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Abstract

In library and information science (LIS), mentoring is often viewed as a significant influence on student choices and professional career directions. Most mentoring programs are built around the idea of a ‘seasoned’ or experienced professional working with an individual who is new to the profession. There is a common assumption of the mentoring process being a primarily one-way relationship – with the mentor sharing knowledge with a mentee. However, in our recent research, it is clear that mentoring is often seen as a much more reciprocal relationship. What does this mean for how we, as a profession, should try to create mentoring opportunities?
Pre-print: Hussey, L. K., & Campbell-Meier, J. (2017). Is There a Mentoring Culture Within the LIS
Profession?. Journal of Library Administration
, 57
(5), 500-516.
Introduction
By working in this smaller library, I got to see so much and I actually really liked it…so
my boss talked me into staying one semester after I graduated because she was…sort
of transitioning. On my last days I was like, I’m really sad I’m not going to be working in
the library anymore. And she said, “Oh, you really liked it?” I really, really enjoyed
working here and what I was doing. And you know, she said, “If you really like it, you
should think about going to library school”…I never really thought about what you have
to do to become a librarian…I guess I just didn’t know, I thought you could say, oh, I just
want to be a librarian and I never really thought about it. And so, when she told me about
library school I thought oh, I should find out more about this.
In library and information science (LIS), mentoring is often viewed as a significant influence on
student choices and professional career directions. Most of the professional organizations have
formal mentoring programs for new professionals and current students. And, in addition to the
formal programs, many LIS students and professionals develop informal or situational mentoring
relationships. Most mentoring programs are built around the idea of a ‘seasoned’ or experienced
professional working with an individual who is new to the profession. Many mentoring programs
focus on goals and sharing the cultural values of a workplace and may be classified as
short-term. The mentoring process may also include assisting someone through a career
development process, such as promotions, tenure, or an initial career search. However, despite
the significant presence of mentoring within the LIS professions, there is not a widely accepted
definition. Some mentoring programs seem to be more about short-term coaching or perhaps
even a one-time interaction focused on a specific goal.
Yet, within this discussion, there is a common assumption of mentoring process being a
primarily one-way relationship, the mentor sharing knowledge with a mentee. However, in our
recent research, it is clear that mentoring is often seen as a much more reciprocal relationship,
where both participants benefit from each other’s knowledge and experience. What does this
mean for how we as a profession should try to create mentoring opportunities?
Mentoring
While there is not one standard definition of mentoring, there are common ideas and concepts
that underlie most understandings of the term. Using a dictionary definition, a mentoring is the
process of teaching, advising, and/or providing guidance to someone less experienced or
younger (Mentoring, n.d.). Mentoring often includes an “employee training system under which
Pre-print: Hussey, L. K., & Campbell-Meier, J. (2017). Is There a Mentoring Culture Within the LIS
Profession?. Journal of Library Administration
, 57
(5), 500-516.
a senior or more experienced individual (mentor) is assigned to act as an advisor, counselor, or
guide to a junior trainee” including providing “feedback and support” for the mentee (Mentor,
n.d.). “In the conventional mentoring relationship, an older and more experienced mentor
passes on skills, advice, and institutional knowledge to a younger and less experienced
mentee.” (Neyer & Yelenick, p. 215). Within this basic concept, a mentor is always a more
experienced individual who can provide support in the development of another. Yet, this model
is limited to a unidirectional relationship in order to development the mentee, a “single dyadic
relationship” (Higgins, et al., p. 264).
However, mentoring is not always perceived as only beneficial to the mentee. According to
Blackwell Handbook of Mentoring (2007), the relationship between a mentor and mentee is a
learning partnership, one that is reciprocal, yet asymmetrical. It is a dynamic process, where the
relationship changes over time, as does the learning between the mentor and mentee.
Additionally, mentors are not always the most senior individuals, but rather those who are “up to
date on recent technological developments, operating on the edge of what is known, and having
the flexibility to learn by consulting a variety of people” tend to be the most significant
contributors to mentoring (Higgins, et. al., p. 267).
When all of this is considered, mentoring is much more complex than just an experienced
individual providing guidance for a younger or inexperienced person. It is a relationship, one that
is often personal, even in a professional setting. At its heart, mentoring is “a mutually enhancing
relationship for both the mentor and [mentee]” (Hicks, 67) in which the mentee is able to
develop their skills and confidence while the mentor is able to satisfy “important generative
needs and also have the opportunity to review and reappraise the past” (Kram, 609) by working
with another who is going through the developmental stages. Mentoring also “provides a
mechanism for knowledge transfer” (Robeloth et al, p. 4), which is beneficial for the
organization, as well as the mentor and mentee.
It is also important to note the terminology used when describing mentoring and those being
mentored. At one time it was popular to use terms like protégé to describe mentees, particularly
in for-profit business. Simply defined, a protégé is an inexperienced or young individual who is
taught and helped by one with more experience. However, a protégé is also an individual who is
“protected or trained or whose career is furthered by a person of experience, prominence, or
influence” (Protégé, n.d.). The implication is that a protégé is expected to be molded, not
developed by a mentor or “person of influence” for a specific career goal. The power dynamic
between a mentor and protégé is clearly unidirectional. In comparison, mentees expected
guidance and development, a much more flexible and dynamic relationship. A mentor and
mentee have the possibility of a reciprocal relationship with mutual learning.
Mentoring in the LIS Literature
Pre-print: Hussey, L. K., & Campbell-Meier, J. (2017). Is There a Mentoring Culture Within the LIS
Profession?. Journal of Library Administration
, 57
(5), 500-516.
Mentoring is often mentioned as essential, or at least important, to professional development.
“Mentoring relationships are often thought of a way to pass along vital skills to new librarians
that traditional LIS education cannot offer” (Hicks, p. 66). As with other disciplines, most LIS
professional literature discusses mentoring in reference to newly graduated professionals, or
younger, in terms of time in the profession, individuals with new responsibilities. Within this wide
range of literature, mentoring is generally defined in terms of a senior professional providing
support to younger professionals. Mentors are usually seen as “several years older a person of
greater experience and seniority” and someone who will act as a sponsor or advisor. (Higgins &
Kram, 264). The mentoring relationship is expected to include “the sharing of knowledge and
experience, a willingness to listen and nurture, and a mutual desire for the mentee [protégé’s]
success” (Goodsett & Walsh, 2015). These expectations are divided into two types of support:
professional development and personal growth (Ragins & Cotton, 1999). “Career functions
include sponsorship, exposure and visibility, coaching, and challenging assignments.
Psychological functions include role modeling, acceptance and confirmation, counseling, and
friendship” (Hicks, p.70).
Career functions are generally the most often researched and discussed aspects of mentoring.
While researching mentoring in academic libraries, Neyer and Yelinck (2011) report that
librarians “value mentoring to improve their job performance”(220). As an information
professional, “having a mentor is recognized as beneficial” (Vertone, 28), someone who can
“help develop a mentee’s career”(Neyer & Yelenick, 216). Professional and/or career
development within the mentoring relationship involves “sponsoring promotions and lateral
moves (sponsorship); coaching the protégé (coaching); protecting the protégé from adverse
forces (protection); providing challenging assignments (challenging assignments); and
increasing the protégé’s exposure and visibility” (Ragins & Cotton, 530). In career development,
mentors are often identified as role models for mentees. Mentees in early career stages identify
individuals who help them “develop a sense of professional identity” by adapting the behaviors
and actions modeled by the mentor (Ragins & Cotton, 530).
Professional and career development role of mentors are also often considered supervisory and
management responsibilities. The important difference between mentors and supervisors
focuses accountability. Supervisors are accountable to the organization while mentors are
accountable to the relationship with the protégé (Hicks, 2011). In essence, this implies that
Pre-print: Hussey, L. K., & Campbell-Meier, J. (2017). Is There a Mentoring Culture Within the LIS
Profession?. Journal of Library Administration
, 57
(5), 500-516.
supervisors cannot act as mentors, yet by the definition of a mentor, there is an expectation that
mentors will hold positions of influence over their protégés.
Mentoring responsibilities, however, do not always just focus on career development. In addition
to professional goals, mentors also provide psychosocial support, such as the development of
“professional self (acceptance and confirmation), providing problem solving and a sounding
board (counseling), giving respect and support (friendship), and providing identification and role
modeling (role modeling)” (Ragins & Cotton, 530). With this support from mentors, mentees
develop and improve their sense of self efficacy, competence, and self-esteem. This can be as
valuable as career support and may in fact encourage professional development. However,
psychosocial support requires a certain level of intimacy and a deeper relationship than only
providing career advice.
The level of trust and intimacy shared in mentoring relationships can depend on a few factors,
including whether or not the mentoring relationship is initiated through formal or informal means.
Ideally, mentees benefit equally from both types of programs, but research has shown that there
are significant differences between formal and informal mentoring relationships. Formal
relationships are often of a shorter duration (Ragins & Cotton) and are often based around
specific goals. In formal mentoring programs, mentors are selected based on perceived
competence, but not always from the mentee’s point of view (Ragins & Cotton). Mentors who
are part of formal mentoring programs often focus on the career development goals because
these are visible and measurable goals. This may lead to mismatches in expectations, goals,
and overall commitment.
In contrast, informal mentors do not face the same level of recognition or scrutiny as formal
mentors. Informal mentoring relationships tend to “develop on the basis of perceived
competence and interpersonal comfort” (Ragins & Cotton, 530). There is little to no structure for
informal mentoring as it generally develops through “personal relationships or social networks”
which can be problematic if a mentee does not have access to good potential mentors
(Robbelth, 2). Informal mentoring often requires a proactive approach by the mentee. The
implication is that more successful mentees are those who seek out mentors and who can
identify with a more experienced professional.
Pre-print: Hussey, L. K., & Campbell-Meier, J. (2017). Is There a Mentoring Culture Within the LIS
Profession?. Journal of Library Administration
, 57
(5), 500-516.
Despite the generally positive view of mentoring, the process may also be seen as a burden by
those expected to mentor. In the past, LIS mentoring programs have had “problems matching
mentor and mentee appropriately, finding enough mentors, and ensuring that the participants
had realistic goals and spent time on the mentoring relationship” (Neyer & Yelenick, 216). There
have also been concerns over sustainability (Smigielski). It is also important to recognize that
the creation of mentoring relationships often are strongly influenced by the participants’ gender,
race, and sexual orientation, as well as the mentee’s own locus of control (Higgins & Kram,
2001). Given that the vast majority of LIS professionals are white women, it may be challenging
for those outside of this group to identify potential mentors.
However, despite the concerns and challenges, mentoring is highly valued in the LIS
professions. Many have reported that the mentoring relationships benefited them, both as a
mentor and a mentee (Neyer & Yelenick, Robbeloth, Ross). Librarians have reported “increased
job satisfaction and job performance” after being mentored, while mentors comment on a
renewed sense of “commitment and interest in the profession” (Neyer & Yelenick, 220-221).
Methodology
A survey was developed to gauge the mentoring experiences of information professions in
North America. The survey focused on the individual’s perceived mentoring, rather than
examining mentoring dyads, in order to capture informal as well as formal mentoring
relationships. An informal relationship may be viewed mentoring by one participant, but not the
other. Based on the work of Kram (1985); Ragins and Kram (2007), the survey asked
participants about the types of mentoring relationships and mentoring activities that were part of
perceived mentoring relationships. Participants were also asked specifically about career
mentoring functions as well as psychosocial functions identifying specific behaviors mentors
used to support mentees (Kram, 1985; Dougherty and Dreher, 2007). Psychosocial functions
include contextual factors of mentoring in both informal and formal programs and include
relationships based on gender, race, peer relationships, and role modeling. In addition,
participants were asked if they considered themselves mentors. Those who self-identified as a
mentor were asked why they mentor in an open ended question as well as questions about the
types of mentoring with which they were involved.
The survey was distributed via email lists, social media, and at conferences for information
professionals primarily in the United States and Canada. With a large number of information
professionals and professional associations, survey invitations were sent to email lists
associated with the American Library Association, the Special Libraries Association, the
Pre-print: Hussey, L. K., & Campbell-Meier, J. (2017). Is There a Mentoring Culture Within the LIS
Profession?. Journal of Library Administration
, 57
(5), 500-516.
Association for Information Science & Technology (ASIS&T), and the Association for Library
and Information Science Education (ALISE). The researchers used their social networks and the
networks of other information professions to reach professionals in school libraries and
archives. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and GooglePlus were used to expand access to the
survey to participants not actively engaged with organizational email lists. Posts were retweeted
and shared by colleagues and reposted by participants to state and regional email lists, like the
Alaska Library Association, for information professionals in the United States and Canada. This
allowed the survey invitation to be shared with participants who were members of closed or
private communities.
The survey was taken by more than 700 information professionals, and includes responses
from MLIS students, information professionals with and without an MLIS or an equivalent, as
well as LIS educators, and retired professionals. Please note, participants were not required to
answer every question. The number of responses (N) will be noted for each question.Open
ended responses were coded collaboratively by the researchers. Codes were developed from
themes developed through the analysis, using a grounded approach. The researchers reviewed
data and identified observable trends that could be used for coding. Word frequency analysis
was employed to identify patterns or usage the researchers may have missed. After discussion,
the trend topics were used to sort data for theme development. The trend topics either became
themes or were grouped together within a theme, for example responses that discussed
mentoring in terms of happiness or pleasure were combined within other intangible concepts
like satisfaction as an intrinsic benefit. The themes were developed through three rounds of
review by the researchers. A small number of responses were placed in 2 categories when the
researchers could not come to an agreement..
Do you have an MLIS or its equivalent? (N=738)
Yes
630 (85.37%)
No
16 (2.17%)
I am currently enrolled in a MLIS program
92 (12.47%)
Those with an MLIS or its equivalent self identified their current employment status. The majority
of participants (499) are working full-time within the profession.
What is your current employment status (N=641)*
Full-time as an LIS
professional**
499
77.8%
Part-time as an LIS
34
5.3%
Pre-print: Hussey, L. K., & Campbell-Meier, J. (2017). Is There a Mentoring Culture Within the LIS
Profession?. Journal of Library Administration
, 57
(5), 500-516.
professional
Full-time in another field
31
4.8%
LIS Educator (Professor/Director/Dean)
18
2.8%
Unemployed
18
2.8%
Retired
15
2.3%
Doctoral Student
10
1.6%
Staff
7
1.1%
Part-time in another field
3
0.5%
Student
3
0.5%
Other (Not Specified)
3
0.5%
*Does not include participants who identified as MLIS students over staff or participants who
chose not to answer
** Includes Archivists
The survey also included responses from LIS educators, students and retirees.
Results
Participants self-selected to engage with the research. As such, a majority of participants
identified an LIS mentor (Table). Participants engaged in a variety of mentoring relationships,
however, most participants identified organizational mentoring experiences (supervisory, peer,
situational).
Have you been mentored by a LIS professional? (check all that apply) (N=653)
Librarians and Archivists (not a
supervisor)
330
50.53%
Supervising Librarian or Archivist
278
42.57%
Director
215
32.92%
LIS Educator
193
29.56%
Co-worker/Colleague with MLIS
128
19.60%
Pre-print: Hussey, L. K., & Campbell-Meier, J. (2017). Is There a Mentoring Culture Within the LIS
Profession?. Journal of Library Administration
, 57
(5), 500-516.
Friend or Relative with a MLIS
108
16.54%
I have not been mentored
104
15.93%
Other
55
8.42%
Many participants noted additional mentors or clarified responses in the Other field. Most
participants noted mentoring within the workplace and among peers. They also used the field to
highlight the mentoring programs facilitated by professional organizations, like ACRL and SLA.
Professors were also identified as mentors, though it was not always clear whether the
professors were LIS educators or from previous degree programs. Archivists were also
identified or specified in Other and were added to Librarian or Archivist if not already chosen.
Museum and IT professionals were identified in several cases as well. Several participants
noted in Other that they had not been formally mentored, but did have informal mentors or role
models. (Table).
Which of the following options best describe your mentoring relationship(s)? (Check all that
apply) (N=534)
Supervisory (advisor or direct
supervisor as mentor)
60.67%
324
Natural (initiated by mentor
reaching out)
51.87%
277
Peer (individuals at the same
level providing skill training, in
similar positions, or in similar
stage of career)
49.81%
266
Situational (mentoring for a
specific purpose, generally
short-term)
47.94%
256
Formal (structured program)
38.39%
205
Mentee initiated (you interact
with a chosen mentor)
37.83%
202
Other (please specify)
4.12%
22
It is interesting to note that while 60.67% of participants identified participating in mentoring that
was Supervisory, formal mentoring programs were not widely identified. Participants noted in
Pre-print: Hussey, L. K., & Campbell-Meier, J. (2017). Is There a Mentoring Culture Within the LIS
Profession?. Journal of Library Administration
, 57
(5), 500-516.
the Other category that they were involved in informal peer mentoring. It was also noted that
MLIS and doctoral programs provided mentoring networks that participants still turned to for
advice. Two participants noted that the formal programs they were involved with were race
based, a psychosocial function on mentoring that was not specifically addressed in the survey.
To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements about your mentor(s)?
l
Not
Applicabl
e
Strongly
Disagree
Disagree
Neutral
Agree
Strongly
Agree
Total
My
mentor
helped
me plan
my
career
2.62%
(14)
3.37%
(18)
10.67%
(57)
16.48%
(88)
37.08%
(198)
29.78%
(159)
534
My
mentor
assisted
me in
learning
the
technical
aspects
of my job
5.83%
(31)
3.95%
(21)
9.48%
(48)
13.91%
(74)
35.15%
(187)
32.14%
(171)
532
My
mentor
introduce
d me to
important
people
3.36%
(18)
2.62%
(14)
7.48%
(40)
18.13%
(97)
29.16%
(156)
39.25%
(210)
353
My
mentor
gave me
feedback
regarding
my work
3.00 (16)
1.87%
(10)
3.00%
(16)
9.18%
(49)
35.96%
(192)
47.00%
(251)
534
My
mentor
genuinely
cared for
2.24%
(12)
1.31%
(7)
0.56%
(30
5.42%
(29)
28.04%
(150)
62.43%
(334)
535
Pre-print: Hussey, L. K., & Campbell-Meier, J. (2017). Is There a Mentoring Culture Within the LIS
Profession?. Journal of Library Administration
, 57
(5), 500-516.
me as a
person
My
mentor
provided
support
and
encourag
ement in
stressful
times
3.18% 17
1.31%
(7)
2.81%
(15)
12.17%
(65)
29.21%
(156)
51.31%
274
534
The mentors in this survey provided support and feedback for participants, important in
workplace mentoring. It is interesting to note that while a majority of participants agreed or
strongly agreed that career planning (66.86%) and introductions (68.41%) were roles their
mentor provide, more traditional roles like feedback (82.96%), caring (90.47%), and
encouraging (80.52%) were more strongly associated with the mentor relationships. Given that
participants identified mentors that were colleagues and supervisors, the relationships may
provide more support for the development of participants within an organization or workplace.
Mentoring
Participants working in LIS in LIS environments were asked if they considered themselves
mentors (Table). 65% of participants working in LIS environments consider themselves
mentors.
Yes
No
Total Number of Responses
402
214
616
Despite the fact that mentoring takes place both informally and formally and includes peer
mentoring as well as role modeling, only 65.26% of participants self-identified as mentors.
In an open ended question, participants were asked specifically why they mentored. 87% of
participants who identified as mentors responded to the open ended question. Responses were
coded into 9 categories developed through a grounded approach.
In order to gain additional perspective on the open ended responses, the authors employed
different visualization techniques for term frequencies.
Word Cloud of Terms used in open ended Questions
Pre-print: Hussey, L. K., & Campbell-Meier, J. (2017). Is There a Mentoring Culture Within the LIS
Profession?. Journal of Library Administration
, 57
(5), 500-516.
After examining terms and frequencies, the responses were coded into the following categories:
- To give back: specific language
- Helping to shape the future of the profession
- Share knowledge with other professionals
- Mentored / Not Mentored
- Intrinsic benefits / learning / self-development
- Professional responsibility
- Job requirement
Specific language was used by participants and was used to code the open ended responses
provided. “Giving back”, “paying forward”, and “shaping the future” were frequently identified.
Others was frequently used to identify assisting professionals and colleagues. It should be
noted that ‘new” was one of the the 20 most frequent terms, with many responses focused on
new members to the profession or organization.
Why do you mentor? (n=348)
Percentage
Number of Coded Responses
Share knowledge
19.83%
69
Intrinsic
19.25%
67
Shaping future
18.97%
66
Mentored
14.66%
51
Give back
12.36%
43
Job
6.61%
23
Professional responsibility
3.45%
12
Pre-print: Hussey, L. K., & Campbell-Meier, J. (2017). Is There a Mentoring Culture Within the LIS
Profession?. Journal of Library Administration
, 57
(5), 500-516.
Not mentored
2.87%
10
Other
2.30%
8
Participants that identified as mentors were also asked about to identify which mentoring
activities they engaged in with a mentee(s).
To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements about you as a mentor?
Not
Applicabl
e
Strongly
Disagree
Disagree
Neutral
Agree
Strongly
Agree
Total
I help
mentees
plan
careers
3.9%
(12)
1.33%
(5)
6.38%
(24)
16.96%
(60)
38.03%
(143)
35.11%
(132)
376
I assist
mentees
in
learning
the
technical
aspects
of jobs
2.66%
(10)
1.60%
(6)
6.12%
(23)
14.89%
(56)
41.22%
(155)
33.51%
(126)
376
I
introduce
mentees
to
important
people
2.40%
(9)
1.87%
(7)
4.53%
(17)
15.73%
(59)
42.93%
161
32.53%
(122)
375
I provide
feedback
regarding
mentee
work
3.73%
(14)
0.80%
(3)
4.00%
(15)
7.47%
(28)
41.87%
(157)
42.13%
(158)
375
I
genuinely
care for
my
mentees
as
2.65%
(10)
0.27%
(1)
0.00%
(0)
1.33%
(5)
20.16%
(76)
75.60%
(285)
377
Pre-print: Hussey, L. K., & Campbell-Meier, J. (2017). Is There a Mentoring Culture Within the LIS
Profession?. Journal of Library Administration
, 57
(5), 500-516.
people
I provide
support
and
encourag
ement to
mentees
in
stressful
times
1.85%
(7)
0.53%
(2)
0.26%
(1)
3.97%
(15)
29.37%
(111)
64.02%
(242)
378
Similar to the mentee view of mentor roles, a majority of mentors agree or strongly agree with all
of the roles a mentor may hold within a mentoring relationship, with a strong focus on caring
(95.76%) and encouragement (93.39%). One aspect of the study that needs further research is
the number of individuals who identified Not Applicable, Disagree, or Strongly Disagree. While
not all participants were currently in a mentoring relationship, three participants who identified
Not Applicable did note that mentoring was part of their job, a duty, or something they were
“forced” or “required” to do, falling into the Job requirement category identified in the
open-ended why mentor question.
Discussion
A recent survey asked LIS professionals about mentoring in LIS. Mentoring is often cited as
important for success as a LIS professional, but not as much is written about how well this is
actually reflected in the practices of LIS professionals. Participants were asked to respond
based on experiences in mentoring as and with LIS professionals in order to consider the role
and influence of mentoring in LIS. For the purpose of the survey, LIS professional included
librarians and archivists. Some participants noted other professionals in information related
fields which are identified when relevant.
The majority of participants considered mentoring valuable. When asked why they mentor,
there were a range of responses. Many participants noted that mentoring was part of their job
or something that they were “forced” to do, which reflects the common understanding of
mentoring and focused on short term goals. In relation to this, there were also participants who
mentored to help new LIS professionals to achieve certain specific goals. Both of these reflect
descriptions in the literature that is generally focused on formal mentoring programs. However,
the participants identified other reasons, many of which revealed a more altruistic and
self-beneficial view of mentoring – mentoring to shape the future of the profession, giving
Pre-print: Hussey, L. K., & Campbell-Meier, J. (2017). Is There a Mentoring Culture Within the LIS
Profession?. Journal of Library Administration
, 57
(5), 500-516.
opportunities to others that they were giving, and receiving new ideas, and information. Many of
these participants noted that they were learning as much, if not more, as the mentees learned
from them as mentors. While frequently noted as an attribute to mentoring, the reciprocal nature
of the relationship between mentor and mentee is difficult to document. These responses lead
us to question that if there is no clear definition of mentoring, in general, what aspects of
mentoring do LIS professionals identify as being key parts of the relationship?
When asked to describe the mentoring relationship, of those who answered the question, over
60% identified it as part of a supervisory relationship and almost 52% selected (the question
provided the option to select all that apply). Peer and situational were both chosen by close to
half the participants, 49% and 47% respectively. Less than 40% would describe their mentoring
relationship as part of a formal program or initiated by the mentee. There are a few factors to
note when considering these results.
Mentoring as part of supervisory responsibilities may seem like a natural fit, but it can
complicate both the supervisory and mentoring relationships. The literature tends to identify
mentoring as a “developmental assistance provided by a more senior individual within a
[mentee’s] organization” (Higgins & Kram, 264). However, when it is done by a supervisor, who
may be the only senior professional, mentoring may create cognitive dissonance regarding
treatment of an individual as an employee or a mentee as the responsibilities to each can be in
direct conflict. Managers have responsibilities to others beyond the mentee, including to the
organization and other employees, which may limit the mentoring relationship or cause issues
with others in the organization. However, for those who noted that their mentoring relationship
was part of a formal program or a situational process intended to focus on specific goals,
mentoring can be easily be part of managerial and supervisory responsibilities.
Supervisors may be included as part of the natural mentoring relationships, as it is often
perceived that supervisors and managers will help develop employees. However, natural
mentoring relationships are often the more informal relationships, ones that develop as part of
interactions, identification, and simple personal compatibility. This process is hard to describe or
duplicate, especially for shy or introverted individuals and perhaps a good reason why only 37%
of the respondents described the relationship as mentee initiated. Formal mentoring programs
were also not as often identified despite several programs through organizations such as ALA,
Pre-print: Hussey, L. K., & Campbell-Meier, J. (2017). Is There a Mentoring Culture Within the LIS
Profession?. Journal of Library Administration
, 57
(5), 500-516.
ARL, SAA, and others LIS professions. This may be because of the need to belong to these
organization, but it does raise questions about who participates in and why they join formal
mentoring programs.
The role of peer mentoring is also a notable consideration. Almost half the participants identified
peers as mentors, yet the literature and formal programs focus on new professionals. LIS
professionals seem to want or need some level of mentoring beyond just an introduction to the
profession and peers seem to be closest and/or easiest source for mentoring.
The responses to mentoring attributes reflected actions related to the workplace, selecting
either agree or strongly agree with statements related to feedback (82%), introductions to
important people (68%), career planning (66%) and training (62%). This is not surprising, given
the number who described the mentoring relationship as supervisory, formal, and situational.
However, over 91% of the participants reacted positively to the statement that their mentor
cared for them as a person and 80% agreed/strongly agreed that their mentor provided support
during a stressful time. The same descriptions from mentors aligns with most of the mentees’
perceptions, with positive reactions to career planning (73%), introducing mentees to influential
people (74%), and helping with technical training and skills (74%). Providing feedback was also
seen as an important part of mentoring with 84% of the mentors selecting agree/strongly agree.
However, perhaps the most significant result is that 95% of the mentors stated that they truly
care about their mentees as people and 93% provide encouragement and support during
stressful times. Neither of these attributes are work related, which implies that the mentoring
relationship often extends beyond the workplace.
This is further mirrored in the responses provided when asked why do you mentor. Many of the
comments focused on sharing knowledge and helping to shape the future of the profession.
Some mentioned that having been mentored, or even not mentored, helped them recognize the
importance of mentoring and wanting to provide the support they received or wished they had
received. A few mentioned the professional responsibility of mentoring, including a few that
commented that it was a required part of their jobs. All of these responses can be perceived as
more workplace focused, but there was also a trend towards more personal focus on mentoring.
A large number of mentors described how the mentoring process was an intrinsic reward and an
Pre-print: Hussey, L. K., & Campbell-Meier, J. (2017). Is There a Mentoring Culture Within the LIS
Profession?. Journal of Library Administration
, 57
(5), 500-516.
opportunity to learn and develop their own knowledge and skills. In addition, the idea of giving
back as something beyond just work was often used as part of the reasoning for mentoring.
Limits
The survey was not without limitations.The survey was released to LIS professionals in the
United States and Canada through a variety of library and archival email lists. There is no clear
data on how many LIS professionals are currently working in the United States or Canada, nor
is there a clear definition of who a LIS professional is. In addition, without a clear definition of
what mentoring is or what types of activities are included in mentoring relationships, there is a
wide range of responses. In addition, the use of LIS or librarian in some of the questions may
have led professionals from galleries, archives and museums to drop out or become
disengaged. Participants self- selected for the survey, and may have had an experience or
relationship in mind. However, it is unclear whether participants are reflecting upon one
mentoring experience or the sum of their experiences. Further discussion will take place in
follow up interviews.
Conclusions
The results of the survey research have brought up some important questions concerning
mentoring and its role in LIS. Is the focus more on short-term goals and coaching activities, or
are mentors more concerned with creating reciprocal relationships and building their own
learning and knowledge through the process. Which will benefit the LIS professions more?
Examining the characteristics of mentoring and coaching activities within library and archival
environments may provide definitions within the discipline and a framework for comparing
mentoring programs across institutions.
The research highlights the lack of a set definition or common understanding of mentoring within
LIS. There are some who see it as similar to managing and focused on short term goals, while
other describe a more natural process where a personal and sharing relationship may develop.
Regardless, it is clear that feedback and support are important to both mentors and mentees in
the process. There is little in the literature on peer mentoring, yet many of the respondents view
their peers as potential or actual mentors. This is an area the LIS profession may need to
consider, especially as a potential remedy for mid-career burnout.
Pre-print: Hussey, L. K., & Campbell-Meier, J. (2017). Is There a Mentoring Culture Within the LIS
Profession?. Journal of Library Administration
, 57
(5), 500-516.
Further research into definitions of mentoring is needed to identify the attributes that participants
associate with mentoring experiences.
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