Starting a Mentoring Program for Academic Librarians: ACRL/NY

Members of the executive board of The Greater New York Metropolitan Area Chapter of ACRL had been talking about starting a mentoring program for several years, and we finally did it.

The New York City Area is home to four library schools and numerous academic institutions. Our chapter had already started up a New Librarians Discussion Group which offered programs and meetings and events geared for new(er) librarians and library school students, but we also realized that we had a wealth of resources in our members and librarians working in the NYC area who were eager to give back to the profession and support new librarians and library schools students by sharing their knowledge and experience and advice. Here is what we did:

We formed an ad hoc committee to research mentoring programs from other ACRL chapters and other organizations; we set out to define our program by writing a mission and coming up with guidelines for the initial run; we created application forms for mentors and mentees and sent out information about the program, and requests to apply, to various email lists and social media platforms. This is the mission of our program:

The ACRL/NY Mentoring Program contributes to the professional development of academic librarians by pairing experienced academic librarians with recent LIS graduates and/or those new to the field. The program creates a formal and informal forum for the exchange of ideas between paired mentors and mentees, provides them with opportunities for a shared learning experience, and makes available the benefits of networking within the academic librarian community.

We left the application period open for about a month and after we received a good number of applications (more than we imagined we would get!) we paired up mentees with mentors based on goals and experience and the needs of the mentee. The initial round (with twenty participants) started in January 2012 and ends in June 2012. Our next round will go throughout the academic year, September 2012 through May 2013.

Once a month, the coordinator of the program emails the participants a reminder to connect with one another. This email also contains a discussion topic to kick start communication. Some of our recent topics: keeping-up-to-date, networking, leadership, and online identities. We encourage the pairs to meet in person and to attend other ACRL/NY events such as discussion group meetings, but we understand that it may be difficult to actually make this happen. So, communication between mentor and mentee is primarily by email or by phone.
The Mentoring Program, along with the New Librarians Discussion Group, held a joint meeting on May 19, where we discussed the mentoring experience. Attendees included a library school director, a retired librarian, librarians looking for jobs, librarians recently hired, and librarians serving as both mentees and mentors in the program. We brainstormed ideas for offering more services and resources for new librarians, for doing more outreach to library schools, and we came up with a list of ideas of programs and events geared for new librarians.

We look forward to evaluating, developing and expanding our program, and we expect that it will continue to change as the needs of our participants and members change.


Susanne Markgren
ACRL/NY Mentoring Program Coordinator

Mentoring Program