Peer Power: Fueling Librarian Success Through Mentorship

Diverse colleagues greet each other against a teal background, representing fictive kinship and peer mentorship

Mentorship is essential for professional growth in academic librarianship. In my own experience, one type of mentorship that has been vital to my career trajectory has been peer mentorship. Peer mentorship plays a crucial role in fostering professional growth and development. It refers to the collaborative relationship between individuals of the same experience levels or career stages who mentor and support each other’s growth and development. This blog post will discuss the significance of peer mentorship in academic librarianship and highlight its benefits.

Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration

Peer mentorship encourages librarians to exchange ideas, experiences, and resources. It offers a reciprocal learning experience in which both parties contribute to one another’s development through shared experiences and perspectives. Peer mentoring relationships allow individuals to pass on knowledge gained from work experience that cannot be taught strictly through academic programs. This collaborative approach promotes a culture of continuous learning and innovation between mentor and mentee. Peer mentorship relationships facilitate knowledge sharing and create opportunities for librarians to engage in collaborative projects, leading to improved services and user experiences.

Fostering a Sense of Community and Support

Peer mentorship is especially important for librarians of color and early career librarians, providing opportunities to build community, share knowledge, and support each other. This sense of community and emotional support is vital for job satisfaction and professional retention. Having a mentor with a similar background helps librarians of color establish bonds and connections, which are factors that increase retention rates. Peer mentoring can fill the gap when experienced mentors from diverse backgrounds are scarce. Research shows that minoritized librarians place more importance on formal mentoring programs than their non-minoritized counterparts, underscoring the need for peer mentoring opportunities. Peer mentors can guide career decisions, help develop new skills, and increase self-confidence and resilience.

Emotional Support and Networking

Librarianship can be a demanding profession, and the emotional support provided by peer mentors can significantly contribute to mentees’ well-being and job satisfaction. Mentors offer a listening ear, encouragement during challenging times, and help mentees navigate workplace dynamics. Additionally, peer mentorship plays a role in creating a supportive community that fosters emotional well-being and reduces professional isolation. Having this support during job searching is crucial for the success of many librarians, given the abundance of unspoken rules within academia that their peers often navigate.

Continued Professional Learning

Librarianship is an evolving field that requires professionals to stay updated on the latest trends and developments. Peer mentorship provides a structured framework for ongoing learning and professional growth. Peer mentorships can give space to identify relevant training opportunities, conferences, and workshops. Peers can also introduce each other to professional networks and communities of practice, enabling them to engage in continuous learning beyond the mentorship relationship and facilitating lifelong learning that ensures librarians’ continued professional relevance.

Institutional Benefits

Libraries can foster peer mentoring by recognizing and valuing these relationships as much as formal mentorship programs. This acknowledges the invisible labor often undertaken by librarians of color in mentoring their peers. Institutions should prioritize peer mentoring as a rich area for future study and allocate resources to support these valuable relationships. Peer mentoring can be cost-effective for libraries to support professional development.

Peer mentorship in librarianship offers numerous benefits, including enhanced professional development, knowledge sharing, increased confidence, emotional support, and continued learning. For example, peer mentorship can provide space to discuss changing technologies and emerging trends, ultimately strengthening professional development. By fostering collaborative relationships, peer mentorships contribute to the growth and success of librarians, ultimately benefiting the libraries they serve. Librarians and library institutions should recognize the importance of peer mentorship and actively promote its implementation to cultivate a vibrant and supportive professional community.

Headshot of Jamia Williams

About the author:

Jamia Williams (she/her) is the Consumer Health Program Specialist with the Network of the National Library of Medicine (NNLM) Training Office. She is also the co-creator and co-host of the podcast LibVoices and the founder of The Diversity Fellow’s blog.

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Header image is a detail of This is Harlem by Jacob Lawrence. Courtesy of Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. © 2021 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. For more information, click here.