Jo Angela Oehrli

While the project labs are completing many kinds of work, one intended focus for all of the labs is to integrate mentorship into the experience.  Mentorship is defined broadly and is happening in many “directions” in the labs. One of the most impactful mentorship connections I have made to date has been through my work with the UMSI graduate students when they have used this lab as an internship experience to earn credit toward their degrees.

In order for students to be able to earn credit, they must first complete an application through UMSI’s Career Development Office.  The application has several components requiring students to describe the internship; connect the internship experience with career goals; and create learning objectives.  Students must identify the number of hours that they will be working and must also describe their internship activities. The students complete their hours by attending lab meetings; working on their projects outside of the lab meetings; meeting one-on-one with a mentor; and spending time outside of the lab to advance their professional development.  

I’m pleased to share that I have been a mentor for four students during the two and a half years of the grant’s work so far.  During the application process, I assist the students in creating their learning objectives. I then work with them to meet those goals.  I ask students to meet with me face-to-face once a month, and I also ask them to keep a digital journal where together we track the work of the internship.  These monthly meetings provide two opportunities — Students can raise concerns to me personally about the work of the lab, and I can address any concerns that I see in their work in a one-on-one setting.  In addition, the students also have this meeting time to extend their learning from the UMSI classroom setting into the library/career space. They can ask me questions about how a concept that they’ve learned in class applies to the work of an academic library.  

Many other activities happen through this internship experience including

  • student shadowing of my work
  • informational interviews between the students and library colleagues both within the UM Library and nationally
  • cover letter and CV discussions and reviews
  • interview preparation
  • providing references for the students
  • skill-based workshop attendance
  • job posting exploration
  • publishing and conference explorations

I complete an evaluation of the student’s experience at the end of the semester. I am reminded at that time of the many benefits I have received from our work together.  I learn so much from these students — They are always bringing new ideas to me and asking me how I might use a particular kind of technology in my work (a student showed me a new data visualization tool today!). I am always so pleased to hear how generous my library colleagues are when they talk with these students in informational interviews.  Mentorship does not have to be the “handing down of Knowledge” from one experienced person to another less-experienced person. I want to thank Liz Hanley, Tori Culler, Emily Sartorius, and Gina Genova for everything I have learned from them! I hope anyone who gets the opportunity to be a mentor learns as much from the experience as I have learned from these wonderful people.

Angie Oehrli is a Learning Librarian at University of Michigan Library and is a member of the Library Assessment in Student Learning Lab. She is currently writing a book about practical teaching tips for librarians.