of staying on the tenure track is reminding the new librarian to keep a copy of everything, whether electronically or on paper. Book reviews, thank-you letters, recommendations…anything that the librarian wants to include in a final tenure review should be kept. Some librarians file copies under various headings (Reviews, Thanks, etc.), while others simply place copies in a box awaiting final review. It is much easier to locate copies in a box or file, than trying to remember a publishing company from six years ago.

In discussing the tenure-track process with your mentee, you should cover the basic tenets of tenure: publishing, professional organizations and campus involvement. Some universities use Professional Development, Scholarly and Service. The basic premise for all these areas is involvement and production.

If the mentee is new to professional publishing, suggest that they start small. Introduce the idea of reviewing for library sources. Library Journal, Choice, and ARBA are a few of the publications available. Suggest that the mentee contact relevant publications (many have reviewer information on the web) to determine if they are accepting applications for reviewers. Reviewing is a great way to introduce the process of publishing on a deadline. Offer to co-write an article with your mentee, or introduce them to another librarian with similar research interests and suggest they think about co- writing an article. Advise your mentee to keep a list of possible article topics they are interested in pursuing.

Professional organizations are an important area for the tenure- track librarian. Again, it may be best to advise the new librarian to start small. Encourage him or her to join the state library association. Many state organizations have local units, which are always interested in new members. Joining will give the new librarian a chance to become involved with a professional organization and to meet and network with other librarians in the state. Often the local and state organizations have an annual conference where the librarian could present or preside over a presentation. Remind mentees it is fine to start small - as long as they progress along with their tenure process.

National organizations are another option. Holding office or chairing a committee on national level should be an ultimate goal for a tenure-track librarian. Again, suggest that your mentee start small by volunteering for a national committee. Often, it takes more than one volunteer form to be accepted for a committee. If not chosen the first time, they can apply again the next year. Another option is to volunteer to write articles for a committee newsletter or conduct research for a committee.

Presentations are another aspect of the tenure-track process to discuss with a mentee. Presentations can be made on campus, or at local, state, and national professional conferences. It is, again, often better for newer librarians to start at the local level. The conferences are smaller, which may be more comfortable for a librarian presenting for the first time. If the mentee is uncomfortable with speaking before groups, poster sessions are another option for a first-time presentation. The important aspect is for the mentee to become involved and active within these organizations.

Although professional library organizations are an important aspect of tenure, the new librarian also should become involved with library and campus committees. Volunteering is also an excellent way to network with other librarians and campus faculty. Advise your mentee to be sure and keep a list of committees and dates for final tenure review. As a mentor, you should assist your mentee in deciding how involved to be with professional and campus organizations. This is an important decision for the mentee to make. Becoming too involved and overextended with organization work may leave the mentee without enough time to make deadlines. This reflects poorly on the mentee, and is often a difficult reputation to overcome.

There are many ways to be a good mentor to a new employee. The guidelines discussed here should assist you in deciding how to mentor in your library.

Karen Evans is an Instruction Librarian at Indiana State University.

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