As the work of the Lab progresses, mentorship is more visible, active and accessible. It is coming from many directions – peer interaction, (in)formal mentoring activities, inspiration & iteration, and broadening of perspectives. The following observations focus on professional growth and stand apart as both notable and compelling.
Curiosity – I see curiosity present throughout all levels of this grant ranging from engagement with outside presenters, interactions at the monthly lab progress updates and one-on-one conversations. Successful professionals ask questions, they are committed to learning in words and actions. Being genuinely curious is contagious and invites communities of practice to flourish. It welcomes inclusivity and makes accessible the expertise around you. Learning how to apply curiosity is a skill and I encourage everyone to continue the practice of asking questions in order to fill in and further build your knowledge.
Opportunity – I believe each individual is a leader, with talents and gifts necessary to realize our goals and chart aspirations. Throughout the various lab activities, there has been an increase in investing in development and providing constructive feedback. The first meeting of the semester we focused on network building and the importance of networks to connecting with opportunities. The network mapping exercise is an insightful (and repeatable) way to be intentional. Be direct and ask for help. More often than not, the answer is yes or a redirect to another opportunity. LIkewise, exploring venues to present and/or publish research extends the conversation about impact and value of libraries; and creates a valuable opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with professionals from various settings, seek advice and gain new and diverse perspectives and engage with professional practices.
Feedback and Reflection – Learning how to give and receive feedback is key to being a mentor and a mentee. My own mentoring experiences highlighted that successful leaders are reflective and commit to their own learning as well as those around them. The goal is to minimize the gap between how others see them and how they want to be seen. That means listening and truly hearing, and then being open to experimenting with new paths forward. Practice, adjust, observe, engage, be mindful and repeat. Being comfortable at receiving and giving feedback helps removes barriers, accelerate positive outcomes and take action for genuine impact.
The shared commitment to collaboration, mentorship and research is outstanding. The PIs, librarians and students are demonstrating the possibilities for library services, the value of bringing together expertise and creative approaches to investing in professional development. Looking forward to continuing the collaborations towards achieving goals and growing together along the way.
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 the University of Michigan.