By: Jina DuVernay, Visiting Archivist for African American Collections, Emory University’s Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library
I responded to a call for both mentors and mentees from the New Member Round Table program. I thought that it was a great idea and I wanted to participate to learn more about the ins-and-outs of the library profession. Derrick Burton, Library Director of the Luise V. Hanson Library at Waldorf University, and I were paired together and introduced via email by the NMRT Mentoring Program Committee.
From that initial exchange until the program’s end, six months later, Derrick and I corresponded through emails and engaged in weekly calls. These exchanges consisted of me asking him a variety of questions and him sharing his advice and/suggestions. For instance, I was undertaking a development project and Derrick gave me some helpful tips about developing collections. Derrick also shared documents that he created for his student workers which were incredibly helpful and resulted in me implementing a lot of the content for my own student workers.
Those were the types of exchanges that I expected especially since all our correspondence took place virtually; however, I did not expect the above and beyond attitude from my mentor that I benefitted from greatly. Derrick offered to put me in touch with two of his librarian friends who were a part of his Emerging Leaders cohort so that I would be able to meet up with someone as I navigated my way through my first ALA Annual conference. I had breakfast with one and coffee with another. Both of my interactions with Derrick’s friends were positive and helped to make my first ALA Annual experience a pleasant one. Even after the NMRT Mentoring Program ended, Derrick and I kept in touch. He and I met in-person for the first time at ALA Midwinter and he invited me to the ALA President’s Meet and Greet. We had a good time at the Meet and Greet and it did not escape me that by knowing Derrick, I was able to network, meet new people, and enter rooms that I would otherwise not be in.
Derrick was a true mentor and we still correspond with one another. I consider him a colleague and a friend. I remember that one of my first questions to him was to find out why he signed up to be a mentor. He said that he wanted to be a mentor because he did not have any mentors of his own. He talked about the profession and how we need to support one another and help our fellow colleagues. I really appreciated his authenticity and devotion to the profession. I was very fortunate to have been paired with such a dedicated, laid-back, humorous professional.
I would recommend being a mentee or mentor to anyone.