By Joy Urbina, Information Literacy Librarian, University of Texas at El Paso Library
Over the years, I have been a mentee and a mentor, in which I have gained several insights. A mentorship is not just for the benefit of the mentee, it is a vehicle for communication between two individuals interested in sharing and appreciating knowledge. I have personally learned just as much from my mentees as I have from my mentors; however, it is crucial to choose the right mentor or accept the right mentee. One place to start is in local library associations, which normally have student memberships and interest groups.
These associations can normally give prospective mentees the name of someone with prior experience as a mentor, who may work for a library the mentee wants to eventually work in. As a mentee this provides you with an opportunity to gain your mentor as a reference for future jobs and in-depth insight on your field of interest. Just as mentorships offer invaluable opportunities, volunteering can also be an enriching and enlightening experience.
Volunteering: The steps to your success
Volunteering at your ideal library can help not only aspiring but also seasoned librarians to gain experience, references, and networking contacts. When volunteering, it is essential to show others within that organization what kind of skills you have. Some libraries see several volunteers or interns during their tenure, so you want to ensure that you really stand out. In my academic library, we have interns doing their practicum work in every department, from cataloging to archives. Library Science students rarely know about cataloging, acquisitions, or archives, and are merely prepared for the public service desk. Though most patrons think librarians just shelf books and read all day, many interns discover their true passion after being exposed to every aspect of librarianship. Whether you are interested in school or academic libraries, I recommend volunteering in a library you are not studying for in order to gain perspective. It will really open your eyes and give you more experience.