On Mentorship


Here at Interlochen, the summer is a magic place. Since 1928, the National Music Camp (now Interlochen Arts Camp) has run for 6 (formerly 8) weeks. More than 3,500 campers, ages 8-18, spend time on the shores of 2 beautiful inland lakes experiencing music, dance, art, creative writing, and theater. They rehearse, practice, paint, draw, and write with dedication and drive.

On Memorial Day (graduation), the library moves from Academic to Camp mode. Our constituents change from High School artists and faculty to faculty and staff with mostly recreational pursuits and “kids at camp.”

I ran dozens of statistical reports in the first week of my new job (August ‘22). Circulation during the six weeks of camp was one of the most eye-opening. I WAS ASTOUNDED when I compared it to the circulation during the Academic year. Camp has three times the circulation (per person) than we do during the academic year!

The uptick in use allows us to hire 18 summer interns. We have 14 in the Ensemble and Music Library, 2 in the Academic Library, and 2 in the Archives! It’s quite a process and also quite a crew.

The interns we hire come from varied backgrounds. Some are current MLS students, some are recent college graduates, and others are undergraduates hoping to give librarianship a “test drive” for the summer. They live and eat on campus and are part of the camp experience.

The most important thing we do for these dedicated “book jockeys” is mentorship. Establishing a personalized program for each intern gives them hands-on experience, chances to develop a passion project, and provide advice and guidance they won’t see in their Library School programs.

I will always remember my Librarian mentor’s vital role in my career development. She showed me daily what school librarianship could be, with directed learning and through her dedication to the students and faculty. In the early days of the Internet, she modeled a positive and enthusiastic attitude toward change as we removed laser disc players, sent out our card catalog for digitization, and discarded old copies of the “Readers Guide to Periodical Literature.” She allowed me to try (and struggle) with early database searching and taught me how important it would be to let my students see the progress and pitfalls in searching and to take failure in stride. And, perhaps most importantly, she allowed me to ask more questions in one hour than my then four-year-old son asked in a day!

At their exit interviews, our interns marveled at “being a librarian is SO much more than what we learn in school!” Whether they processed orchestral parts, did programming for our faculty and staff children, drove the bookmobile to the Junior Campers for their after-lunch rest time, or processed thousands of vintage camp photographs, each one learned more about the varied scope of “Information Science” in 7 weeks than they’d learned in years of academia.

At my mentor’s retirement party, there were 4 of us that had worked with her, who had returned to school and obtained MLS degrees. Each of us had significant Independent school Librarian positions, mainly due to our attitudes, experience, and philosophies about teaching, learning, and the lives of teenagers. I saw then that adding to the profession was vital (for me) to a meaningful career.

You don’t have to have a gaggle of interns to “mentor.” Each of us does it every day. Whether we kindly answer a question on the listserv, talk with a student about the benefits of our positions, enthusiastically help a parent or grandparent with a book choice for their child, or model the significance of the First Amendment, we mentor. In doing so, we grow respect for this unique profession. You never know…you may grow another librarian!

Now that Camp is over, I’m diligently working on our Koha catalog conversion. I learned early on that one of the most rewarding aspects of this career is the variety in the work. There is always something new to learn and a new challenge waiting for you.

Wishing you all a wonderful start to the new school year.



One thought on “On Mentorship

  1. Great article, but I’m left with one question: When do you replenish your tank? Sounds like there is no summer vacation for you.

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