Note: This is the fourth in what is hoped will be a series of columns about the experiences of those new to the academic law librarianship profession--ed.
It can be overwhelming to join a new profession, and law librarianship is no different. New law librarians face many challenges. In addition to learning the internal structure and procedures that come with any new job, new law librarians also face other obstacles including learning new jargon and how to network in their tight-knit new profession. How is a new law librarian to deal with these pressures?
By far the best way I deal with these stresses is having a mentor. Some of us luck out and have a built-in mentor, perhaps a former supervisor, current supervisor or library school professor. These relationships can be cultivated at any point along the career path. If you are a new law librarian, look around and see if there is someone with whom you can cultivate a mentor-mentee relationship. If you are fortunate enough to be a seasoned pro, look around and see if there is someone you know who is in need of mentoring. These relationships are mutually rewarding and well worth the effort.
But many new law librarians have no such mentor available. And without that built-in support system, it is easy to talk yourself out of going through the steps necessary to gain a mentor. The process requires you to actively seek out such a person. For some, this can be an intimidating task. There is, however, an AALL committee designed exactly this purpose. The AALL Mentoring Committee offers a mentor service for anyone in law librarianship who is interested (for more information, go to the committee website at www.aallnet.org/committee/mentoring). This service can make the process of gaining a mentor or becoming a mentee as easy as the click of a button.
Another means to relieve the stress of being new to the profession is to have a colleague with whom you can commiserate. If you run across someone else new to the profession with whom you get along well, develop a relationship with that person. This relationship will allow you to have frank discussions and freely exchange ideas. Normally, this sort of relationship functions best if it is someone you do not work with because they will be objective and not emotionally invested in your work situation. If you aren't the type to network and rub elbows, don't despair. There are some easy ways to connect with your peers. If you haven't attended the Conference of New Law Librarians yet and are able to do so, it is a wonderful way to meet new law librarians and is offered each year prior to the Annual Meeting (additional information available at the Mentoring Committee website). In addition, taking the plunge and becoming active in your local or regional chapters is another great way to meet new people.
Every job comes with its unique challenges. Having people with whom you can discuss those challenges and get feedback will make the workplace much easier to manage. Becoming a mentor or mentee may require you to go outside of your comfort zone, but the effort is well worth it.