SAA Mentoring Program and Perspective

About the SAA Mentoring Program
Section contributed by Devhra BennettJones

Like so many career opportunities, networking at the SAA Annual Meeting led the pathway to the SAA Mentoring Program.  I was initally recruited to serve as a mentor for a year with an early-career mentee working on the digitization of audio and video in the American music genre.  The mentor-mentee relationship was follwed by an appointment to serve on the SAA Mentoring Subcommittee.  In the early days of the mentoring program our Subcommittee duties primarily consisted of matching mentors and mentees for a one year duration.  Today’s mentoring program encourages mentoring for anyone at any progression of their career.  The primary requirement is that both mentors and mentees are members of our esteemed Society of American Archivists. 

Both mentors and mentees begin by submitting an application form with information about their interests, demographics, and preferences in a mentor or mentee.  Subcommittee members matche individuals based on their applications and provide contact information of both mentors and mentees.  They assist in facilitating the mentorship through guidelines and tips for the mentoring relationship.  The Subcommittee inquires with the mentee and mentor about their progression and asks for feedback after the conclusion of the mentorship year. 

In addition to the SAA Mentoring Program, the Subcommittee oversees a provisional mentoring endeavor, the SAA Annual Meeting Navigator Program.  It is a short-term mentoring opportunity that matches experienced Annual Meeting attendees with anyone interested in advice or assistance in navigating the Annual Meeting.  Similar to the procedures in the SAA Mentoring Program, both Navigators and Navigatees submit an application form with data about interests and goals for their SAA Annual Meeting participation.  The Subcommittee matches participants based on their application information, provides contact data, suggests tips for their interim mentorship, and follows with a survey about their Navigator Program experience. 

In the quest to create greater efficiency and adaptability, the SAA Mentoring Subcommittee has grown to take on a new mentoring cohort program; and members actively explore new mentoring models.  Participation in these mentorships offers the joy of learning what is important to archivists throuhgout the life cycle of their careers.  It provides the opportunity to learn about archivists’ differences as well as commonalities.  Serving on the committee allows one to contribute to making the program suitable to the current status of archivists and helps them plan for their futures.  In our technologically-based world, especially with the recent demands the pandemic has imposed, the SAA Mentoring Program has achieved preeminent relevance for the sustainability of our profession.

Mentoring from the Student’s Perspective
Section contributed by Jacob MacDonnell

I have had a very positive experience doing the Society of American Archivists Mentor/Mentee program. I am paired with Betts Coup, Processing Archivist at Harvard University’s Houghton Special Collections Library. Our meetings have been useful for my professional development, learning about the process of preparing my master’s paper for publication, and for navigating a tumultuous job market.

I graduated from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Master of Science in Library Science program with a concentration in archives and records management. My professors and career advisors had strongly suggested taking advantage of student membership of the SAA and participating in their mentorship program. I feel that this advice proved to be lasting in a significant way. While the pandemic dramatically impacted my job search, as well as many of my classmates’ searches, I feel that having a mentor on-the-ground doing archival work granted me the opportunity to strategize about marketing my skills and interests.

Many of my relatives, friends, and other mentors from the library world live in the greater Boston area, and it was a goal of mine to end up in the city. Betts shared useful information about hiring processes, which cultural heritage institutions to be aware of, and insight about local and regional professional organizations related to archives. I found a job in Boston at the Commonwealth School (a private high school) as their librarian and registrar, that reflected my interests in libraries and records management. I feel my awareness and ability to find a job in Boston directly relates to my participation in the SAA mentor program, and I would strongly encourage MLIS students and archivists on the job market to consider joining.

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