3.1 Designing a Mentorship-focused Program: A Step-by-Step Approach

There are four steps in designing a mentorship-focused program:

STEP 1: Design your program and develop a mentoring roadmap

What are your goals? What participants are you looking for? Different individuals can play a role in mentoring. For initial ideas, we outline three different types of mentoring roles that can happen within libraries:

  • Librarians as mentors
  • Youth as mentors
  • Adult mentors (community mentors)

Youth communities with unique information needs such as non-native speakers of English, homeschoolers, or those from immigrant and refugee communities may need additional support that extend beyond the library. Therefore, it’s important to understand your community and begin developing your mentoring roadmap, or basic plan for how you will execute your program.

Your mentoring roadmap can include goals and objectives, a timeline, schedule, deliverables, and potential risks.

Some initial questions to consider in developing your mentoring program are:

  • What are the young person’s goals? What are the mentor’s goals?
  • How would the youth, library, and greater community benefit?
  • What specific knowledge, skills, and competencies do you look for in a mentor?
  • What types of access to mentors outside the library do you have?

During the planning of your mentoring roadmap, evaluate the following elements:

  • Target communities (e.g., specific occupations, demographics, community partners; similar backgrounds to specific youth)
  • Skills and expertise related to the program (e.g. software or computing background for coding)
  • Marketing or recruitment plan
  • Outline of training or orientation sessions
  • Materials and brochures for mentors and mentees
  • Format of the program (One-on-one or group mentoring, workshop setting, virtual or in person, partnership with a community organization or school, mentorship included into an established program)
  • Commitments expected: (e.g., In our program, we are looking for someone to share an hour of their time each week to____)

STEP 2: Connect with mentors/mentees

The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) outlines some key competencies to look for in mentors, including:

  • Interest in helping others learn, both in one-on-one and in small group situations
  • Demonstrated commitment to lifelong learning
  • Time commitment to participate in all aspects of the program1

In addition, consider that “youth are often the ones to approach adults as potential mentors.”2 You might be able to help facilitate the connection. Talk to and observe your youth community and their interests. Perhaps you can help introduce potential mentees to mentors who can help them reach their goals.

Think about your matching process:

  • How will mentors be recruited and matched? Are you looking for teens to be paired with others that share their lived experiences (similar background)?
  • What type of on-boarding or training will mentors be offered?
  • Is there any incentive/recognition for the mentors?

Make a plan for launching or promoting the mentoring opportunities or connecting with possible community partners and organizations. Craft a message and talking points to deliver and present to local organizations (see the Community Partnerships module).

STEP 3: Guide both your mentors and mentees

For longer term situations, how do you plan to support the mentors and mentee relationships over time? Some ideas include:

  • Regular checkins
  • Orientation sessions
  • Facilitation of mentor led programming. Will you help facilitate and work with youth while the mentor shares their expertise?
  • Training for mentors
  • Support materials for mentors such as guides or handbooks. These materials may include:
    • Expectations and boundaries; What the mentor’s role is and isn’t
    • Best practices for communicating with youth
    • Suggestions for building rapport
    • Factors affecting teen development (see Youth Development for ideas)

For longer term situations, research evidence suggests providing ways that mentors and mentees can have a “closure ritual”, or final meeting and activity to positively, rather than abruptly, end the mentoring relationship.3

STEP 4: Checking in or evaluating the relationship

How will you evaluate mentoring programs/relationships? Here are few questions to ask:

  • What learning is taking place?
  • What were the mentor and mentee’s goals? Are they reaching them?
  • If desired or appropriate, how can we sustain the relationship over time?
  • Are both parties satisfied with the relationship?

1: Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff. YALSA, 2017.

2: Personal interview with Shannon Lake, April 7, 2017.

3: DuBois, D. L., & Karcher, M. J. (Eds.). (2013). Handbook of youth mentoring. SAGE.