The Role of the Institutional Mentor

The Minnesota Institute for Early Career Librarians introduces participants to key concepts in the practice of academic library leadership during an immersive one-week event. Institute planners and faculty realize that it takes more than one week to assimilate and test new ideas in practice. For this reason, we request that the participant have a mentor within their home institution. The person in the mentoring role will have several responsibilities: to continue to challenge the participant by holding active discussions on the topics introduced in the Institute, by introducing new related materials, by connecting the participant with the mentor's own network where appropriate, and by actively listening to the mentee. The mentor should be willing to make time for conversations with the mentee on at least a monthly basis.

One question we often hear is whether or not the mentor should be the direct supervisor of the mentee. While we have no hard and fast rule about this, we recommend that the mentor be someone other than the mentee's direct supervisor to minimize confusion over the difference between coaching (a supervisor's role) and helping (the mentor's role).

Quick Mentoring Tips:

  • Create a schedule for conversations; a minimum of a monthly conversation is recommended
  • Ask your mentee what they would like to focus on
  • Ask your mentee what their greatest strength is and work with them to leverage the application of their strengths
  • Know the difference between advice and helping — clarify with your mentee if they need/want advice or if they want help thinking through something. Both are valid but not interchangeable.
  • Help your mentee test their assumptions that undergird their opinions; do this by testing your own opinions
  • Provide your mentee with interesting and thought-provoking readings and ask them to bring forward things they find interesting and challenging
  • Extend your own network to your mentee when/where appropriate
  • Evaluate how the mentor-mentee relationship is going by planning a 3-month and 6-month joint assessment
  • Assure your mentee that your conversations are respected as confidential

Institutional mentors will be supported through access to one or two of the Institute faculty from whom they can get advice and guidance.