Guest Author – Tracy L. Thompson-Przylucki, Executive Director, New England Law Library Consortium
I was so honored to be asked to take this opportunity to think and write about the importance of mentorship in one’s life, and in particular about my own experiences. I have never been part of a ‘formal’ mentor/mentee relationship, one established under the aegis of a ‘mentoring program,’ but I’ve been fortunate to benefit on both sides of the equation in a more casual way. I suspect this is the case with many people. Those who contributed to your success may not even realize the impact their good advice and counsel has had for you. But if you view them as a mentor, you clearly recognize some deep and lasting effect of the relationship you had at some crucial point in your career.
By the time I came into law librarianship I was in my late 30s, a Navy veteran, married, with one child and another on the way. Not your typical young professional with little to no life experience, I was probably not a good project for a mentor. And I had no expectation of being mentored. In my previous life, trained as an electrician, I worked in factories and production environments; mentorship was not a stock-in-trade in that world. But as luck would have it I landed in a place that taught me the value of mentoring.
My first law library job was as International Law Librarian at Yale. I am fortunate to count many of the current and former library staff members at Yale as mentors and trusted advisors, including (The Great) Morris Cohen, Blair Kauffman (The Optimist), Ken Rudolf (The Diplomat), Fred Shapiro (The Quotable), Lisa Spar (The Inscrutable), Laura Orr (The Tenacious), Marie Whited (The Stickler), Mary Jane Kelsey (The Rock), Joanne Giamattei (The Mayor), to name a few. However, only Dan Wade (The Reverend), Curator for Foreign & International Law and my director supervisor during those years, deserves the title of Mentor with a capital ‘M.’
Dan taught me, in his inimitable way, what it means to lead a balanced and fulfilling professional life.
I learned that professional success is built on personal relationships, with family, friends and colleagues. Dan’s greatest contribution is not as a curator of law, but of people. Through Dan, I’ve made lasting personal and professional connections.
Dan also helped me to understand my responsibilities as a librarian to the enterprise, which in our case included the law library, the law school, the university, and the profession. From my earliest days on the job, with the law library mired in a major renovation project which had us hunkering down in makeshift offices coated in construction dust that appeared like dew each morning, Dan was intent on making sure I saw beyond the reference desk. He insisted that I spend an hour at the end of each day on professional reading. With Blair Kauffman, Dan drew me in and entrusted me as a co-editor of the Szladit’s Bibliography. He threw me into the deep end at every turn, encouraging me to participate and volunteering me when I hung back. He propelled me forward, making sure to introduce me to anyone and everyone, and ensuring all and sundry that I was highly qualified and extremely competent for whatever task was at hand.
The more he said it, the more I came to believe it. And that belief in myself and my own capabilities has been a great gift that continues to serve me well. I hope I am able to pay it forward in some small measure. Thank you, Dan. Peace!
*Dan will know. Everyone else, LOOK IT UP!”