The International Librarians Network: A successful model for international mentoring

2016-02-23T10:12:10Z (GMT) by Alyson Dalby Kate Byrne Clare McKenzie
<p>The International Librarians Network (ILN) began in 2013 as a way to help librarians develop worldwide professional relationships without having to travel internationally, and is now one of the largest mentoring programs in our profession. Focusing on openness and relying entirely on volunteers, the program was designed around the concept that ideas can cross borders and make us better at what we do. Two years on, the program remains free to participants and open to anyone in the profession. In that time the ILN has facilitated connections for over 1500 participants in 103 countries, through four program rounds.  </p> <p>The ILN has developed an innovative peer mentoring model which has produced a successful, adaptable and sustainable program. Using a peer mentoring model challenges hierarchical notions of mentoring; instead, the program is based on the idea that we all have something to learn and something to teach. Peer mentoring is a solution to a shortage of mentors, a problem often faced by traditional mentoring programs, and serves to build broader relationships between participants. </p> <p>Participants in the program are matched into partnerships based on information provided, and supported with introductory information, guidance and discussion topics. Partnerships are made for a fixed term, and intervention is available should partnerships falter. Matching and discussion topics are designed to broaden participants’ understanding of the profession, locally and globally.</p> <p>Extensive evaluation has been built into the program since the start and the results show a consistently high level of program and partner satisfaction, with a large number of participants returning for multiple rounds. Participants gain a wider and more international perspective on their profession, access new ideas and information about other countries, sectors and libraries, and report an increase in professional confidence and motivation. Data on participant behaviour and program outcomes feeds into constant program improvement. </p> <p>The ILN is run by a small group of volunteer program coordinators based in Australia, and supported by a wide network of volunteer country coordinators around the world. The program is run in English, and was established with freely available online tools, which have been upgraded to allow for program growth. The ILN is independent of, but complementary to, existing professional associations. </p> <p>This presentation will explore the details of the International Librarians Network. We’ll talk about the value of peer mentoring and what it means for participants, examine data on participant experiences and satisfaction, and discuss the sustainability of the program’s organisational structure. We’ll also explore the program’s strengths and limitations as a model for long-distance mentoring, and discuss ways forward for international mentoring. </p>