Things 10 and 11: Professional Training and Mentoring

Although I earned my MLS over thirty years ago, some memories associated with that endeavor remain rather vivid.  My undergraduate degree was in the liberal arts — I chose to pursue my interests, not “what degree will guarantee me a job?”  Of course I no sooner graduated than the job market shifted and employers wanted individuals with a background in business or some variant of computer science. Consequently, I opted to go straight to grad school.  Through high school and early in college, I’d been encouraged to pursue becoming a librarian “because I would be good at it.”

Library school was quite the culture shock largely because I was in the minority — few of my classmates were students coming straight from their undergraduate program and I was very much out of place. I also didn’t have a clue about what kind of librarianship I wanted to pursue.

My first position was in a one-person, specialized library and that’s where I think I really learned the most.  None of my courses prepared me for working in a specialized library but the foundational skills of how to approach and use reference tools, and unfamiliar resources, how to listen and respond to patrons and various management concepts all were “road-tested”  and my real education as a librarian began.

Although I worked in an academic library before making a career shift, in reflecting on my style and skills as a librarian, I’ve concluded that I’m one of those “odd” folks whose strengths and skills are best suited for smaller, preferably one-person libraries, or a specialized library. This kind of library service is not for everyone. Having this kind of self-awareness is a very comfortable feeling.

The UK model of graduate traineeships and the chartership model all make a good deal of sense. I know I would have benefited immensely from something like this.

I’ve not had a formal mentorship and yet, a college professor informally mentored me and helped me in numerous was to grow in confidence and skill.  His investment of interest in my future was a priceless gift.  There are those in my current work environment that are on my personal radar and I learn much from them by observation.  Good role models  can be as valuable as a mentor.

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