Tuesday, September 17, 2013

What, Me Mentor?


I know what you're thinking, after reading the title of this post: "Uh, yeah, Jessica. You mentor. Look at the topic of your blog, doofus." (Well, maybe you didn't call me "doofus," but you get my point.) Truth is that I have a hard time thinking of myself in the role of "mentor." To be completely honest, despite the Blogger stats and low level acclaim to the contrary, there are still times when I think of Letters to a Young Librarian as me shouting into the night with nobody listening.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not looking for reassurance here. I'd still write this blog even if my stats were 1 or 2 hits per post (meaning my mother and/or my best friend read it). The idea of LtaYL being a renegade thing helps me keep my nerve up for the occasional bout of brutal honesty, which I've been told is something people like about me:

The part of being perceived as a mentor that trips me up is that I'm still in need of one (well, many) myself. I've got all my fantastic peer mentors, or as Heather McNabb would call them, "My People." I've also got the last two library directors for whom I worked who both check in on me and provide advice whenever I need. I even have a newly-minted, ACRL-assigned mentor through the auspices of the College Library Directors' Mentor Program.

Something occurred to me as I was talking with my CLDMP mentor last week. I had a brief moment that wasn't really an out of body experience; it was more that I listened to the conversation we were having with two parts of my brain simultaneously. One part was involved in the back and forth of our discussion; the other realized that my mentor was mostly validating my ideas and decisions, that she was being a sounding board instead of solely giving advice. I know that my CLDMP mentor will happily give me advice when and if I ask for it, but she's promised she won't push advice on me. In that moment of two brains, I realized that advice isn't really the main point of a mentor. The main point of a mentor, peer or otherwise, is to help talk you down and keep you out of your own personal Crazy Tree™.

Someone who protects her tweets (otherwise I'd share it here with you) told me, in the stream of a conversation on Twitter in response to Heather McNabb's post, that I was one of Her People. The idea of being seen as a mentor felt awkward and uncomfortable, but now that I've started thinking of it as a Talking People Out of Crazy Trees Service™, I'm cool with it.

So yeah... Me mentor.


  1. Mentoring, to me, is like a big web of people helping each other out. Just connecting with people and talking to one another, like librarians do so well on Twitter and other social media, is mentoring, whether you're peers or you're at different stages in your career. At any level, there are always people who we can talk to for help and who can count on us, too.

  2. Mentoring is being able to help someone else understand or see from their own point of view, you can be quiet or loud, you can nudge or lead and you can still be learning (I do hope that never ends for me) but you can help others just by being there to answer questions! even if the answer is 'I don't know, I will find out for you' that helps.
    Thank you for your blog it has helped me feel less a fraud and more a participant in my work.