Knowledge Matters blog

Behind the scenes at the British Library

16 June 2017

Mentoring and the Living Knowledge Network

Since 2012 the British Library has run a mentoring scheme, connecting mentors and mentees from across the Library’s St Pancras (London) and Boston Spa (Yorkshire) sites. 

However, with the formation of the Living Knowledge Network in September 2016, the possibilities for mentoring within the British Library have expanded. Through the Network, which sees the British Library partnering with 21 public library partners around the UK as well as the National Libraries of Scotland and Wales, the benefits of mentoring can be further shared and evolved through and with other libraries. 

Mentoring, as a process, aims to be a way for one person (the mentor) to actively encourage the development of another person (the mentee) for the benefit of both individuals and the organisation.

Mentoring relationships can be formed across any Network partners. We hope to evolve this scheme as just one element of the Living knowledge Network. As a Network we aim to work together to share resources, skills and ideas, promoting the enduring values of libraries in the twenty-first century and reinforcing the idea of the library as an accessible public asset with the power to transform people’s lives. Mentoring is just one way we hope to achieve this.


Andy Wright, Libraries Manager, Wakefield Council (Living Knowledge Network mentor) said:

“I’ve been involved with mentoring schemes for a number of years as both a mentor and a mentee, and I’m a big advocate.

“As a mentor you have a responsibility first and foremost to do what you can to ensure that the mentee benefits from the relationship, but I also value mentoring very much as a learning experience for myself. It’s amazing how something as simple as “just talking and listening”, because that’s all that it is really (albeit within an agreed framework), can be so beneficial to both parties.

“I think that the Living Knowledge Network mentoring scheme is particularly useful because it’s given me the opportunity to mentor someone from a different organisation, so as a natural part of the process I’ve learned about that organisation, what it does, how it ticks, and how that knowledge can help me professionally.

“I hope that the person I’m mentoring has gained something from my experience and also that I’ve brought a fresh perspective to issues that she has looked at previously. I see mentoring a bit like shining a torch in an already lit room – I believe that if the mentee allows the torch to shine, they can see things that, although already clearly visible, seen under a different light, gain a new clarity. That’s the value of mentoring for me.”

Carol Stump, Chief Librarian Kirklees Council, Chair of Society of Chief Librarians Yorks and Humber region (Living Knowledge Network mentor) said:

“I thought the half-day session for mentors and mentees was really useful and as a mentor it reminded me of the skills needed to be a mentor. The half-day session gave some good hints and tips and some useful templates to use on the mentoring journey.

“Being a qualified coach for my local authority it was good to explore the differences in coaching and mentoring and to think about what a mentor and a mentee role is about.

“I am keen on workforce development and think this scheme will be a good way of sharing knowledge and skills both for local authority staff and for British Library staff. I have just started mentoring and am already finding it extremely rewarding and interesting.

“Mentoring is a fairly long term commitment, anything from six months to a year but does give good opportunities for personal development and can give an alternative point of view for the mentee outside of the mentees organisation.”

Emma Cass, Copyright and Licensing Manager Publisher Relations, IP & Licensing, British Library Boston Spa (Living Knowledge Network mentee) said:

“The British Library organised a day’s training for mentors and mentees who’d signed up to the scheme. This was an opportunity to meet potential mentors as well as find out exactly what mentoring involved. The training session was really useful and I actually think it’s crucial to do some training in order to ensure that you have the right expectation of the mentoring process, so that both you and the mentor get something out of it. We learnt the difference between mentoring, counselling and coaching. One of the crucial elements is to have a specific goal, so help with a particular aspect of your career rather than a vague or incredibly wide aim. My goal was to work out how I can direct my career as I have been in the same role for a good many years.”

Staff from the British Library and Living Knowledge Network partners can find out more about the scheme by contacting mailto:[email protected]

The next training day will take place in London on 15 September.

Ella Snell

Living Knowledge Network Manager