This past week I found myself stepping into the role of “mentor”. Project leader, supervisor, or teacher, I have now had experience with, but mentor is a label that I am still learning to adjust to. My surprise comes from the fact that it has only been 3 years since I earned my Masters degree — and 2 years since I began my current position as supervisor of collection development and cataloguing. Yet, as I spend more time with current LIS students, I realize that the transition from librarian-in-training to bona fide librarian is an experience in itself.
From the shadowing student I met on Wednesday to the incoming Masters students that I spoke with at Thursday night’s Meet and Greet, all were interested to hear about my work, and even more interested when they learned that (1) I am an alumna of the school, and (2) I graduated pretty recently.
So what have I been able to share about being a “next gen” librarian?
Think broadly .
I enrolled in the Information Studies program because I knew I would gain a set of really useful, employable skills, and not because I had the absolute intention of becoming a librarian.
In grad school, I took a variety of courses from public services, reference, to technical services. I took courses geared towards various types of libraries, and wasn’t afraid to enroll in courses just for fun, like Readers’ Advisory. I made sure that my coursework as a whole included both theoretical and practical components.
Since graduation, I’ve found that I have been able to use something from almost every class I took, in the job that I do now. My background in history and political science, from my pre-LIS days, has also been useful.
Be open to any opportunity.
After graduation, I accepted two short-term project contracts. Even though they were 5 months and 6 months long, with no promise of permanence, I took them on because of the experience that they would provide me. Accepting those contracts turned out to be some of the best decisions I’ve ever made: my performance during those contracts opened the door to my current position.
Find a mentor.
Someone who understands what it is like to be just starting out as an academic librarian is a definite must in a mentor, but he/she must also be someone who encourages you to go beyond your comfort zone.
Embrace the challenges.
Speaking of comfort zones, every new experience is an opportunity to build new skills and become a stronger professional. Ever since I started working as a librarian, I have jumped into things that have been terrifying, but ultimately rewarding. From approaching faculty, to writing for the masses, to presenting at conferences, to teaching, to running weekly tutorials, I have learned that a little fear at the beginning is never a bad thing. Overcoming the fear is a prize in itself!