Agriculture and Natural Resources Librarian University of Tennessee Knoxville
As COVID-19 hiring freezes resolve, libraries are hiring many new employees. Many still view mentoring as a singular mentor-mentee dynamic and are hesitant to participate. This poster demonstrates how mentoring circles help create meaningful ways to provide advice and guidance while keeping physical, mental, and emotional costs low, which can help libraries create a supportive environment without overtaxing existing employees. At Clemson Libraries, new hires within the past five years produced a sizeable cohort of junior faculty. Revisions of promotion guidelines and gaps between starting dates of junior and senior faculty created a mentorship vacuum on topics like service and research expectations, and work-life balance. Junior faculty needed guidance, while senior faculty felt unprepared to meet that need. The Library Faculty Mentoring Committee (LFMC) surveyed faculty comfort with mentoring and leadership, and topics of interest resulting in a program of mentoring circles rather than traditional one-to-one mentoring models. These circles hosted both junior and senior faculty, distributing expertise and allowing flexible group leadership, providing space for people to contribute as their comfort levels dictated. Each month, participants attended a presentation on a theme, such as conflict resolution, tenure and promotion processes, and work-life balance. In the weeks that followed, mentoring circles would meet to discuss the presentation and its theme while providing peer-to-peer mentoring. This pattern of highlighting expert voices while letting groups guide their own discussions created a balance of structure and flexibility that saw repeated engagement by circle members.