Mentor-mentee’s intellectual partnership: Planting and growing the seeds for professional success

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Tchangalova, N., Love, J.B., & Cossard, P.K. (2021). Mentor-mentee’s intellectual partnership: Planting and growing the seeds for professional success. In L.J. Rod-Welch, & B.E. Weeg (Eds.), Academic library mentoring: Fostering growth and renewal - Vol.2, Mentoring of library faculty and librarians (Ch. 20, pp. 411-432). Chicago, IL: Association of College & Research Libraries.


INTRODUCTION: University and college administrators for the academic libraries have often discussed the significant amount of the university budget invested in new faculty personnel salary, support, and professional development as they acquire or access tenure and permanent status in their profession or area of assignment. No monetary value can be placed on a mentoring program or relationship when there are effective and valuable opportunities for growth and renewal. This case study covers a mentoring relationship, from formal to informal stages of the process to what has become a very strong and endearing friendship. The three mentoring relationship team members developed and participated in organizational changes that perpetuated growth for not only themselves but for colleagues as well. The mentors and the mentee nurtured each other when the library organization at their institution was making significant changes in its structure as well as meeting institutional requirements for the faculty status process.

LITERATURE REVIEW: A synthesis of the library literature is provided in this book chapter, focusing on the mentor-mentee relationship in academic libraries. The main themes discussed in the literature include various ways of implementing a mentoring relationship, challenges and successes along the way, and the benefits of mentoring for the mentors and the mentee. Areas that we feel are critical to the case study but not addressed in the literature, are presented as well.

ON THE MENTEE-MENTOR JOURNEY - HOW DID IT BEGIN AND WHY? - The United States is among the most diverse countries in the world. However, this is still not true for the library profession. There is a growing need for diversifying the library pool and for training future librarians in the work of research libraries. Back in 2005, the Chesapeake Information and Research Library Alliance (CIRLA), a group of nine research libraries, embarked on this challenge and developed unique recruitment and professional training program designed to solve both problems: recruiting for diversity and developing expertise within the functional areas of research librarianship. Library school students living in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia areas were recruited and paired with experienced librarians into a formal mentor-mentee relationship. Together, they went through a variety of activities such as training, mentoring, and professional development over a two-year period. The program concluded with a one-year post-degree professional position at the mentor’s institution.

ON THE MENTEE-MENTOR JOURNEY - WHAT HAPPENED OVER THE YEARS? - Over a span of fifteen years, the mentee transitioned from library school, contract faculty status to full-time library faculty. The two mentors participated in organizational changes and repositioned to a variety of job responsibilities requiring them to learn new skills and gain expertise in other library operations. Tips for maintaining a joyful mentoring relationship are shared in this section.

ON THE MENTEE-MENTOR JOURNEY - WHAT WERE THE BENEFITS? - This mentoring relationship has had significant value where the mentors and mentee have worked together in the same institution for many years. However, the recommendations outlined in this book section are applicable to other scenarios. The mentee and the mentors have agreed that their experience improved growth, quality, and speed of learning as well as opportunities that have increased the value of their relationships. They have gained a valuable perspective from other experienced colleagues and library professional organizations.

CONCLUSION: This case study demonstrates and/or defines what is necessary for a successful mentoring relationship. It began with participants’ believing in the value of recognizing the human spirit and its potential to thrive. This mentor relationship moved from a formal to an informal relationship as the relationship was transformed. The main outcomes are (1) building a supportive relationship where both parties serve as advocates for each other, (2) understanding the importance of acceptance of other cultures in the workplace and embracing them, and (3) supporting the desire to continue working in the field even after reaching professional milestones.