When I thought about writing this post, I could only think of one mentor – my offical CILIP Chartership mentor, based at the Royal Society of Medicine Library. I approached her to be my mentor because I wanted to work with somebody outside the field of art librarianship. As Meg wrote in the Mentoring post on the official CPD23 blog, I found this rather scary. I suppose that it becomes the norm to only ask people for help when it is part of their job description to give such assistance. I do wonder what motivates individual mentors to take on that role.
My Chartership mentor has been a great support, both while I’ve been actively working through the Chartership process and while I have had to put it on hold. She has recommended courses worth taking, let me check the portfolio submissions of her previous mentees (with their permission), and given me advice on individual parts of my portfolio. We usually meet once a month for an hour or so, and I take an hour out of my working week every week, to work on writing up evaluations of any events that I have attended and to go over evidence collected, before taking these items to discuss them with the mentor. Despite feeling initially unsure, I think I’ve been a dutiful mentee and followed my mentor’s cue, drawing from her years of experience, and thus we have developed a good relationship; I’ve become much more confident in sharing my ideas and giving feedback. I would like to think that I’ve done as Meg recommends, that I have given “back in terms of gratitude, professional sharing, and enthusiasm”. I look forward to getting back to working with my mentor in the coming weeks, once I have sorted through my ever-growing pile of evidence and evaluation.
I started this post with my admission that I felt I have only ever had one formal mentor. On reflection, this is not so. When I worked as a volunteer tour guide at the Burrell Collection, I was assigned to one of the existing tour guides for training and advice. I attended six of his tours, and tours given by other guides, before putting together my own tour, and having my mentor, for so he became throughout my time as a tour guide, look it over as a peer reviewer. My general horror of public speaking was my main reason for becoming a tour guide – I felt that I could better overcome my fear in such a familiar atmosphere – and with the support of my primary mentor, and the other guides, I learned how to prepare a tour to alleviate these concerns, and I learned how to use my personality to relax the visitors and to make the experience less daunting for myself.
Turning again to the subtitle of this blog – “this is the life you lead when you can’t choose between librarianship and research” – it should come as no surprise that I have maintained links with various academic mentors from various stages of my academic career. One of these – Dr Jim Simpson, in the French department at Glasgow Uiversity – I have known since I was a scaredy-cat fresher, and he is more a friend now, for all that he still gives me good advice on the subject of all things medieval French literature and comes up with excellent references for further reading. During my MPhil in Medieval and Renaissance Studies, he was one of my supervisors, but I also had the opportunity to repay in a very small manner his support of me by proofreading and editing some chapters of his 2007 monograph Troubling Arthurian Histories: Court Culture, Performance and Scandal in Chrétien de Troyes’s Erec et Enide (Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2007), ISBN 978-3-03911-385-9.
I would not dare to suggest that such small acts of assistance make me a mentor, but what of hte future? I became a librarian in no small part because of my love of the research process, and a significant part of my personal vocation as librarian is to teach others to find that same joy. In my current role, I have developed a year-round user education scheme which culnminates in a series of appointments with individual students to discuss resources particularly suited to their dissertation topic. The various sessions leading up to these appointments give me the opportunity to develop a rapport with students, to show to them how the Library may help them, and thus – quoting again from Meg – to take an active interest in [their academic] career … by sharing advice and knowledge”.
I will not yet offer my services as a formal mentor. Firstly, I must complete my Chartership with the supoort of my own mentor, secondly, I must mentor myself for a while, through various research projects and life in general, and thirdly, I need to begin to acquaint myself with the reams of writing on mentoring. I also think that I need more specific mentoring in the particular areas of librarianship in which I plan to develop my skills and career.
A final note: I have family visiting for the next few days, and while I plan to keep up my commitment to Blogtoberfest 2012, it is likely that my daily posts will be rather short. Pray contain your grief and I will be back in more detail next week.
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