Mentoring Partnerships: Shellaine Kelley and Jenifer Monger

Shellaine Kelley is a self-paced MLIS student with an interest in pursuing a career in visual resources and art librarianship. In 2018, she earned a BFA in Printmaking from Kendall College of Art & Design. Having recently relocated to the Greater Los Angeles area in late 2020 from the Midwest, Shellaine quickly gained employment with the City of Santa Clarita Public Library where she now works as a Library Aide. She is a current student member of SAA, VRA, and ARLIS/NA.

Jenifer Monger is the Assistant Institute Archivist for the Institute Archives and Special Collections at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. She has an undergraduate degree in Art History from Skidmore College and pursued her graduate degree in Archives and Records Administration. In 2020, she received her Digital Archives Specialist certificate through SAA. Jenifer has been in the museum and archives profession since 2007. She is currently a committee member for the SAA Membership Committee, Vice-President for the Capital Area Archivists in N.Y., and Co-organizer of the PaperologyRAG 2.0 (Reading and Activity Group).

The Society of American Archivists’ Mentoring Program welcomes applications throughout the year. In this blog series, mentoring participants share about their experience in the program. Would you like to write a post? Let us know at saamembershipcommittee@gmail.com.

What are some aspects that you most enjoy about working with your mentoring partner?

Jenifer

Shellaine and I have had a lot of fun, meaningful conversations that led to brainstorming, strategizing, and sharing information and resources. We also enjoyed sharing resources which fed a key common denominator between us – our creative and artistic outlooks on life! Moreover, I really enjoyed helping Shellaine through some very big decisions related to her academic and professional goals over the past year. I was pleased to offer guidance and help her sift through various scenarios and talk through different avenues to pursue. That said, our relationship was never a one-way street. Shellaine also offered me valuable feedback and support with some of my professional endeavors as well!

Shellaine 

A lot of meaningful conversations have taken place over the course of our mentoring relationship, so that alone is one of the many aspects I most enjoyed about connecting with Jenifer this last year. I also really enjoyed learning about Jenifer’s overall archives journey; her own experience with graduate school, her history of experience leading into her current role as well as her first-hand experience adapting to big changes taking place at her institution. These kinds of conversations opened pathways to discuss how the profession has changed over time and how I could relate her experience to what I learned in some of my graduate courses.

What have you learned from your mentoring partner so far?

Jenifer

Each month Shellaine shared exciting inspirational news about her personal and professional journey, clueing me into her motivations and ambitions. She was always thinking through her next steps, approaching decisions objectively, and increasing her interest in expanding her professional network despite some challenges faced throughout 2020. Shellaine always worked through those challenges with dignity and a positive outlook!  

Shellaine

One of the biggest things I’ve learned from Jenifer is what an example of a highly accomplished archives professional truly looks like. Among the many things we discussed each month, we always touched on our current projects and future ambitions, and each time I was so blown away by Jenifer’s dedication to service and self-growth through professional development. I learned from watching Jenifer how to identify opportunities for growth while being intentional in establishing boundaries and striking up an acceptable work-life balance.

What inspired you to sign up for the SAA Mentoring Program?

Jenifer

In previous years, prior to becoming a Mentor for SAA, I was contacted by a few local graduate students from the Information Science program at the University at Albany, but those were more interview-style meetings for the student to gather information about my experience as an archivist and get my take on the profession. The timing for these meetings was always limited so I was unable to guide the student over a long period of time. The pandemic prompted me to recognize that I had to give back in a more meaningful way. When the call was announced for Mentors, I realized just how lucky I was to not be furloughed or laid off, that I was a key staff member at my institution able to pivot to being a full-time digital archivist and handle reference remotely. I knew that given the precarious state of employment for countless folks in the profession, that I had enough experience to enter a mentoring relationship and help guide someone the best way possible through these uncertain times. 

Shellaine

While attending my first SAA conference in August 2020, I sat in on an info session for the SAA Mentorship program. Following that session, I quickly expressed interest in becoming a mentee for a few reasons: the first being that as a new graduate student, I was hungry for ways to truly begin to understand the archives profession; secondly, I saw the program as a unique opportunity to build new professional relationships; and lastly because I felt the partnership could shed more insight onto the SAA organization as a whole and provide an approachable entry-point for getting involved.

How do you communicate with your mentoring partner (telephone, video call, weekly, monthly, quarterly)?

Jenifer

Shellaine and I set the intention early on in our partnership to meet via Zoom monthly from August 2020 through August 2021. We also decided to maintain communication through Slack for suggestions or questions related to professional development, resume writing, or just to share quick tidbits of information, and we consistently communicated via email. Overall we stayed in touch throughout the year, checking in periodically outside the monthly Zoom meetings.

Shellaine

I think Jenifer and I established a balance of a few different methods that when combined worked really well for communicating as often as we needed. After our first meeting, we planned the next month’s meeting in advance and continued with that pattern moving forward for the duration of the year. Jenifer would then extend the Zoom invitation via email so that we could both integrate the event into our calendars. The Slack channel we used was a great tool for sharing links, questions, and other information that we could easily refer back to when necessary. Overall, this hybrid method of communication was a great foundation on which to build our partnership over time.

Do you have tips for participants in the Mentoring Program and others thinking about participation?

Jenifer

I think meeting monthly is very important for the Mentor/Mentee relationship to flourish. As a Mentor, being open, flexible, and creative with suggestions and guidance was very important. I recommend having a few communication channels open to share ideas, information, and simply be available.  We are all trying to make our way through a time of uncertainty in which case, I found it imperative to be there for Shellaine outside of our scheduled monthly meetings so that she could get proper guidance at times when she needed it most! 

Shellaine

My advice for mentees would be to factor in the extra working time leading up to and following each meeting you have with your mentor for the sole purpose of keeping a journal or log. For me, this looked like a journal in which I reflected on each meeting and my past, present, and future career goals. Each time I met with Jen, I was prepared to discuss what I had accomplished, what I was working on, and what I was hoping to achieve. Not only did this help to communicate with my mentoring partner more concisely but it has since also served as an excellent record to look back on.

How has your mentorship affected your outlook on the archival profession? How has it changed from your perspective prior to participation in the program?

Jenifer

I’ve been paying close attention to a variety of transitions and have taken part in many energizing conversations within the profession over the past decade. Being Shellaine’s Mentor has given me the opportunity to share the ways in which we’re all shifting our perspectives and how those shifts have fostered changes in the way we do archives work. By being able to talk through some of these changes with Shellaine, I’ve realized the importance of Mentoring and being sure that newer professionals entering the field are aware that the archives profession is not static and there are many avenues one can pursue.

Shellaine

As mentioned earlier, Jenifer holds a strong history of achievement, so I took this as something to aspire to. Her example really indicated to me the necessity of being both tenacious and persistent in goal-seeking. So in a way, participation in the mentoring partnership also served as a method with which I could keep myself accountable for setting my own record of achievement. For instance, earlier this year I volunteered to participate as a reviewer for the May issue of ARLIS/NA reviews and a big part of my accountability was sharing with Jenifer each step I had taken in the process of becoming a reviewer, right up through sharing the final draft. In the end, it felt like something we were involved in together and I don’t think I would have felt as confident in my ability without her support.

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