When Erin wrote last about the Spectrum Scholar Mentor Program, I thought to myself, "why, I might be a good candidate for that, I enjoy mentoring people, this is something I care about." So I clicked on over and started to look at the form. As I examined the form, I also examined myself, and before I clicked submit, I realized that this isn't something that I can do. It isn't the best use of me, my time, and my emotional energy.
There are people (possibly you!) who are well suited for certain tasks, like being involved in a formal mentoring program. For me, I just knew that a formal program wouldn't be the best fit for me professionally OR emotionally. It's just not a situation where I am able to feel the comfort necessary to develop a good and open relationship that is an integral part of a great mentor/mentee relationship.
But it isn't that I don't value those programs. I think it is essential that we create space for them and value the work that people put in as mentors and as mentees because developing excellent professionals is a good idea for our profession.
It also isn't that I don't value mentoring. Mentoring is very important to me and I feel a strong obligation to develop mentor relationships with early career professionals and with peers (heya erin.) I especially value the role that twitter has played in helping me connect with early career professionals who have similar interests to mine. The #critlib chat, for instance, has been a way to find not only others interested in critical pedagogy, but also queer librarians with whom I can organically establish mentoring relationships (this goes both ways, of course.)
Talking baseball with some librarian (or anyone) is part of being my authentic self on twitter and it leads to the kind of relationships that I can't develop in a formal setting. (Maybe others can, I cannot.) Twitter is a place where the relationship can start with library talk or start somewhere else, but it feels very real to me and much safer than a formal structured mentoring program. So when I talk with early career professionals, first generation professionals, or others without the kind of privilege I have I can be honest with them and up front. I can find people with whom I feel safe talking about the privilege I don't have as well. I feel much more comfortable being a queer librarian on twitter than I do in most other professional setting, and twitter starts relationships that end up being in gchat or email or real life, all of which can be even safer places to have deep and honest conversations.
Informal mentoring is probably the most important thing that I do as professional. Not in that I take every individual action after grave deliberation, but that I know how much these relationships have done for me and how much it must do for others. I take that very seriously and I want to be my best for those who think they've got something to learn for me as well as those who have something to teach me. I hope we can continue learning and teaching together for a long time. That's the Unified Library Scene.