How participant matching worked
The ILN used the information provided by prospective participants to match them with other participants, to form a partnership. We looked at things like the sector that they worked in, location, career stage, and areas of interest. The more information we had the better the match will be, however if applicants are very particular in the type of person they would like to be partnered with it could be difficult for us to find the perfect match.
Note that we would not automatically match people who are similar – if one works in a public library and indicates that they wanted to be partnered with someone in an academic library, we would try our best to meet this request. Likewise, if an applicant was at a later stage in their career and was eager to be partnered with an early-career practitioner, we would try and match them with someone that meets that description rather than someone who is also in a later career stage.
Introducing ILN partners
Once we matched partners, we provided information to both along with guidelines on how to maintain a healthy peer mentoring relationship. If were unable to secure a suitable match we would contact the applicant to explore other options.
It was up to each of the participants involved to make the time to get to know their ILN partner. Distance communication is tricky, especially when you are just getting to know someone, so we gave reminders that it is important to communicate clearly as well as to set expectations for the partnership. Tips we suggested in the early stages of a partnership included:
- Discussing what you are hoping to get out of the program and how you can contribute
- Communicating with partners at least once a fortnight
- Trying out to use a range of communications tools such as Facebook, Twitter or Skype in addition to email
- Always letting the other partner know of any upcoming changes to your availability (holidays, vacations, etc)
- Being mindful that it can take a few exchanges to become more comfortable with one other so remember to keep communicating and asking and answering lots of questions.
Support for partnerships
ILN partnership were supported throughout the four month program. During this stage we would:
- Establish the partnership by providing contact details and other information to both participants
- Provide partners with guidelines on how to communicate effectively
- Regularly touch base with partners to ensure that the relationship is working for both participants
- Provide monthly discussion topics to partners to stimulate the relationship
- Host online discussions to allow you to develop wider networks with other participants
Discussion topics changed regularly (once every two weeks) and we aimed to present topics that everyone can relate to.
Partnerships were facilitated by the ILN for four months. We found that this was long enough for participants to get to know their partner, but also allowed participants a chance to move on to another partnership and develop wider networks.
Participants received a reminder one month before their partnership was due to expire. This gave participants a chance to discuss whether they wanted to continue their relationship outside of the facilitated program structure. There was no requirement to cease partnerships once the facilitation ends, however formal ILN support did cease.
Once formal partnerships have concluded, everyone was welcome to apply for subsequent partnership rounds and we had many participants who took part in multiple rounds of the program.