Why librarians make great mentors

I was asked last May if I would be interested in being a mentor for an incoming freshman at my institution, and I quickly said yes yes yes. In fact, last academic year, I was supposed to, but things fell through. So, I jumped on the opportunity this time and got in contact with my protege right away. Even though she’s not interested in pursuing library science some day (at least not yet 😛 ), I think that librarians, as generalists by nature, make great mentors.

This isn’t to say that expertise isn’t important, because it is – and I’ve noticed that there’s been a trend lately to ignore the experts, or rather, to devalue experts’ expertise. I think there is great value in having a mentor in your field, no doubt, but I think we’re expecting too much out of 18-year-olds – how could they possibly know what they want to do for the rest of their life? I don’t even know what I want to be when I grow up.

The curiosity that we as librarians bring to the table, the unabashed desire to help people, and the persistence of creating life-long partnerships with people (and learning) make us prime candidates for mentoring incoming freshmen. For one thing, we’re really great communicators. We like working with and talking with people and we have a great ability to listen to what people are asking and figure out what they are actually looking for.

In a sense, mentoring is like a really great reference transaction. It’s one where we can sit down, talk, sort things out, and learn from each other. I think that’s what great mentoring is about – building trust and taking our new-found knowledge to a new level – one where we can collaborate and build from one another’s ideas. The library is, after all, the place where students, faculty, and the community come together to create knowledge – why not take on a protege to show them the ropes of academia?

But, I think what I’m most excited for is being able to serve as support to a new student who might be feeling overwhelmed by this new environment. I remember feeling that way, and having no one really to turn to. My parents never went to college, and I was the oldest of 3 siblings, so I was just left to figure it out. It took about 2 years to learn how most of the processes work on campus, and I just wished that I had someone there to help guide me through it all. In fact, as an undergraduate student, I worked in the library which helped me gain most of my general knowledge of the campus-workings.

So, I’ve got high hopes for this new journey and possible long-time partnership. I can’t wait.

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