Just when I got caught up, there were two Things posted this week, so I’m going to tackle them both together. Thing 6 is online networks and Thing 7 is face-to-face networks and professional organizations.
There aren’t really any online networks just for librarians (the ones mentioned in this Thing are UK-oriented) so my experiences are primarily with LinkedIn and Facebook.
I’ve been on both Facebook and LinkedIn for a while. Although I’ve always thought of Facebook as being personal and fun and LinkedIn as professional, there’s a lot of crossover. A couple of years ago I attended Library Leadership Massachusetts and made a whole slew of professional contacts. It seems that few librarians are on LinkedIn and we all ended up friending each other on Facebook. I always wished I could make some of those contacts “professional” and only show them certain things, but that’s not possible on Facebook. (It seems to be possible on Google + which I’ve just started using, but I haven't spent much time there yet.) Via Facebook I’ve been invited to many social librarian events, where I’ve met even more librarians, so it’s been useful in that way. It certainly can’t hurt to know more librarians.
LinkedIn is something I don’t think about often. It’s worth signing up for because there’s very little upkeep (especially since it’s completely professional) so it’s not as time-consuming as Facebook is. It hasn’t helped me professionally, but I’ve been a go-between for contacts who were trying to get in touch with other people so I guess it has its uses, and there are also discussions that I occasionally look at. I’ve heard of people getting jobs through LinkedIn, but not in the library world. Maybe we just haven’t started using it properly yet.
In person networking
I have always enjoyed library conferences and I try to attend NELA every year. I’ve also attended MLA, and PLA one year when it was in Boston. Last year I was on the NELA conference committee, which was a lot of fun and I got to work with some great people. I hope to be involved committee work again in the future. In addition to working with other librarians, I like having the opportunity to have influence on a higher level, like organization conference programs on topics that interest me.
Two years ago, as I mentioned, I attended Library Leadership Massachusetts, which was a fantastic experience. I’m very sad to hear it won’t be continuing. I wish I could go every single year. In addition to learning and making connections, I find in-person professional gatherings to be incredibly motivating, energizing, and inspiring. Although I’d love to attend the ALA conference someday it’s cost-prohibitive, and the local conferences seem more relevant so that’s where I’ve kept my focus.
Most of my networking is social. I’ve worked at enough libraries that I’ve collected many librarian friends. Hell, we gravitate to each other in any situation. I met one librarian friend at a party (not librarian-sponsored) and another at a knitting group. Through those friends and those I’ve worked with, I meet other librarian friends. I’ve hosted a couple of librarian cocktail parties, attended a librarian dinner out, and will soon attend a librarian book group. Sometimes it seems like we’re everywhere!