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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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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