ASSOCIATES (2004, July, v. 11, no. 1) -

[Editor: Tinker Massey has written a follow-up to the original article titled "E-Mail Mentoring: a Research Project" <> in Associates (1994, July, v. 1, no. 1). Tinker is a frequent contributor, author of Rainbow's End, and is highly involved in library activities.]

*E-Mail Mentoring Revisited*


Tinker Massey
University of South Carolina

In the very first issue of Associates (July 1994), Peg Earheart (Vanderbilt University) and I wrote an article entitled "E-Mail Mentoring: a Research Project." We had just completed the research and an ALA Poster session that attracted many people. I remember having to send packets of information to many people overseas because we ran out of the one hundred handouts we had brought. That was a huge "rush" as those people crowded our table and poster to absorb the information in the half hour time slot. We had eleven initial participants, but when word spread, we expanded to seventeen people per mentor. We identified specific communication barriers, solved those problems and were able to help those support staff develop in their jobs. Please refer to the original article for specific procedures and results.

As time has changed Peg and me, and we have changed jobs, routines and in my case, locality, we pursued different paths in libraries. In 2002, I sent a proposal to the USC School of Library and Information Science called, "E-Mail Mentoring: An Application for ĎChangeí." In this proposal, I used the primary mentoring research to establish a consulting workshop that would be followed by group e-mail mentoring sessions. We often have consultants come on one or two days and leave us without very many words. A report shows up some months later and we are to take that for what it is, an outsiderís opinion with no emotional connection. My proposal was to add an emotional and developmental connection through organizing workflow groups in the "trained environment" into e-mail groups that could communicate with the consultant working as trainer and mediator off-site. The proposal was considered very imaginative and "interesting" but the School was looking for completed studies. I still donít understand what definition of proposal they were using. Nonetheless, the consulting training occurred, but the follow-up did not. Iím sorry that this was not a possibility at the time, because the situation could have been workable.

As it sometimes happens, situations come around again if the ideas are applicable and sound. At USC, Thomas Cooper Library, we are getting ready to merge the Catalog and Acquisitions departments on some initial workflow levels. The serials units in both departments have started working together on e-book and e-serial materials in the online catalog. They will be doing other tasks together and will eventually be one group. Our copy catalogers and the acquisitions ordering/receiving/paying units will have its first cooperative training session on June 7, then work on an approval shipment the next day. My part has been to retrain the copy catalogers to take on more technical tasks in "cc" and bring them to a par with the off-campus "cc" group. I have been very busy writing procedures and doing training. Now, I am also writing procedures for the combined group and getting disks ready for them that can be used like a manual. The capacity will be there to place the material on desktop and/or toolbar for easy use during the incoming process. I am also requesting an e-mail circle that will allow all participants to share any problems and solutions, as well as for the trainers to add material to the disk. Since it would be on e-mail, the staff would always have access to the material/explanations, whether they are on-site, at home, on vacation or on sick leave. No one will be left behind in this process and the material on the disks can be kept up-to-date easily. We have one participant who has hearing and visual problems. She has equipment that allows her to magnify the material as much as she needs to read it. I am also requesting that we obtain an amplifying unit for her, so that she can wear a headset to obtain louder speech and others will not be interrupted by the raised voices we have heard in the past. I think this could work well. We are preparing for a physical move that will reduce our departmental workspace, so we will need to conserve peopleís privacy as much as possible.

I am most anxious to get the training completed, so that we will be in that part of my "mentoring" application that deals with the day to day learning. It is my contention that daily experience supports and extends the learning process so that development for the staff will be continuous and confidence producing. It is the hope of all involved that this system will prove to be the path of the future. I will try to keep you updated as we complete our steps in this process. Please feel free to send any ideas you have to me at

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