Michigan Library Association Mentor Program

The goal of MLA’s Mentor Program is to support career development by providing encouragement, support and guidance to library science students, early-career librarians, mid-career staff looking to advance within their field or library staff looking to transition into another position.

Review the information provided below then click the "Mentor Application" or "Mentee Application" link in the navigation box to the left to get started. Questions can be directed to MLA@milibraries.org or (517) 394-2774.

Table of Contents

A.  Program Description
B.  What is a Mentor?
C.  What is a Mentee?
D.  The Matching Process
E.  Time Line
F.  Annual Conference Programming
G.  Required Activities for Mentors and Mentees
I.   Program Evaluation


A.  Program Description

The MLA Mentor Program has been established in order to provide a method of introducing and encouraging librarians and other library professionals to work together and network within the community. Mentors are current members of the association who have agreed to help other members learn about the profession in general and guide mentees with their future goals. The development of a relationship between the mentor and mentee is one of the many benefits of the MLA Mentor Program.

Michigan Library Association will pair mentors with their mentee. Mentors will be provided an email address for their mentee in order to make first contact. Mentees will be provided the contact information for their mentor to facilitate the introductory process.

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B.  What is a Mentor?

An MLA mentor is an experienced person who willingly provides professional and useful advice to librarians, library science students or other library professionals in order for him/her to achieve success in his/her position or profession.

1.    Must be an MLA member
2.    Five plus (5+) years of professional library experience
3.    Have a strong interest in professional development
4.    Desire an opportunity to give back to the library community
5.    Minimum commitment to the MLA Mentor Program of 3 months
6.    Willingness to communicate with mentee as often as necessary

1.    To serve as a guide, sharing professional experiences, triumphs and struggles
2.    To listen, answer questions and offer tips and suggestions for action
3.    Provide feedback to the mentee regarding his/her strengths and development needs
4.    Be a sounding board for ideas
5.    Assist in setting goals

1.    Share knowledge and experience
2.    Assist in the growth and education of library professionals
3.    Gain insights to new and cutting edge librarianship from new graduates
4.    Give back what has been gained
5.    Practice problem solving and listening skills
6.    Collaborate with others who have similar career goals, interest and job functions
7.    Strengthen your coaching and leadership skills by working with individuals from different backgrounds and with different personality types.

1.    Clarify expectations with the mentee as to the extent to which you will offer guidance
2.    Become familiar with the mentee
3.    Introduce the mentee to other professionals
4.    Share pertinent information and email messages
5.    Be honest and professional in all interactions with mentee by following the ALA Code of Ethics
6.    Submit an evaluation after each phase of the MLA Mentor Program

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C.  What is a Mentee?

An MLA mentee or person being mentored is a library professional or a library science student seeking professional advice and guidance from an experienced library professional in order to achieve success in his/her new position or profession.

1.    Must be an MLA Member
2.    Be a library professional or library science student
3.    Have a strong interest in professional development
4.    Listens critically and objectively to feedback received
5.    Minimum commitment to the MLA Mentor Program of 3 months
6.    Willingness to communicate with mentor as often as necessary

1.    Practice problem solving and listening skills
2.    Meet colleagues with varied experiences, skills and contacts
3.    Network with others in your field from various places
4.    Build leadership skills

1.    Communicate effectively with mentor
2.    Take initiative and seek professional advice from the mentor when needed
3.    Know and be able to discuss your needs and objectives with mentor
4.    Take responsibility for your career goals
5.    Receive feedback from mentor objectively
6.    Submit an evaluation after each phase of the MLA Mentor Program

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D.  The Matching Process

In order to run a successful program, matching of mentors and mentees must be done with care. This is the first step in an effective relationship. MLA will utilize the information provided on the mentor and mentee applications to make thoughtful and informed matches.

Program applicants should be aware that time is an important factor in finding the right match. If a suitable mentor or mentee is not immediately available, your application will be kept on file for one year. If by that time you have not been suitably matched, MLA will contact you to determine if you are still interested in the program. If so, a new application should be filed.

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E.  Time Line

The MLA Mentor Program is a pilot program and subject to alterations when needed. There is a three month minimum commitment with a formal end to the relationship at the one year mark.

The MLA Mentor Program is comprised of three phases including:

Phase I – Initial contact through three months
This is a probationary period of your relationship where both parties begin communication and setup goals and objectives for the individual process. A formal survey will be sent to both parties at the three month mark where you may decide whether or not to continue the relationship.

Phase II – Three months through six months
Additional tools, tips and resources are provided by MLA to help strengthen your relationship. A formal survey will be sent to both parties at the six month mark where input on the program is gathered.

Phase III – Six months through one year
The goals and objectives of your relationship are fulfilled. A final formal survey will be sent at the one year mark to gather information about your relationship and the MLA Mentoring Program. One year marks the end of the formal relationship.

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F.  Annual Conference Programming

Participants of the MLA Mentor Program and those interested in joining are encouraged to attend MLA’s Annual Conference for continued learning and networking opportunities. Each year mentoring themed events will be hosted to help continue the mentor/mentee relationships and grow new professional contacts. Continue to check MLA’s website for updated information.

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G.  Required Activities for Mentors and Mentees

Develop program goals and objectives
1.    Each pair will define their own goals and objectives at the beginning of their mentoring relationship
2.    Establish a communication plan that both parties are willing to follow
3.    Complete phase I of the relationship and submit the formal evaluation. If both parties agree to continue, complete phases II and III.
4.    Activities specific to mentee’s professional goals and interests

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What is mentoring?
•    Listening
•    Volunteering
•    Supporting and Caring
•    Developing
•    Encouraging
•    Partnership

What is not mentoring?
•    Spending more time than you have
•    Just advising
•    Criticizing
•    Rescuing
•    A lengthy and exhausting relationship
•    Reserved for experts
•    Hard Work

Why have an MLA mentor?
Mentors play a significant role in the lives of developing professionals by serving as a teacher, coach, counselor and role model. They provide feedback and encouragement, offer professional advice and help others make connections between their present performance and their future.

What are the starting and ending dates of the program?
You can become part of the MLA Mentor Program at any time. It requires a minimum three month commitment with a maximum one year formal relationship.

Who can be an MLA Mentor?
Any library professional with more than five year experience who is a member of MLA can be a mentor.

Who can be an MLA Mentee?
Any library professional or library science student who is a member of MLA can be a mentee.

Is there a fee?
No, there is no fee to join the MLA Mentor Program.

Who do I contact for more information on the MLA Mentor Program?
Michigan Library Association
Director of Professional Development and Meeting Planning
3410 Belle Chase Way, Suite 100
Lansing, MI 48911

How do I apply for the MLA Mentor Program?
Complete the mentor or mentee application on the MLA website at www.milibraries.org.

After I apply for the MLA Mentor Program, who will contact me?
After your application has been received and evaluated, you will be contacted by MLA to confirm your acceptance into the program. Once a potential match is identified based on areas of librarianship and interests as described on the applications, the mentor will contact the mentee via email. No match between mentor and mentee is complete until both parties agree that they are comfortable with each other.

What if I’m not comfortable with my proposed mentor or mentee?
Please tell us!  The purpose of your first interactions are to see whether the two of you are compatible – the match won’t be finalized until you have both approved it. Tell us frankly if things aren’t working the way you had hoped. If you haven’t talked directly with your mentor or mentee about issues that are causing disagreement, do so. Often it will be a question of miscommunication that can be cleared up through open conversation. The next step would be to talk directly with MLA to discuss your options.

I have never been a mentor before; do you offer any training for me?
On the MLA website (www.milibraries.org) under the “Career Development” tab, Mentoring Program menu, you will find a list of resources that will help you find out more about mentoring. If you still have questions after reading the material, please contact MLA.

What if I cannot answer the mentee’s questions?
Some questions posed to you by your mentee might not be in your field of interest or within your scope of knowledge. When this situation arises, we encourage you to share this with the mentee and forward their question to MLA. Notify the mentee that their question has been forwarded and that they will be contacted by MLA soon.

What will my mentor do for me?
It is up to the mentee to take the initiative to make the MLA Mentor Program a successful experience. Mentors offer information, support, feedback, contacts and ideas – but the mentee has to take it from there.

What types of things should I ask my mentor?
The types of questions asked vary and there are no right or wrong questions to ask. When you first meet you mentor, ground rules should be set so that each individual in the relationship is comfortable sharing information. As a general rule of thumb, if you are not comfortable asking a question or sharing certain information, don’t!

Are mentoring connections confidential?
In order to foster open and honest communication, the mentee must be able to trust the mentor not to disclose their discussions with others. Therefore, communication between the mentee and mentor will be kept confidential.

How often should I meet with my mentor or mentee?
The meeting frequency will vary depending on the needs of the pair. Meeting methods and content will also depend on individual needs and preferences – face to face, email, reviewing documents, giving feedback, etc. This is something the mentor and mentee should agree on at the onset.

Is my mentor available any time day or night?
Your mentor’s availability and the best times and methods of getting in touch with him/her are items to discuss during your first meetings. You and your mentor should share your communication styles and specifications to ensure you have the best communication possible and set expectations in that area of your relationship.

Who can I go to if I have questions about the effectiveness of my mentor or the program?
Contact MLA with any questions or concerns. MLA will follow up periodically with both mentors and mentees to inquire how the relationship is progressing.

Are there certain things I should or should not do as a mentor or mentee?
Always be open, honest and respectful with your mentor or mentee and the relationship and work you are doing together.

If I lost my mentor’s or mentee’s contact information. How can I obtain it?
Contact MLA for all contact information.

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I.  Program Evaluation

Each pair will define their own goals and be given the opportunity to evaluate their relationship following each phase. MLA will provide support by checking in often with the mentor and mentee and will also offer resources when needed. A final evaluation will be sent at the conclusion of the formal relationship.

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