Nov 01 2001

Mentoring The Leaders Of Tomorrow: Reforma’s Response

Published by rachel at 9:02 pm under associations, mentoring

by Maria Champlin

Mentoring is of particular importance today for ethnic minorities. Federal regulations have tried to increase minority numbers in the workplace, but have failed to ensure environments that promote minority productivity and retention. David A. Thomas, who has studied the progression of racial minorities at three large U.S. corporations, has shown that those who advance the furthest share one characteristic: a strong network of mentors and corporate sponsors who nurture their professional development.

Mentoring, Librarianship and Ethnic Minorities

The 1997 Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE) Statistical Report states that, although this country’s population is becoming more diverse each year, graduates from ALA- accredited programs continue to be predominantly white (90%), followed by African-Americans (3.8%), Asian or Pacific Islanders (3.0%), Hispanics (2.5%) and American Indians (.41%).

ALA initiatives to help bridge this gap include the $1.5 million Spectrum initiative, which provides $5,000 scholarships for graduate LIS study, and a recently-appointed (as of 1998) diversity officer. At the 2000 ALA Midwinter, REFORMA (The National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to the Latinos and the Spanish Speaking) established the REFORMA/ALA Spectrum Latino Mentoring Program. REFORMA realized the opportunity to fill the vacuum by creating a mentoring program to nurture professional development and to prepare the potential library leaders of tomorrow.

What Is the REFORMA Mentoring Program?

The REFORMA board approved a program at ALA Midwinter 2000 to assist Latino Spectrum Scholars in their graduate programs and with job searches. Four mentors and four Spectrum Scholar protégés applied to take part in the first year of the REFORMA/ALA Spectrum Latino Mentoring Program. The Mentoring Committee paired mentors and protégés based on the interests and professional goals listed on their application forms, as well as their geographical location.

Participants responded to a midterm evaluation in June, 2001. The protégés’ evaluations demonstrated that mentoring has had a significant influence on them, while the mentors’ evaluations showed some uncertainty as to whether their mentoring had a beneficial impact on their protégés. During the initial six months of the program, mentors and protégés kept in touch primarily via e-mail. All participants responded that the time commitment was working well for them and that contact by e-mail is both convenient and timely.

Some mentors and protégés had the opportunity to meet in person for the first time during this year’s ALA conference in San Francisco. A breakfast meeting was also arranged by the Mentoring Committee Chair for mentors and protégés as an opportunity to meet, not only each other but other participants.

The program is now in its second year and has been expanded to reach out to all Latino MLS Students, including, but not limited to, Latino Spectrum Scholars and REFORMA Scholarship Recipients, and to librarians working with Latino communities.

Goals of the REFORMA Mentoring Program

Program goals were revised to address the new targeted groups. The goals of the REFORMA Mentoring Program are:

  1. To provide mentoring relationships for ALA Latino Spectrum Scholars, REFORMA MLS Scholarship recipients and librarians working with Latino communities with seasoned REFORMA librarians.
  2. To develop and maintain a pool of Latino librarians, and to help non-Latino librarians become confident in providing library services to the Latino population.
  3. To assist student protégés to become successful in their MLS graduate programs, to be marketable and self-confident in the library work environment, to become more knowledgeable about the library field and library opportunities, and to assist them in their job searches.
  4. To assist librarian protégés in their quest to serve our Latino communities in developing services and programs that fit the needs of their communities.
  5. To share this Mentoring Program design with other ALA Ethnic Caucuses, encouraging them to develop similar programs.

The Program’s Success Stories

During the midterm evaluation of the program, protégés were asked to relate some examples of the benefits they had experienced up to that point. Comments included:

  • “My mentor has been a great inspiration in sharing his experiences and advice. Even though we come from different backgrounds (me being academic and him being public), I find his insight very helpful. Sometimes sharing one’s experiences can create a sense of empowerment and assurance that obstacles can be [overcome].”
  • “In a paper I wrote about library education, my mentor was able to put me in contact with the person in charge of their library education program. Without my mentor’s help, I would not have known who to get in touch with.”
  • “My mentor made me see how a good practicum would serve the purpose of helping me hone in on a specific area of interest in academic library work.”

When asked about aspects of the Mentoring Program they liked, mentors and protégés answered as follows:

  • “{The Program has} Given me the chance to meet, discuss, and become friends with a professional librarian. She has exchange[d] information with me that would otherwise be unavailable to me.”
  • “I have tremendous respect for the commitment of the mentors to ensure a smooth transition for Latinos to library work.”
  • “I really like knowing another Latina in my field. At the Library Program I am attending, there are no Latino instructors, librarians, or other students. My mentor’s work, especially in Panama, has sparked my interest in doing a study of Cuban libraries.”

Library Leaders of Tomorrow

Initiatives such as the ALA Spectrum Scholarship Program and the REFORMA Mentoring Program are just the beginning steps in addressing a very complex structure. Our associations, organizations and corporations are not accustomed to reflecting the faces of our diverse population in meaningful leadership positions. The ALA Diversity Action Report states that, to effectively serve an ever- growing diverse population, our workforce needs to be reflective of the people it serves and of the larger global community.

REFORMA has positioned and committed itself to developing library leaders for the new millennium. Through its mentoring program it will attract and train a pool of Latino professionals that are aware, well prepared and able to address the information needs of a diverse society. Attracting a significant pool of people of color to the library profession, as well as training and retaining them, is essential if we are seriously committed to diversity in our organizations. Mentoring can be influential in achieving these goals.

However, this is not a one-way-street. Protégés need to fully commit themselves and be willing, to paraphrase Mahatma Ghandi, to “Become the change they wish to see in the world.” Protégés of today can become the leaders and mentors of tomorrow and set in motion the changes necessary to create workforces that are truly diverse at all levels.

Maria A. Vieira Champlin is the Chair of the REFORMA Mentoring Program. Mrs. Champlin is the Vice-President of Quadrant Planning, a consulting firm located in Las Vegas, specializing in Planning, Geographic Information Systems, and Market and Site Analysis. For additional information on the REFORMA Mentoring Program, please visit http://www.reforma.org.

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