Formal Mentoring Programs Can Provide Organizational and Professional Benefits, but are Few and Far Between in Canadian Academic Libraries




academic librarianship, mentoring,


A Review of:
Harrington, M. R., & Marshall, E. (2014). Analyses of mentoring expectations, activities, and support in Canadian academic libraries. College & Research Libraries, 75(6), 763-790. doi:


Objective – To determine the extent to which formal and informal mentoring is present in Canadian academic libraries and how such activities meet expectations for new librarians, practising librarians, and library administrators.

Design – Online surveys.

Setting – Canadian college and university libraries.

Subjects – Three groups were defined and surveyed: graduates from one Canadian MLIS program; librarians practising in a Canadian academic library, and library administrators directing a Canadian academic library.

Methods – Participants were selected using stratified, purposeful sampling and were invited to participate in an online survey in December 2010. Three surveys were distributed in total; one for each of the three target groups defined. The surveys contained both closed- and open-ended questions. Students from one specific MLIS program graduating in December 2010 and Spring 2011 were directly invited to participate. An incentive was offered to the student group and the librarian group to encourage participation.

Main Results – Mentoring programs in Canadian colleges and universities are present but are largely informal. Mentoring activities are positively correlated with student population, how long a mentor has worked professionally, and whether or not librarians had been mentored early in their careers. 83% of new graduates expected to be mentored when hired by a Canadian academic library while less than one quarter of librarians and no administrators reported having similar expectations when starting their professional academic careers. Over 50% of the students who responded to the survey reported that they had experienced some form of mentoring while completing their MLIS, though that may be related to the cooperative placement component of their educational program. All respondents, with the exception of university administers, indicated that library colleagues are appropriate mentors, while academic librarians and administrators felt that the mentorship relationship would not benefit were the mentor also the supervisor.

Respondents placed the greatest weight of importance on mentoring activities related to academic expertise, career guidance, psychosocial support and role models, while indicating that evaluation was not considered to have a significant place in the mentor-mentee relationship. Networking, cultural complexities, general encouragement, and career counseling were seen as important mentorship aspects for both new graduates and practising librarians. Administrators in both college and university libraries were less likely to support mentoring particularly in the areas of assisting with grant writing, evaluation, and career counseling. In general, administrators were reluctant to develop or support formal mentor programming even though a significant percentage agreed that it would benefit succession planning.

Conclusion – New graduates and practising librarians expect to participate in some form of mentoring activities yet there are very few Canadian academic libraries providing formal mentorship programming. The value of the mentor-mentee relationship with respect to organizational planning, recruitment and retention, as well as career planning, is perceived as high amongst new graduates, practising librarians, and administrators.


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Author Biography

Lindsay J. Alcock, Memorial University of Newfoundland

Head, Public Services




How to Cite

Alcock, L. J. (2015). Formal Mentoring Programs Can Provide Organizational and Professional Benefits, but are Few and Far Between in Canadian Academic Libraries. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 10(2), 167–169.



Evidence Summaries

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