The College Library Directors' Mentor Program

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Table Of Contents

  1. How did the College Library Directors' Mentor Program get started?
  2. What is the purpose of the program?
  3. How does the program accomplish its purpose?
  4. What is the nature of the relationship between the Mentor and the First-Year Director?
  5. What are the responsibilities of the participants?
  6. Who are the First-Year Directors?
  7. Who are the Mentors?
  8. How much does the program cost?
  9. How are the fees used?
  10. How many First-Year Directors participate each year?
  11. How does one qualify for the program?
  12. Will my new Dean support the program?
  13. How can I obtain more information about the program?
  14. First-Year College Library Directors (Current Year)

   How did the College Library Directors' Mentor Program Get Started? 

The program had its beginnings in an informal conversation during an American Library Association conference sometime in the late 1980s. A dinner conversation among Mignon Adams, Sandy Ready, Anne Commerton, Larry Hardesty, Michael Kathman, and Jackie McCoy led to a discussion of their preparation, or lack thereof, for the college library director position. The following year, Jackie McCoy, as chair of the College Libraries Section of ACRL, created an ad hoc College Leadership Committee with Larry Hardesty as chair. Caroline Coughlin, Evan Farber, Bart Harloe, Carolyn Sheehy, and Mary Sellen initially served on the committee. Damon Hickey soon joined this committee as a replacement for Mary Sellen. For the full story of the beginnings of the program see: Larry Hardesty, "College Library Directors' Mentor Program: 'Passing It On:' A Personal Reflection," The Journal of Academic Librarianship 23 (July 1997): 281-290. 

   What is the Purpose of the Program?

The program began because leaders of the College Libraries Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) saw a need to enhance leadership capabilities of new college library directors and to help them meet the challenges involved in directing libraries in small colleges. This program meets this need by fostering a mentoring relationship with an experienced library director. First-year directors gain access to someone who will listen to their problems and questions and provide feedback and possible solutions. 

   How does the Program Accomplish its Purpose?

There are three major components to the program. The first element is matching the first-year college library director with an experienced college library director. This is to provide the first-year director with an experienced "listener" who wants to "help" but not "tell." Each director is to visit the other director's library at least once during the year. The first visit should be made very early to establish a firm foundation for the relationship. The program cannot support the costs of long distance travel, and distance can impede the needed interaction. Therefore, usually the two directors are within a three to four hours driving time from each other; however, individuals can be too close in geographical proximity, which can obstruct the development of a confidential relationship.

The second component of the program is a three-day seminar held prior to a major American Library Association Conference (ACRL or Midwinter). Faculty members include Susan Barnes-Whyte, Linfield College, Melissa Jadlos, St. John Fisher College, Robert Fleming, Emerson College and special guests. Planning, campus politics, and staffing issues are examples of topics covered in previous seminars. While particular topics vary with the interests of the participants all relate to how to deal successfully with the challenges at a small college. A major goal of the seminar is to form a bond among the participants which facilitates the creation of a network that the participants can rely on in future years.

The third component of the program is a closed Internet discussion group. Robert Fleming, Emerson College, maintains a closed discussion group on the Internet (hosted by ALA) available only to participating first-year college library directors and program alumni. About 253 librarians participate in this discussion group. One of the chief advantages of this discussion group is the collegiality of the participants. Since they have all gone through a similar experience, questions and comments are freely put forth to this supportive audience. Also, since the questions go to a closed group, confidentiality is sacrosanct. A closed internet discussion group for mentors, established in 2012 provides a confidential forum for sharing among the current year’s and the previous year’s cohort of mentors.

The fourth component of the program is online webinars for participants conducted in the fall
prior to the seminar.  The webinars provide an opportunity for Cohort members to get acquainted before the seminar and the topics touch on general management issues. A webinar is also offered for directors serving as mentors. The mentor’s webinar serves as a forum for sharing the tips and best practices for effective mentoring.    

   What is the Nature of the Relationship Between the Mentor and the First-Year Director?

The relationship varies depending on the needs of the first-year director.  To facilitate a conversation about the nature of the relationship, both the first-year director and the mentor are asked to fill out expectations worksheets.   These worksheets are useful in reaching a mutual agreement about roles, responsibilities and expectations. One requirement is that it should be a confidential relationship in which both parties can speak freely.  


   What are the Responsibilities of the Participants?

The first-year director must agree to participate in the seminar and meet with the mentor at least twice during the year. They must also provide a brief report after each meeting and at the end of the year to Susan Barnes-Whyte, the program's co-director. The experienced director also must agree to meet with the first-year director at least twice during the year. They must also provide a brief report after each meeting and at the end of the year complete a survey. 

   Who are the First-Year Directors?

During the first 20 years of the program 295 first-year college library directors from 238 different institutions have participated. They include 93 men and 202 women. The participants come from colleges as varied as Carleton to Central Methodist and Tougaloo to Western State College of Colorado. The first-year participants represent forty-three different states. 

   Who are the Mentors?

Mentors are experienced college library directors willing to serve as good "listeners" and helpers. They come from colleges ranging from Amherst to Centre and Wofford to Wooster During the first 20 years, 152 individuals have served as mentors, including 66 who had participated in the program originally as first-year library directors. In total, 381 unique individuals have participated in the program either as first-year directors or as mentors. The mentors represent 59 men and 93 women have served in this role. 

   How Much does the Program Cost?

The registration fee is $600 and covers the seminar costs and the travel between the first-year director's and mentor's institutions. Some reduction is possible for small libraries with very modest budgets. In addition, travel to the seminar and housing and evening meals at the seminar are responsibilities of the participant. Costs of these items may range from $500 to $750, depending upon the distance of the first-year director from the seminar's location. The College Library Directors' Program is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization and the fees are intended to only cover expenses.

For the 2014 seminar,  the program has a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to subsidize some of the costs of participation.*

*The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums.  The Institute’s mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. 

   How are the Fees Used?

The fee is used for a variety of expenses related to the program. Both the first-year library director and the mentor are reimbursed for expenses involved in travel to each others institution, including meals and overnight stays (if necessary). The fee is also used for postage for the letters to the participants and the mentors. A large portion of the fee goes towards the expenses of the seminar, including meals at the seminar, travel and housing of the seminar leaders, preparation of materials and mailings, room costs (if any) of the meeting room at the host institution, and modest honoraria for those involved, including individuals at the host institution who often spend considerable time on local arrangements. The College Library Directors' Program is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization and the fees are intended to only cover expenses.

   How Many First-Year Directors Participate Each Year?

The ideal number in the program is usually fifteen, and participation each year has ranged from ten to twenty .

   How Does One Qualify for the Program?

The first criterion is for the individual to be in his or her very first year as a college library director. Participants may have served as library directors at other types of institutions, but the key qualification is they have not previously served as a college library director. The program is designed for library directors at small colleges, which usually means institutions with an FTE of fewer than 3,500 undergraduate students.  Also, the participants must have a master's degree in library science from an ALA accredited library school. 

   Will My New Dean Support the Program?

Only your new dean can answer that question. However, in the past the individuals to whom new library directors report have been very responsive to the program. For the past several years the Council of Independent Colleges has allowed an announcement of the program to be sent out through its deans listserv.  Many college library directors contact the program director as a direct result of their chief academic officer forwarding this e-mail to them. Chief academic officers want the library directors they hired to be successful. The success or failure of the library director can be a reflection on them, as well as a significant expenditure of time and money for the institution. Most astute deans will understand the advantages of the program. 

   How Can I Obtain More Information About the Program?

Larry Hardesty, the program’s former director, has written a history of the first several years of the program, see Larry Hardesty, "College Library Directors' Mentor Program: 'Passing It On:' A Personal Reflection," The Journal of Academic Librarianship 23 (July 1997): 281-290. Also, during the past several years various participants have written several articles in the CLS Newsletter. These articles can be accessed through the following links.

Also Irene Herold’s (2012) dissertation, An Examination of the Leadership Program for College Library Directors Associated with ACRL’s College Libraries Section, includes the history of the program.

For additional information, contact the program co-directors, Melissa Jadlos, Library Director, St. John Fisher College (585-385-8164 or or Susan Barnes Whyte, Library and Media Services Director, Linfield College (503-883-2517 or  The program is under the aegis of the College Libraries Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries. 

2013-2014 First-Year College Library Directors' Mentor Program

Becker, Nancy
Caldwell College
Blank, Michelle
Defiance College
Brayton, Spencer
Blackburn College
Brundy, Curt
Wartburg College
Erickson, Sue VA
Wesleyan College
Gregory, Alison
Lycoming College
Houston, Nainsí
Heidelberg University
Ismail, Lizah
Limestone College
Novicki, Elizabeth
Salem College
Olin, Jessica
Wesley College
Ralph, Lynette
Xavier University
Schroeder, Randall
St Catherine University
Shorey, Denise
York College of Pennsylvania
Smith, Carol
Adams State College
Tombarge, John
Washington & Lee
Vilelle, Luke
Hollins University
Washington, Erin
Spartanburg Methodist College

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Last Update: 6 May 2014
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