January is National Mentoring Month, and the ZSR Librarians’ Assembly Mentoring Committee would like to share our own stories of unexpected mentoring along with some new resources in the collection on mentoring for both faculty and staff. Look for more mentoring-focused posts this month and more programming from the mentoring committee in the coming months!


I want to discuss mentoring I’ve experienced, which is not strictly what we may consider it to be normally in academia. My thought behind this idea is, mentoring can occur anywhere, anytime, and can be outside of a formal mentoring pair. Mentoring can even happen accidentally.

In 2013, as many of you know, ZSR Library accepted a letterpress donation from Carl Hein. When this happened, I did not know Carl or anything about him. He was basically a stranger, a kind stranger, but an unknown individual. I did a little printing at Carl’s home before the press was moved into ZSR, but it was minimal. Following the move of the equipment into ZSR, Carl came to help me learn how to operate the press once a week for two years! It wasn’t “now we do this”, and “then we do that” – Nope. It was a guy who had solutions for everything and was not flustered about anything. He was a patient teacher and even if I struggled with some aspect of printing, I always felt his confidence in me. He is an engineer-and I guess that’s their MO. Watching Carl put duct tape on the rails of the press, just to raise it up a little so it wouldn’t overprint onto our paper, taught me a lot more than “duct tape is a good tool.” I didn’t see Carl as a mentor until he was gone after 2 years. He was exactly what I’m talking about, a person from our community and outside a normal mentoring pairing. Carl was a mentor in friend’s clothing. I think we all could use a mentor like that.


Though I’m at a different point in my tenure at Wake Forest when compared to Hu and Craig, I have had moments where I’ve pondered my next direction, especially after big events such as teaching study abroad and achieving promotion had culminated. It’s inevitable when you work towards a big goal for a long time that when it is done and over, you’re not sure where to turn next. During one of these post-big achievement periods, a surprising informal mentoring activity that rejuvenated my passion and helped me determine what to strive for next was when I decided to attend Wakerspace’s weekly knitting club, Commit 2 Knit. I had no idea how to knit and was really nervous about who would be there. These knitting sessions led to meeting new faculty, staff, and students on campus and have led me to ‘stitch’ together a larger community of friends and collaborators who not only make me feel a stronger sense of belonging on campus, but inspire me and motivate me as they share what they’re working on, interested in, and/or challenges they’re facing. They’ve become a great multidisciplinary, multi-age sounding board for my ideas or concerns.


In recent years, I’ve benefited from the more informal mentoring model of peer mentoring. Collaborations with colleagues in teaching and outreach have taught me new skills and ideas, reinvigorating my teaching and understanding of outreach in academic libraries.

Co-teaching first-year seminars with Rosalind Tedford, LIB210 with Kathy Shields, and LIB110 with Elizabeth Ellis has introduced me to new methods and ideas for instruction, and working on outreach projects with Meghan Webb and Daisha Bunn has

I’m a better librarian due to these collaborations, and I’m grateful for these opportunities to grow and learn later in my career when professional development opportunities can seem limited.

New Mentoring Resources:

Academic Library Mentoring: Fostering Growth and Renewal; Volume 1, Fundamentals and Controversies

“Volume 1, Fundamentals and Controversies, details effective mentoring skills and behaviors, mentoring models, dysfunctional mentoring relationships, conflicts of interest in mentoring, and, through a feminist lens, power differentials in mentoring. Chapters on diversity, equity, and inclusion call for library personnel to understand the exclusion of some experience in the profession and to implement more inclusive mentoring practices.Mentoring of Library Faculty and Librarians.”

Academic Library Mentoring: Fostering Growth and Renewal: Volume 2, Mentoring of Library Faculty and Librarians

“Volume 2, Mentoring of Library Faculty and Librarians, explores mentorship skills, models, purposes and issues, and program development. Mentoring purposes include support for the pursuit of tenure and promotion, other career goals, and psychosocial concerns. Issues incorporate understanding and addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion in mentoring. Chapter methodologies include surveys, program assessments, analysis of practices against standards, case studies of mentor and mentee lived experiences, and case studies of libraries and affiliated entities.”

Academic Library Mentoring: Fostering Growth and Renewal; Volume 3, Mentoring of Students and Staff

“In Volume 3, Mentoring of Students and Staff, we hear the voices of library science students and library student employees as they describe their library school and library employment mentoring experiences. Also presented are mentoring programs for recruiting individuals to the profession, practices supporting all library employees regardless of formal employee classification, and methods for enhancing the skills of consortial members. The volume ends with a look to the future of mentoring and organizational development and a tool any library employee at any career stage can use to form their own mentoring constellation. Intentional, effective, committed mentorships can help mentees understand their roles and develop their identities as librarians, library workers, or library science students.”

Let us Hear from You!

If you have an example of unexpected mentoring you would like to share, please post it in the comments below!