In Praise of Mentors
It may come as a huge surprise to many new librarians, but in the 1980’s, computers were rarely mentioned in Library Science Programs. We arrived at our jobs in libraries that didn’t have a single computer in the building. So how did we learn to thrive in an environment suddenly so dependent on technology? – in my case, it was working with a mentor. Imagine, if you can, being given the job of technology librarian based solely on the fact that you were the only person in the building who owned a computer. This is what happened to me. I had an Apple IIc in my house, primarily for my three young children.
Our library was one of the forward-thinking facilities in our area. We had two Apple IIe’s (Amber screens) and an old IBM. We were just starting to migrate to GEAC, our first OPAC. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, especially since I was hired to be a children’s librarian. In stepped my mentor, a retired GM employee who had the patience of a saint and was the most computer-saavy person I had ever known. Chet sat with me as I looked “under the hood” of my first computer – and then put it back together for me. He made sure I memorized the DOS commands needed to copy files, create directories and many other tasks that we now accomplish with a mouse click. Unfortunately, he taught me enough to be dangerous – – I wiped out entire hard drives several times with that “Fdisk” command and Chet would arrive at the building in time to rescue me and rebuild the drive. Over the years, he learned web design in order to aid me in creating our first library web page, and then assisted in helping other community organizations to make their own pages to put on our site. He helped me when we started our web search classes for our patrons, acting as my assistant. There was literally nothing that he wouldn’t help with in the area of technology!
As the years went on, Chet’s eyesight failed him and he had to give up his own computer. He still served as a great coach and resource for me in so many ways. His wisdom and wit were inspirational. Chet’s heart failed him just as his eyes, and we said a final good-bye to him this week. I told his family that I would not have been able function in my job for the past twenty years without him as my mentor. This is the absolute truth! There may be moments when I envy the librarians who come out of school knowing programming languages and the most current technology. Then I realize that no amount of formal schooling could be as valuable to me as the time I spent with my mentor. Chet, you were the greatest !!
Entry filed under: Personal Favorites.