Stephanie Bennett 2016-09-26 12:59:12
As a young kid, I spent most of my time trying to imitate my older brothers. When I went to college, I learned that I could adapt others’ admirable traits while not ceding my personality. By the time I entered graduate school for my degree in library science, I had learned what the support of a manager or mentor who invests in you—and, unfortunately, the reverse—felt and looked like. And I needed support early in my career! I knew very little about the field. In advance of graduate school, wondering if I should pursue conservation, I asked my first archives mentor, the late Kathryn Hammond Baker (of the Countway Medical Library at Harvard University), what preservation actually was. I’m very grateful to her and my other early mentors, even for the advice I did not take. Though I am still early in my career, I’m mindful of how the knowledge and experiences that I’ve acquired as a full-time archivist may be useful to those new to the archival profession. I have adopted mentors and acted as a mentor through networking connections, but I’ve also benefited from SAA’s Mentoring Program both as a protégé and as a mentor. Growing into the Profession When I entered SAA’s Mentoring Program, I was exploring a number of professional concerns. I was seeking permanent employment in affordable areas close to loved ones. A recent graduate, I was working on how to be an archivist instead of a hungry archives student. I was curious about applying to and being successful in faculty positions. I saw many respected peers taking on SAA service and wondered what that entailed. Though I had great archivists in my life, I wanted a dedicated mentor relationship, so I went through SAA. I had heard mixed experiences from other participants, but it seemed like a good first step. My mentor, Anne Thomason, who is now the archivist and librarian for Special Collections at Lake Forest College, was more helpful than I imagined possible. Though we were in the same geographic region, we were still a bit far away. Our contact was mostly via email; however, we were able to meet at the SAA Annual Meeting. Through our online and in-person communication, Anne offered advice and support on job hunting and post-school education, provided insight into SAA’s structure and involvement opportunities, and listened to and commiserated with me. As with so many problems, being heard is a wonderful gift—and Anne provided useful suggestions and information. Although my mentoring relationship with Anne ended after one year, our link continues. I’m always glad to see her at conferences when we cross paths. I no longer email her with long lists of questions; instead she has become a friendly face in the crowd and a fun person with whom to touch base. Paying It Forward Now, after having been the protégé in many mentoring relationships, I mentor newer archivists through SAA’s Mentoring Program. I do my best to replicate the lessons of my mentors and dole out listening, encouragement, and advice in generous measures. As is often repeated in articles about mentoring, the benefits of our time together outweigh the admittedly minimal time commitment. Our conversations educate me on the challenges and questions of new and job-seeking archivists. I have an opportunity to grow mentoring and supervisory skills. Since my work often focuses on policies and processing, it’s nice to connect with a colleague. I recognize that mentoring relationships, much like the humans who participate in them, are not perfect. SAA’s nationwide program, for example, restricts a pair’s ability to meet in person, and a mentor or protégé may not have financial support or the release time to attend the SAA Annual Meeting. In addition, being involved in the mentoring program requires the cost of an SAA membership. The student membership fee is small in relation to the benefits, but $52 is not inconsequential for students. On the other hand, a national program has many benefits. A protégé can benefit from a mentor in a locale to which she plans to move, and I’ve enjoyed meeting people whom I wouldn’t typically meet at regional conferences or even SAA’s Annual Meeting. A larger pool of mentors and protégés also provides more opportunities for successful matches. By participating in SAA’s Mentoring Program, I’m helping others through those first obstacles I encountered while continuing to improve my own skills and connections. Video-chat mentoring conversations, coming soon! Interested in being a mentor or protégé? Visit www2.archivists.org/membership/mentoring for more information.
Published by Society of American Archivists. View All Articles.
This page can be found at http://www.bluetoad.com/article/From+Protege+To+Mentor/2595421/341966/article.html.