Mentoring and Finding Your Mentor Match

I’m so excited to share the following guest post from a fellow CALLI cohort member, Amy Bland. Sadly, I was out of town for this year’s CALCON (don’t feel too sad for me; I was in Hawaii for a dear friend’s wedding!), and I missed the CALLI session on mentoring. Amy graciously agreed to blog about what happened for me, and here’s what she had to say:

Last Thursday, CALLI members met with potential mentors at the Council Tree Library in Fort Collins. The morning began with with an introduction to the mentoring process, led by Christine Kreger and Janine Reid. They presented the goals and objectives for the mentor/mentee relationship, as well as the characteristics and responsibilities of each party. In the context of CALLI, the mentor provides insight and direction, while the overall needs and goals are defined by the mentee. The mentee should also drive the communication, reaching out to his/her mentor every month or more frequently if a need arises.

After the introduction and ground rules, we heard from two sets of mentors/mentees from previous CALLI cohorts. Each pair described how they formed their unique relationship, how often they met, and what they discussed during their meetings. Both mentors emphasized that they learned a tremendous amount from their mentees, so the relationship is definitely bi-directional. Also, the bonds formed during the mentoring process can extend long after the cohort ends, and may evolve into a less formal relationship. Each mentor/mentee relationship is different, but the most successful ones include a personal connection, the ease to discuss anything, and a commitment to meeting on a regular basis.

When the mentor panel ended, we transitioned into the speed dating round (no joke!). Christine and Janine brought in several potential mentors—library directors, managers, and leaders—who braved six rounds of questioning from eager mentees. I applaud the willingness of these mentors to share their time and experience; I think it says a lot about this profession that there are so many who are willing to help and share.

Before wrapping up, Christine and Janine encouraged mentees to reach out to the mentors who could offer them professional guidance. The mentors didn’t need to be those who attended Thursday’s meeting, but they should be available to meet regularly throughout the year.

Since this meeting was on the first day of CALCON, we had the rest of the conference to observe (“stalk”) potential mentors. With so many amazing librarians in attendance, hopefully most CALLI members left with at least an idea of who they would like as a mentor. I know I did!


Amy is the Technical Services Librarian at BVSD, where she has worked since 2008. She holds an MLIS from DU, specializing in Resource Description and Access. Amy has presented at several state conferences, including CLiC, Google Apps for Education Summit, and most recently at CAL. She loves finding ways to support users with appropriate technology. Amy is also a Vulcan-to-human translator, serving on the communications team for her IT department. Please contact Amy at You can also follow her on Twitter @BVSDLibraries.

Things That Keep Me Up At Night: Screen Time and Digital Storytimes

Welcome to Things That Keep Me Up At Night, a semi-regular feature in which I discuss things in librarianship that I’m thinking about. Some are big, some are small, but all are things I take seriously.

We’ve been trying our second round of having a digital storytime (a storytime where we use an iPad to tell stories and flannel boards and sing songs) at my library. The first round was not very popular, attendance-wise. But the people who did come absolutely LOVED the program, so we decided to rename it and try again. So far, we’ve had more attendance (our first program was last month), and again, the people who came loved it. But I have found that the program does not excite a lot of our parents because they are concerned about something that also concerns me: screen time.

photo credit: courosa via photopin cc

photo credit: courosa via photopin cc

The online Oxford Dictionaries defines screen time as “Time spent using a device such as a computer, television, or games console.” I would add phones and tablets to this definition, as well. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends no screen time for children under the age of 2 and only 1-2 hours a day for children ages 2-5.

With these guidelines, and because I work in a community that is concerned about screen time, I’ve never been sure of how to view digital storytimes. In my mind, there are two ways of looking at them. One: we model how parents can use devices in an enriching way with their children, just like we do in normal storytimes where we model ways that parents can continue using the early literacy practices at home. Or, the less positive way of looking at it: We know the research, but offer yet another screen for our kiddos to look at, even when research shows significant problems associated with screen time like obesity, behavioral issues, sleep problems, and more.

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CALLI, Going Forward

I feel like I’ve covered a lot of ground in my last few weeks of blog posts, but the truth is, I’ve barely scratched the surface of what we learned. Colorado librarians, if you ever get the chance to apply for CALLI, I urge you to do it. After the opening session, I was thinking critically about my role in my organization, thinking about how to leverage my strengths, and set into motion goals I’d had at the back of my mind for a long time. And this is just at the beginning of the year! I’m so excited to see how much more I will learn and do over the next year. With that in mind, here is what I hope to get out of CALLI:


  1. Learn more about who I am as a leader.
  2. Think about what it means to be a leader. Specifically, even if I don’t have a title that says I’m a “Supervisor,” “Manager,” or “Director,” I can still be a leader in my organization.
  3. Expand my network and learn from amazing library leaders around the state.
  4. Learn from and pick the brains of all of the amazing fellow CALLI participants! It’s an awesome group. I can’t wait to learn more from everyone in the program.
  5. Built a great rapport with my mentor and learn as much as I can from him or her.
  6. Keep an open mind and recognize that I will get way more out of this experience than I could ever even imagine at this point in the process.

So, that’s it for the CALLI opening session. If you’ve stuck with me through all of these opening posts, thanks! I have lots more coming up: some CALLI stuff, but also some features more related to my day job as a children’s librarian. If you want to hear about what keeps my librarian brain up at night, and the storytime books that I couldn’t live without in the month of October, look for those posts coming soon!

photo credit: gcouros via photopin cc

Goal Setting

This blog happened because of CALLI. I’ve had a WordPress blog for a few years now, since I started my job as a children’s librarian. My original plan was to do a storytime blog to help out newbie librarians the way other blogs helped out me when I started doing storytimes. But, as it so often does, life happened. My job is busy, fulfilling, wonderful, and when I started it I was doing a whole lot of new things. Adding blogging to the mix just seemed like too much. So this blog lay dormant for a few years.

Yay for goals!

Yay for reaching goals!

Setting Goals

On our second day of CALLI, we had a goal setting exercise. We had spent a lot of the day talking about our strengths, and the purpose of this exercise was to think about our strengths and develop goals around them. We were to come up with two goals, and then we were going to do peer-to-peer goal coaching. I decided to focus on my Developer® and Learner® strengths. I thought about this blog, and realized that the reason I had always been drawn to blogging was because of my Developer® strength. It would be the perfect way to share what I was learning in CALLI with others, and hopefully help them grow with me. So my goal was to officially start this blog, commit to writing a minimum of one post a month, and have the main focus be on library leadership.

Our goals were to be SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound). We were also supposed to focus on goals that we could meet over the next 3 months, as we start the CALLI experience. We also had to write them down, as studies have shown that just writing down goals makes you more likely to do them. Actually, that study I linked to shows that not just writing them down, but talking to a friend about them and checking in weekly with a friend makes you the most likely to follow through. Which is probably why we also did goal coaching, which was the most helpful part of the exercise for me.

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Working With People With Your Strengths

In my last post, I talked about our second day at CALLI, where we discussed our strengths, based on the Strengths Finder 2.0 test and book. After having a general strengths discussion, we were all placed into groups with other people who shared one of our strengths. We were supposed to work together to find a way to share with the whole group what this particular strength was all about. The group I was placed with all had the Developer® strength. It was such a fascinating experience to work with a group of people who shared the same strength. Here are things to think about when you’re working with people with similar strengths and a similar way of looking at the world.


  • People who are Developers® are pretty awesome to work with, I must say. When I suggested an idea for how to present everything to the group with the preface of, “This may sound hokey, but what about this,” everyone was so positive and so happy to help put the idea into action. They all offered suggestions that made the idea better, and we were all really excited about the exercise.
  • It was fun to find people who get you. We talked about what being a Developer® means, and there was a lot of head nodding and “ah-ha” moments where we realized we all felt similarly about something. For instance, at my work, we have something called the “Way To Go” box, where you can put in a note when you noticed someone has gone above and beyond the call of duty. These are read out loud at staff meetings, so we can celebrate everyone’s accomplishments. This is the kind of thing that doesn’t appeal to everyone, but I love it. I always put at least one “Way To Go” in the box before every meeting, because I tend to notice the little things people do and want to celebrate them. This is pretty much the definition of a Developer®, and it was fun to share with the group and have them all understand why I love the “Way To Go” box.


  • We all had to laugh a bit, as we were running out of time and the actual point of the exercise (creatively telling the group about what being a Developer® is all about) wasn’t happening. We were all so excited about each other’s ideas, but we needed a taskmaster to make it happen. We pulled it all together and had a fine presentation to the group, but it was a good reminder that if everyone thinks and acts similarly, sometimes key things get missed. As much fun as it is to work with people who think similarly, it’s also important to not work only with people who are very similar to you, as things will get missed.

This exercise was a lot of fun, as it reinforced the nature of all of our strengths (we all realized how much we were Developers® after working together), but it also showed how important it is to have a variety of strengths in an organization. Linking this back to leadership, it’s a very important thing to think about when hiring people, especially when studies show that people tend to hire people who are like themselves. That is bad, and in a field like librarianship, which desperately needs more diversity, is extremely problematic.

Tapping Into Your Strengths

On the first day of CALLI, we talked broadly about leadership. Our second day was more inwardly focused. We looked at our strengths and thought about how we could tap into those strengths and think positively in terms of our strengths, rather than our weaknesses. All of this was based on the Strengths Finder 2.0 test, which we all took before attending CALLI.


Here are my top 5 strengths, based on the test, along with a brief description of what they mean:

Input™:  Someone who always wants to know more. They can be collectors and archivers of all kinds of information. If you know any librarians, you will probably be unsurprised to know that this was a very popular strength in a room full of them.

Strategic™: Strategic people see many alternate ways to proceed. They see patterns and issues in any given scenario and often see the pitfalls in a plan before anyone else does.

Learner®: Someone with a desire to continuously learn and improve. The process of learning can be more exciting for them than the outcome. This was another very popular strength in a room full of librarians.

Intellection®: Someone who likes to think. They are introspective, and enjoy intellectual conversations. Another popular strength for librarians!

Developer®: Someone who sees the potential in others. They get satisfaction from mentoring and helping people improve.

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The Idea of Influence

Something I learned in our opening session with Pat Wagner at CALLI: I’m uncomfortable with the idea of influence. Influencing people seemed somehow wrong to me, like you were making someone do something against his or her will. When our small group talked about influential people and what it means to be influential, someone mentioned a used car salesman. And I brought up Frank Underwood of House of Cards.

Great show, but I emphatically do not want to be like him.

Great show, but I emphatically do not want to be like him.

So obviously there was some discomfort with the idea of influence at our table. The reason I mentioned Frank Underwood was because I was thinking of the consummate politician. Someone who can woo. Someone who can talk to anyone without fear. And that’s just not me. Being a schmoozer is not someone I want to be, even if I thought I could. It doesn’t feel genuine to me, and probably wouldn’t to anyone I tried to schmooze. (This is not to disparage anyone who does have these talents. I have an uncle who I adore who can talk to anyone and is the best host I’ve ever met. He makes everyone in the room feel great, and everyone wants to spend time with him. And it’s completely genuine, coming from him. It just wouldn’t feel that way coming from me.) Continue reading