By Greg Bailey
For the last two years I have been a mentor in the SAA Mentoring Program. This opportunity is one I encourage you to participate in, and one that I will continue to support and partake in.
I must admit, I had a little trepidation when I first decided to try the mentoring program with SAA. I wanted to get more involved in the profession and with SAA and thought that the mentoring program would be a good place to start, but at the same time I was wondered whether I had enough experience to be a good mentor to a protégé.
Shortly after having an early conversation with my first protégé I knew that I could be a valuable mentor to her. She was transitioning from a metadata position in the library she worked at to the university archivist and records manager at the same university. My first job as an archivist was in a similar role and I was able to give advice on a number of issues she was facing when trying to get the positions in order. My protégé attended the annual meeting at SAA and we were able to meet in person to continue our discussions about working to expand archival collections and how records management tied in with this. I feel I was able to give some good guidance and support to an archivist who was just entering the profession and trying to revive both the university archives and records management programs at her institution.
This year marks my second in the mentoring program and I have a new protégé (per the program). He is currently enrolled in an MLIS program and working toward completion of his degree. We have had a number of good conversations through our time as mentor-protégé. We have discussed classes both within his program and also ones offered by SAA; the importance of service and involvement in the profession balanced with education and other commitments; the dichotomy that sometimes arises between archival theory and what we practice. My protégé has asked some good questions and I look forward to the time we have remaining in the program.
It is important to be a mentor to new grad students and new professionals as they look to those with experience and advice in a profession that is new to them. Think back to what it was like when you first started out: Would an experienced professional willing to answer questions and give advice have helped your transition?
Everyone has help along the way. We don’t have all the answers, especially when starting out in a career. Being a sounding board and offering advice can help others gain the understanding and confidence needed to succeed. Being a mentor helps our profession and shows that we are a welcoming and knowledgeable group that is willing to be there for our colleagues. So, I encourage you to be a mentor.
Greg Bailey is the University Archivist at Texas A&M University, a position he has help since January 2014. Prior to that, he served at the University Archivist and Records Manager at Stephen F. Austin State University. He is currently a member of the College and University Archives Section’s Steering Committee.