Mentoring – You can do it!

Eva —  January 28, 2015 — Leave a comment

Just before the new year, I attended an event where I saw someone I used to work with a long time ago, pre-librarianship. We both happen to be librarians now, but in different specialties. We spent some time after chatting and catching up, and she asked me if I would consider mentoring her formally.

This took me aback. In my head I listed the reasons why I should say no:

  1. I’m not that familiar with her area of librarianship.
  2. I have not kept up with her professional development or involvement in the profession.
  3. She doesn’t work for me.

And then I listed the reasons why I should say yes:

  1. I might actually be better at mentoring her in general management and giving her advice on specific situations because we are in two different library worlds with minimal overlap–I have no horse in her race.
  2. I can give her alternate perspectives and learn from her, too. This would be a great way for us to reconnect after all this time and perhaps find new commonalities beyond our shared past.
  3. I’ve never formally mentored anyone who was not my direct report. In those situations, I know exactly what I’m talking about. Here, I’ll have to pay close attention and ask lots of questions to understand the dynamics, which would be a nice stretch for me as well as benefiting her.

I was momentarily hung up on the idea that I had nothing to teach her, but I realized that this was unnecessarily limiting of me. She gets to determine when she wants to meet with me and she gets to drive the conversations–if I’m not helping her, or if she no longer needs me to help her, she can thank me for my time and end the formal mentoring. So, I said yes–I outlined my concerns, but I still said yes. She is going to contact me soon to set up a coffee or a lunch.

Have you ever had a formal mentoring relationship outside of your specialty or your organization? I’d be glad for any tips and advice.



Eva Davis is the Director of the Canton Public Library in Canton, Michigan--not Canton, Ohio, or Canton, Massachusetts, or Canton, Mississippi. (It is an easy mistake to make.) Eva honed her supervisory and management skills working in customer service, research, and publishing before heading to graduate school at the University of Michigan School of Information. She became a librarian in 1998. She was an intern and then the teen services librarian at the Plymouth (MI) District Library before moving to the Ann Arbor (MI) District Library, where she was Head of the Youth Department at the Downtown library, Head of Youth Services for the system, Head of Branch Services, and finally Associate Director for Public Services. Eva has held her dream job as the Director of the award-winning Canton Public Library since 2008. She received the Michigan Library Association's Frances H. Pletz Award for Excellence in Teen Services in 2003, and is a graduate of both Leadership Ann Arbor and Leadership Canton, where she learned that she is moderately Affiliative according to MAFF, her color is "Green" on the Four Color Personality Test, and her Myers-Briggs Type is INTJ (although she has worked diligently and consistently on improving her Sensing, so she now leans ISTJ). Follow @CantonLibrary and @EvaDavisCPL on Twitter. (Photo credit: Susan Kennedy)

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