Getting better at face-to-face networkingPosted: July 25, 2011
Face-to-face networking does not come as easily to me as the online component, though I am consciously trying to circumvent my natural tendencies toward introversion and independence. Librarians are some of the most interesting, intelligent and helpful people I’ve ever met, so why wouldn’t I want to meet more of them?
To cover at least some of the concepts addressed by Thing 7, here’s a peek into my current efforts:
I am currently a member of two professional organizations, both of which I joined as a student member. My primary involvement with both the American Library Association (ALA) and the Special Libraries Association (SLA) has been capitalizing on student discounts for attendance at their national conferences.
I attended the 2009 ALA conference in Chicago, thanks in part to the hospitality of family in the suburbs. As this was my first experience at a national library conference, I mostly stuck to attending sessions and browsing the exhibit hall. Networking was not something I focused on at all, probably because I attended the conference with a coworker and crashed at my aunt and uncle’s house rather than in a conference hotel.
In 2010, I attended the SLA conference in New Orleans, thanks to funds from my school’s library student organization. This time, I was on my own at the conference, so I did attempt to meet some new people. I joined in the solo librarians’ division’s no-host dinner, where I met a diverse group of people from all over the country. It was nice to see their friendly faces around the hallways and in sessions throughout the rest of the conference. I followed a little bit of the action on Twitter, but because I did not have a smartphone and chose not to carry my laptop around, none of that engagement turned into face-to-face meetings.
I did not plan to attend any national conferences this year, but was fortunate to win a four-night hotel stay in Philadelphia for SLA’s 2011 conference. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to cash in on one last student registration rate, so I gratefully accepted the prize. This time, I was more determined to step up my networking game, so I started focusing on the pre-conference Twitter conversations. At least three in-person networking opportunities came about thanks to Twitter. I attended the Hack Library School meetup (photo evidence here), where I was “adopted” by some nice Pratt students and alums, who I subsequently joined for a vendor’s dessert reception and a division reception. I also had dinner with some nonprofit librarians one evening, and a nice Vietnamese lunch in Chinatown with yet another librarian I had met via Twitter. I can’t point to any specific results of this networking so far, aside from a broader understanding of the diversity of this profession. However, my increased focus on on the social aspects of conference attendance certainly made this year more fun!
I have also attended a couple of statewide conferences hosted by the Indiana Library Federation. However, I’ve experienced these events mostly from the perspective of an exhibitor. The organization I work for has relevant resources for librarians who work with young people, so it’s a good way for us to generate awareness. I have had a few opportunities to slip off into sessions, but generally find my time better spent manning the booth.
Thus far, I have not been involved on a deeper level with any professional organization. At first, the hesitation was largely a matter of time. Full-time work and part-time graduate school is enough to keep a person quite occupied. Now, I think I’m waiting for inspiration to strike, or to find a niche where involvement makes sense. My current library and job responsibilities aren’t a natural fit for most organizations, and I struggle to pinpoint which opportunities would bring the most personal fulfillment. I have recently joined the Indiana State Library’s professional development committee, which is perhaps the one place where my competing job duties in professional development and librarianship make perfect sense. Although we’re just getting started, I am enjoying this opportunity to learn more about the professional landscape in Indiana and hopefully provide a useful service to my fellow librarians. I am also investigating opportunities to be more involved with the Indiana chapter of the Special Libraries Association, though nothing concrete has come of that conversation thus far.
Networking will probably never come naturally to me, but I can say it gets easier and more fun with practice. My experiences over the last few years have inspired me to put more effort into my in-person networking, so now it’s a matter of finding the best opportunities (and making the best of every opportunity).