The Student is Ready: Three Tips to Finding the Right Mentor for You


By: Babak Zarin, Access Services Librarian, Central Rappahannock Regional Library


Mentoring. An ancient idea, the word itself dates back to Homer’s Odyssey. mentoring has become a highly recommended way to help students discover how their academic skills and knowledge can apply to practice and to figure out reasonable professional goals. And many students enjoy having someone offer them guidance as they develop their professional identity as librarians, making mentors highly sought after. But how do you find the mentor that’s right for you?

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Tip 1: Define “mentorship”

The first step is to figure out the type of mentoring you want. Is there a specific skill you’re building or insight you’re looking for? Do you want someone who’ll serve as a “resource on demand?” Someone who can help you get started volunteering with your local library associations? Do you want to meet face-to-face, or do you prefer phone and e-mail? How long do you want a mentor? Even details such as gender, race/ethnicity, sexuality, disability, class, and religion are important to consider here, as all of these details help you define who and what you’re looking to work with.

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Tip 2: Contact local associations

Once you know who and what you’re looking for, it’s time to begin reaching out to find them. Thankfully, librarianship has a lot of formalized mentorship programs. For example, many of the American Library Association’s divisions, roundtables, and affiliates offer mentorship, including ALA ODLOS’ Spectrum Scholarship program, the Rainbow Roundtable’s Buddy Program, and REFORMA’s Mentoring Program. Your state and local librarian chapters, including the alumni chapter of your program, also generally love hearing from students interested in their work, and some members might be willing to act as a mentor if asked, though be sure to mention exactly what kind of mentoring you’d be expecting them to do if you ask for one formally!


Tip 3: Consider life after mentorship

So you’ve gotten in touch. What’s next? Depending on how your conversation goes you may find that you’ve found a mentor, or that the informal connections are enough, or you may have to ask a few more times around. But regardless of how it goes, there’s really one last step to take that I would urge you to take: consider what you want to do after the mentorship ends. Hopefully your mentor is someone you’ll stay in touch with or meet at conferences, but depending on what you feel your need is, you may also want to ask them if they know of someone you should be talking with for the next step, or even how to get started as a mentor yourself if you feel ready for that. Doing this ensures that you not only build a relationship with your mentor but also continue growing yourself: something a great mentor always wants for you!

So there they are. These tips should help you start finding the mentor that’s right for you. I hope that mentor will help you grow in the library profession in the best of possible ways: the way you feel you need.

Babak Zarin (JD, Elon University School of Law 2014; MSLIS, Catholic University of America 2019) is a newly minted librarian and member of the 2018-2019 ALA Spectrum Scholar cohort. His research interests include looking at the evolving state of intellectual property and how library practices can continue adapting their services to the needs of today's information-heavy, pluralistic society, as well as fandom studies. Currently, Babak works as the Access Services Librarian for the Central Rappahannock Regional Library in Fredericksburg, VA, where he works to ensure that members of the library community with impairments or disabilities are able to have equal access to the library's resources. He can be followed on Twitter under @legitnowl.