Career Strategies for Librarians
Finding Leadership & Mentoring Opportunities
by Hope Elizabeth Beyer
Leadership and mentoring can be two different terms that are either related or unrelated. You can be a
protégé and not be a leader at that time. You can be a mentor and be in an administrative position. You
can be a leader and never mentor – but that would be a shame. A quality of both a mentor and a leader
is advising or training the next generation of librarians or retraining veteran librarians. Mentoring is a
growth experience on both sides.
What does leadership and mentoring mean?
According to The American Heritage Dictionary, leadership is defined as the position or office of a leader
or the capacity to lead. Mentoring means a wise and trusted counselor and teacher. Remember that
librarians mentor a patron how to use online catalog or electronic database. We may not have the title of
a teacher, but our profession is teaching. I believe leadership goes with mentoring. A mentor helps you
to become a better leader at any stage in leadership. Leaders become mentors; and you can be
mentored and be mentoring another person at the exact same time.
You may not even be aware that you are mentoring. Until it was pointed out to me, I did not realize that I
was mentoring another staff member. When she left her position, she told me how grateful she was that
I encouraged her to get a Library Technical Assistant certificate and go on the finish her Bachelors
Degree. She is now applying to graduate schools in Library Science.
Does the dictionary’s definition leave out some elements when defining leadership?
Leadership means being able to lead, wanting to lead and teaching others to lead. A leader needs to
have some key characteristics to be able to be an effective leader: the ability to write agendas, run
meetings, set goals and objectives, create business plans and motivate followers and other leaders.
Other qualities/skills that a leader needs are being able to manage people and processes: to be able to
lend a hand when needed, knowing when an extra hand is needed, knowing when to push people
harder, knowing when to slow people down. Are you lacking some of these? Do you really know that you
do or do not have these qualities? How do you get these characteristics or skills to become a mentor or
a better leader?
Where do you find opportunities to be leader and to be a mentor?
The primary opportunity that everyone thinks of first for mentoring and leadership skills is the workplace.
However, there are many other settings, such as an adult civic organization, a youth/child civic
organization, society/religious organization, and professional organizations, where leadership and
mentoring opportunities exist. Where do you find these? Use the Internet, phonebook, town hall, a
library’s bulletin board, a grocery’s bulletin board, college newsletters and bulletin boards or just ask
people in your community what organizations exist. Mentoring and leadership can happen in your daily
personal life, work life and in your community. You can also be a leader and follower in the same
There are many organizations out there in the international community. The one that I know well is the
United States Jaycees (part of the Junior Chamber International). My experience is with the Greater
Hartford (Connecticut) Jaycees. We are the largest chapter in the United States as of February 2004. In
my first years of being a Jaycee, I realized that I was a leader. I had the drive or ambition to lead. I
learned through the Jaycees to be more organized, to plan events (timelines are good things), to develop
relationship among members, and how to better relate to the office staff. I learned some amazing skills:
how to publish a newsletter, to run computer software, to hammer a nail into a set for a Haunted House,
to help build a house for Habitat for Humanity. I learned you need laughter in your daily life and time
management skills. I learned about international food and cultures and how to write a chairman’s
planning guide (basically a business plan that the Jaycees use to run an event/project). In the Jaycees,
there are State, National, and International Conferences. This has been a great opportunity for me to
pick up or refine leadership skills, even learning Roberts Rules of Order, as well as to travel a bit.
Remember, learning to be a leader or part of mentorship program can be done in a fun atmosphere. I
have learned wonderful leadership skills while having fun and helping out the community. The Greater
Hartford Jaycee website is http://www.greaterhartfordjaycees.org/ and the United States Jaycees website
Opportunities for Leadership Skills
Academic and Professional Committees
Charitable Organizations (i.e. March of Dimes, American Diabetes Assoc.)
Junior Chamber of Commerce
Lions Club (your Jaycees years of services carry over)
Sorority or Fraternal Organizations
Opportunities for Mentoring
Get involved with a professional organization that is in your specialty of library science, or in an area of
library science that you want to work in the future. Some work-related organizations include American
Library Association, Special Library Association, Association for College and Research Libraries and
State Library Association. My experience again: I am on the CT Library Association’s Committee -
Reference and Adult Services. These associations are places where you can find both leadership
positions and someone to mentor you. CT Library Association has a wonderful mentoring program that I
went through a couple years ago.
American Association of Health Science Libraries
The American Association of Health Science Libraries (AAHSL), in conjunction with the National Library
of Medicine (NLM), has started a leadership program for its members. The program includes travel
money to spend two weeks with a mentor, attend continuing education classes and more. AAHSL is in
its second year of the program. The program is set up so that the “emerging leaders” learn the following:
Introduce emerging academic health sciences library leaders to leadership theory and practical tools for
implementing change at organizational and professional levels.
Develop meaningful professional relationships between fellows and mentors that give fellows access to
career guidance and support.
Expose fellows to another academic health sciences library under the guidance of their mentors.
Examine career development and provide models of directors to potential future academic health
sciences library directors.
Create a cohort of learners who will draw upon each other for support throughout their careers.
Offer recognition to emerging leaders.
The NLM/AAHSL Leadership Fellows Program comprises six components over a one-year time frame:
a one-day opening Orientation Session,
an ongoing Mentoring relationship,
a half-day Leadership Institute,
a two-week Library Site Visit,
three short, self-paced Web-based Courses on selected leadership topics, and
a two- to three-day Capstone Event.
For more information about the NLM/AAHSL program, schedule and application go to http://www.arl.
American Association of Law Libraries (AALL)
“The Mentoring and Retention committee plans and implements programs designed to provide a
network through which the newer members of AALL, and members contemplating job changes or
desiring career guidance, can establish personal contact with experienced law librarians who can serve
as resources for information and advise on the profession and the Association. In addition, this
committee plans, promotes, and presents the Annual Conference of Newer Law Librarians (CONELL).”
For a roster and other information about AALL go to http://www.aallnet.org/committee/menret_com.asp.
Connecticut Library Association
The Connecticut Library Association has a mentoring and protégé program. The CLA website for
mentoring program is http://cla.uconn.edu/new/mentor1r.doc. The website explains why the mentoring
program was started. It also defines the difference between protégé and a mentor.
A protégé should expect:
1. a role model.
2. to learn how the library field functions.
3. to make contacts with other individuals in the profession.
4. help in defining career objectives.
5. specialized information and help.
6. the chance to learn from the mentor’s experience.
7. a way to gather information about other areas of librarianship.
8. more confidence and problem-solving skills.
The mentor can expect:
1. new opportunities for challenge.
2. career enrichment.
3. enhanced self-esteem and reputation.
4. opportunities to share knowledge and expertise.
5. a revitalized interest in work.
6. professional satisfaction.
The CLA website also list information about CLA committees, scholarships and calendar of programs.
You can join a committee, such as Children’s, Reference and Adult Services, Support Staff, and College
and University. A member can also assist with the annual conference. This is a wonderful way to ease
into leadership roles. Check out your local and state library associations. CLA website is http://cla.
American Library Association
On the ALA website, you can find the Spectrum Initiative section for a mentoring and networks. This is
the formal training program. The website is http://www.ala.org/ala/diversity/spectrum/spectruminitiative.
htm and then click on Mentoring and Networks under Diversity. Currently, the mentoring portion of the
website is not available.
Special Libraries Association
If you are a member of SLA, there is a mentoring program for you. There are many state chapters that
have mentoring programs. You can explore SLA website at http://www.sla.org.
Association of College and Research Libraries
The University of Georgia gives articles, websites, library organizations and associations, forum
recommendations, and mentoring programs at specific libraries. I found out that Special Libraries
Association has a mentoring program for librarians in the areas of physic, mathematics and astronomy.
Take a look at http://www.libs.uga.edu/mentor/resources.html.
Academic Libraries has a bibliography of mentoring articles and websites at http://www.nsula.
There are many leadership and mentoring opportunities in our communities. Look within your library
setting/organization. Explore your options in library associations, civic organizations, charitable
organizations and community library boards. Use what is available to you to gain the necessary skills.
Connecticut Library Association. 29 December 2004 http://cla.uconn.edu
“Leadership.” The American Heritage Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1985.
“Mentoring.” The American Heritage Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1985.
Mentoring and Retention Committee. American Association of Law Libraries. 8 January 2004. http:
Mentoring Bibliography for Academic Libraries. Association of Research Libraries-Louisiana Chapter. 30
January 2004 http://www.nsula.edu/watson_library/acrl/bonnetteAcademicBib.htm
“Why Mentor or be Mentored?” Connecticut Library Association. 7 January 2004 http://cla.uconn.
“The Mentoring Program: Share What You Know.” University of Georgia Libraries. 13 January 2004 http:
Special Libraries Association. 2 February 2004 http://www.sla.org
“Spectrum Initiative - New Faces, New Era.” American Library Association. 18 February 2004 http://www.
About the Author:
Hope Elizabeth Beyer graduated from Simmons College GSLIS Program (2002). She currently works as
a Circulation Supervisor at Naugatuck Valley (CT) Community College and as a Reference Librarian at
Manchester Public Library and NVCC. She is the 2004 Greater Hartford Jaycee Foundation V.P. of
Special Projects, and Connecticut Library Association-member of Reference and Adult Services
Article published March 2004
Disclaimer: The ideas expressed in LIScareer articles are those of their respective authors and do not
necessarily represent the views of the LIScareer editors.