This week's Things are about our paths to librarianship, and professional mentoring.
Path to librarianship
During college I worked in the cataloging department of the library and liked it well enough. Later, when I needed an escape from my first job out of college - a nightmarish retail job - I leapt at the opportunity for another tech services job at a college library. It was while working there that I decided to work towards librarianship as a profession, which in the US means getting an MLS. It was a few years before I was in a position to go back to school but eventually I went to Simmons (which I will be paying for until I retire, and I wish I was exaggerating). Although I've worked in corporate and academic settings, my heart has always been in public libraries. It's been a rough road. For several years I searched in vain for a department head job in an effort to advance in my career, and then two years ago I was laid off. After five months of unemployment, I started working a temporary job at a large library system for extremely low pay and no benefits, even though I worked full-time hours. After two years of job-hunting I'm finally working full-time again, at a nice library the next town over, in a good job with good benefits.
Sometimes I'm a little bitter about the profession and the lack of opportunities. Simmons keeps churning out graduates with promises that many librarians will be retiring soon and there will be lots of available jobs. True, there are many librarians of a certain age and they may retire, if they can afford it, but who says their positions will be filled? It doesn't matter how good you are at what you do if cities and towns are cutting positions and there's nothing for you to even apply for. In the past couple of years while I was job-hunting I spent a long time thinking about alternative career options and I'm incredibly grateful that I didn't end up having to switch careers because I didn't come up with one viable, appealing idea. My new job has a lot of potential and I'm feeling generally optimistic about my professional life again.
I've really never been involved on either end of any sort of formal mentoring, and I'm not sure there's even such a program for librarians. Being sort of mid-career, I'm not even sure which end of the relationship I'd fall on. Certainly I have a lot to learn (don't we all?) but I'm not a new librarian anymore. I do have a lot of friends and acquaintances who are librarians though, and we definitely depend on each other for advice. I wouldn't want to be restricted to advice from just one person, nor would I want to be the sole guide for a new librarian, so I have to admit I don't see the value in mentoring. I looked at the recommended articles here, but none of them explained WHY mentoring is so important, or what value it has that can't be gained through a network of professional contacts. Isn't it best to have MANY different librarians from whom you can solicit advice and get varying perspectives? I would think any sort of professional involvement would have these benefits.
But maybe I'm missing something. Do you have a mentor or have you been one? What sort of benefits did the relationship have that you couldn't have gotten through other types of professional involvement?