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Mentoring Librarians for Management Roles in Academic Libraries
by Mary Ann Venner

Abstract: Librarians are placed in management roles that they are often not prepared for. Mentoring provides a hands on learning experience for librarians to uncover the mysteries of management and learn more about their own management styles along the way. Formal and informal mentoring programs are excellent ways to teach librarians management theory, practices and skills that will help them in their librarian careers.

This article will describe how formal and informal mentoring programs can teach librarians aspects of management in an active learning environment.

Management is a role more and more librarians are finding themselves in with little preparation or guidance. Through mentoring opportunities librarians can learn more about aspects of management and gain real world experience. Preparing librarians for management roles enhances skills that may be applied in any area throughout their careers.
Mentoring librarians to be managers involves developing a mentoring program that incorporates elements of management theory and active learning experiences. This combination enables librarians to apply what they are learning in a hands on environment. Throughout the program librarians develop skills in the areas of communication, critical thinking, project management and leadership. They also begin to mold a management style that they can build upon. The structure of the program may be formal or informal and may involve more than one mentor.
Another important component of an effective mentoring program is preparing librarians as managers to focus on zones of awareness. Being aware as a manager means knowing your employees’ strengths, what motivates them, and making effective decisions based on the factors of the situation.
Overall, it is helpful to also focus on the positive aspects of serving in a management role. Sometimes the decisions managers have to make involve issues that may turn some librarians away from serving in a management role such as disciplining employees or making budget decisions, but being a manager also provides librarians with the opportunity to work with a team to design and develop goals, to solve problems and to empower staff to grow and learn.
As a department head I served as a mentor for librarians, staff and students. The mentoring programs I developed for new librarians and staff interested in management were formal and informal and were geared towards what the mentee was interested in learning more about. Below are a couple of examples of mentoring programs focused on management.

“Managers in Training” mentoring program

The Managers in Training mentoring program provides new librarians and staff with the opportunity to learn about management from the ground up. The members of the program have expressed an interest in learning more about what it is like to be a manager and want to develop skills to enhance that interest. The first steps in this program involve an introductory meeting with the members to discuss what their goals are and what they hope to learn from the program. There are several areas covered in the program that combine trainings, projects, webinars, job shadowing and hands on experiences. The program is a yearlong program that focuses on a different topic each month. For each month articles, trainings, webinars and activities are assigned. The twelve topics in the program that are covered are:
At the end of the twelve months a follow up meeting is held with each of the members and job shadowing times with the department head and department managers are assigned.

“Let’s Collaborate” informal mentoring

Informal mentoring can provide some very useful learning experiences. The Let’s Collaborate informal mentoring experience is not a formal mentoring program, but it is an opportunity for librarians and staff to learn about management through collaborating with experienced managers on projects, articles, presentations, committees and workgroups. Through these collaborations librarians and staff actively learn about project management, working on a team, assisting with supervising students and goal planning. They also learn how to apply core skills such as communication, time management, organizational, critical thinking and goal setting. Some examples of these collaborations are:
Formal and informal mentoring programs are valuable opportunities to coach new librarians interested in becoming managers. These programs better prepare librarians for management roles by introducing them to management experiences, thought processes and skill development. Being more familiar with aspects of management and management thought processes make those areas seem less frightening and actually make management type roles more appealing as ways to expand learning experiences. Having experienced managers as mentors allows librarians to ask questions and develop important core skills managers need to be effective and successful.

Copyright 2017 by Mary Ann Venner.

About the author:
Mary Ann Venner is the Assistant Dean for Personnel at the University of North Texas Libraries in Denton, Texas. She has worked in an academic library setting for over 20 years in various public services roles. Contact information: