Over the past months, Angie Oehrli (U-M Learning Librarian) and I have spent time reflecting on meaningful relationships and how important they are in our daily work. Mentoring is a researched and documented component of professional success. Whether in the role of mentor or mentee, this relationship can have an impact on growth and development. Mentorship does not just happen. It is an intentional engagement, and one that is relevant to the work of libraries today. As we transform and innovate toward the future, engaging in mentoring creates possibilities and advances our engagement in evidence-based approaches to research problems in academic libraries. So how do we ready ourselves to engage in meaningful mentoring relationships? One key component is taking the time to be reflective and understand our own values.
To that end, Angie and I led an activity at the hands-on-deck lab meeting last month that focused on writing a personal mission statement. Taking the time to articulate your values is a deliberate way to highlight what matters to you. It also lets you express short and long-term aspirations. Such a statement can be a useful frame to guide decisions and ensure professional activities are aligned with personal values. We led a guided exercise where lab members individually identified core values, reflected on why they were important, and identified how the values were/were not showing up in their educational and work experiences. From that reflection, we invited lab members to write a simple statement that described their personal mission; and then we invited them to reflect with a partner, either about the statement or the process of writing the statement.
The session was powerful. It was compelling because the students, librarians and faculty fully participated, committing to the reflection process. Many shared how they were not sure how this would be helpful at the start of the session, but by the end of the lab meeting were appreciative of having the dedicated time and guided activity to help them do this important reflection work. Taking the time to think about values provided focus, and surfaced ideas that were previously not articulated. Some of the students recently shared with us that they used this activity as an inspiration when writing cover letters. I also learned something new about myself in engaging with this exercise, and thank my lab colleagues for going on this important journey with me.
Laurie Alexander is the Associate University Librarian for Learning and Teaching at the University of Michigan Library. Her publications and presentations span a range of issues including user instruction, learning spaces, information technologies, the undergraduate experience, and reference services. Laurie holds a BA from Franklin and Marshall College and a MLS from the University of Michigan.