Lately I’ve been so enmeshed in libraryland that it feels as though I’ve been here at SLIS for years, when in reality I’ve been here just under two months. Amazement that I’m not in fact stuck in some bizarre time warp got me thinking about the process by which I arrived here, and I realized that the fall of 2009 and the fall of 2010 was when I met the two awe-inspiring librarians who acted as my first mentors and laid the foundation for my journey to library school: Teri and Rachel. That’s makes this fall a mentor-iversary (mentor anniversary, get with it y’all), doesn’t it?
Two years ago, I was trying to get experience in a library for the very first time. After working at the local historical museum, a coworker suggested I approach UW-La Crosse’s Special Collections to volunteer, so I did just that. I showed up with only the slightest understanding of what went on there and an avid appetite to learn more. Teri welcomed me completely from day one, while I am certain that others (understandably) would not have wanted to deal with the hassle of training a volunteer. She let me wade into the culture at Murphy Library, sharing her opinions on library school and her experiences as a librarian in an academic library, and introducing me to other librarians in Murphy. We became fast friends. She acted as my undergraduate research adviser and opened her home to me multiple times–I have the utmost respect for her as a cultured, intelligent woman.
One year ago I had yet to even undertake the daunting grad school application process; I was facing a lot of question marks in my future… where would I go to grad school? Would I get in? Would I be separated from my long-term boyfriend, and was that a good or bad thing? If I pursued an MLS, would I even be getting a degree that could get me a job? At twenty years old, I felt young and still pathetically inexperienced. Teri suggested I meet Rachel, who was the new E-Learning Librarian in Murphy Library. Rachel had just graduated from Indiana University with her MLS, and because IU was one of the library programs I was considering, I was extra-intrigued about this mysterious new presence in the library. I had absolutely no idea what to expect as I prepared to meet her. I knew I had nothing to offer besides enthusiasm (which some equate with childishness, I think, because of the crazy idea that competent professionals should be serious verging on grim) so I only really hoped to make a new acquaintance that would perhaps give me some tips on what I could expect from library school. When I met her I was stunned by her huge smile and HER excitement about me. Me! The only library-related thing I’d done was volunteer in Special Collections and benefit from Teri’s charity, more or less, and Rachel was telling me at our first meeting that she was inspired by me!? Her support hasn’t wavered since. I acted as her intern during the final semester of my senior year, and she introduced me to the non-Special Collections side of the library. Rachel is often is my sole commenter on this little blog of mine, a kindness I appreciate.
Both librarians’ support has been instrumental to the development of my understanding about this profession. I think back and I have no idea if I would have gotten into library school, gotten jobs here at IU, or made connections to many new librarians (even new librarian mentors!) without the doors that Teri and Rachel opened. They wrote me letters of recommendation, listened to me vent my frustrations, fed me… the list goes on and on. I used to feel awful that they had given me so much while I felt I had so little to give back; but now I realize that mentoring is cyclical process. Their endless patience and openness to sharing their experiences has shown me what it takes to be a mentor. Besides paying homage to them every once in a while, I plan to pay it forward by mentoring others as I go forward in my career.
With that said, I’d like to wish a very happy mentor-iversary to Teri and Rachel! I miss both of you!