How the Mentoring Service Works?


The Wisconsin Archives Mentoring Service brings together professional archivists who want to mentor with institutions that need assistance with their historical collections. Professional archivists submit a registration form with brief information about their education and experience to the mentoring service office. Institutions similarly provide information about themselves and about what kind of assistance they are seeking by submitting an application form.

The mentoring office reviews the information, checks with archivists and institutions for clarification, if necessary, and starts to connect archivists with institutions. Archivists' information will be maintained for as long as they want to offer mentoring to institutions. WAMS will check with institutions once their initial mentoring project concludes, to determine if institutions want to remain registered for additional assistance.

Agreeing to Work Together

Once the mentoring office puts an institution and a mentor in touch with each other, it lets them work out the details of the mentoring project independently. WAMS provides advice and suggestions but leaves details about objectives, schedules, and types of assistance are up to the two parties. The mentor and institution can make whatever kind of arrangements best suit themselves, from drawing up a written agreement to developing a project one step at a time.

Defining the Project

A mentoring project can start right away through direct communications between an institution and its mentor and develop organically as they improve collections. For mentors and institutions that prefer a more structured approach to mentoring work, the mentoring service offers two particular resources.

  • Assessment

Assessing an institution's historical collections and the conditions of their maintenance, use, and care is recommended to establish a baseline of information for focusing the mentoring work and for future planning. The mentoring service recommends completing an institutional self-assessment form that can be used to collect and compile useful collection information. Mentors can give an institution significant help in completing the form and in using the collected information to identify needs for improvement.

  • Planning

Once an institution knows how it wants to improve the preservation of its historical collections and what help it needs from a mentor, we recommend completing a brief and simple plan of work for the project. A plan creates a blueprint for the mentoring project and helps to define goals and objectives, time schedules, staff's roles and responsibilities, the mentor's role, types of supplies and their costs, and so forth. A plan can help communicate the purpose of the project to the institution's administration and governing body. The mentoring service offers sample plans and a planning form to help you through this process.

Conducting the Work

Once preliminary steps are completed, institutions and mentors work together on their own schedules as long as the relationship remains mutually productive. The mentoring office may contact mentors or institutions occasionally to get updates, but the mentoring work itself proceeds through cooperation directly between the mentors and institutions.

Evaluating the Work

When a mentoring project follows a written plan or when it is likely to lead to further mentoring work, it is helpful to conclude it with an evaluation. Again, this final step need not be formal or elaborate. It can be a short summary that answers such questions as: has the project met its objectives?; what collection improvements have been achieved?; what has the institution learned about its collections?; what would the mentor and institution do differently in a future project?; were the project costs more or less than anticipated?; and so forth. These questions are only illustrative. The evaluation should provide useful information for the institution's administration, governing board, supporters, and for the mentor.

Communicating, Publicizing and Reporting

It is important to let people know about the outcomes of institutions' and mentors' cooperative work. Mentoring projects can make significant improvements for an institution's historical collections. They can also develop important new community roles for volunteer professional archivists. Therefore, institutions should make their communities, friends, supporters, administration, and trustees know what mentoring has accomplished. Likewise, mentors should use the institutions' publicity and their own reports to inform their administrators of what their volunteer time has accomplished. All this communication and publicity brings recognition for important work, elevates the appreciation of historical collections within an institution and among its key stakeholders, and promotes the value of mentoring as a means for improving a community's cultural heritage.

The mentoring program supports the publicizing of these outcomes with dedicated space on this website. Through on-line features on each mentoring relationship, mentors and institutions can help build this site so that others will benefit from their experiences.

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