Friday, 22 July 2011

On-Off Networking

This week brings two Things, which I'm combining into an unwieldy 'twofer' post, partially because the subject matters entwine and partly because it's Friday and I don't want to go off for a long weekend with blogging still on my 'to-do' list.

Following the #marketingyourselfonline session delivered by Suzanne Wheatley at NPC2011, I have a pretty-much populated LinkedIn profile; however, I have next-to-no connections; people I do know aren't on there, and people on there who I recognise don't easily fit with LinkedIn's prescribed categories - neither colleagues nor classmates, and to call them friends feels somehow presumptive. Whilst I can kind of see how it's a useful tool, and the groups have been a little more interesting that I'd expected, the USP of LinkedIn remains to be found for myself.

Whilst I keep Facebook for friends and old schoolchums (yes, I am from the 1930s), several of those friends are themselves library folk, so library-related networking does pop up from time to time. I don't tend to follow organisation or group pages, as they resulted in so much spam when I used Facebook regularly that I 'un-liked' them. Nowadays, I tend to interact with Facebook almost exclusively via the Android app, mostly reading friends' statuses, occasionally chipping in but mostly lurking - my last status update was 12th June ("the lesson of Jonah Hex: everything in the Old West was 1000% more combustible", posted via Xbox). As the people I found interesting increasingly migrate away, I find myself less drawn to Facebook, and may even close my account if it's nascent competitor takes off...

Even when I'm an early-adopter, I still lag a little behind - I joined G+ at around the 8-million person mark, and have populated circles mainly with library folk and institutions/organisations (who will be vaporised by the Google Death Star for their disobeyal of the 'individuals only' beta edict). So far, it has shown promise largely by being an endearing social-media hodge-podge, with many of the desirable features of other networks (notably Facebook and Twitter) - however, it does also have some of the drawbacks. I'm enjoying G+, but feel there are still features to be added: plug in calendars and docs and I'll be a happy bunny (as long as there's the option to keep them private; I don't want everyone knowing that my big Friday-night plans are to worm the dog). I like the social-professional mix of streams, and suspect that it will remain just as manageable when I have a lot more people added - something which Twitter and Facebook have on occasion proved problematic for. As it is, however, I have very few IRL people in my G+ streams as yet.

Slightly to my shame, I haven't used the LIS networks. I joined LISNPN a while back, but never really did anything with it; having had a scan through the forum and resources just now, I'm unsure why as it seems pretty useful. LAT is... very green. As I don't do much teaching in my current role, this is a network I'm planning to put on a back-burner until I am in a position to up-skill in pedagogical practice. CILIP Communities was something I was aware of, and had glanced through on occasion, but had never really grabbed me as current or thriving; again, it is on a list of things to check into when I have more time, particularly as I ramp up Chartership thinking.

Has online networking via these media made me better known, connected, and equipped? Yes, probably all three, but I would say that currently it is Twitter that has been most influential (though, as I have suggested, G+ may supplant this in the future): Facebook is something I'm almost thinking about in the past tense already (like Myspace before it), and LinkedIn feels a little too much like a business tool to fit with my personal preferences for professional networking, placing order and organisations over serendipitous discovery and individuals.

Serendipity plays a part in my face-to-face networking skills too - however, some may term this haphazard blundering from faux pas to faux pas. I've never been at my most comfortable in a room of strangers (who is?), and find it very difficult to 'cold' start a conversation. I'll confess, it is getting easier, partially through practice and partly because I have been to enough events that I'm starting to meet people for the second time, which can provide an 'in' to join a conversation and get to know more people. Face-to-face networking has also added considerably to my online networks, allowing me to add interesting attendees and speakers to Twitter for instance; in turn, I can now meet known tweeters in person and have several potential conversation starters (although this can be a bit weird if it is not a reciprocal-following arrangement; otherwise, you can easily verge on '@s27wighorn345, silent, invisible lurker' territory). I feel more comfortable networking with perceived peers, of a similar age or professional level to myself, as I feel it leads to easier conversation due to shared points of reference - being the most junior person in a conversation about stock review policies across multiple site libraries was slightly intimidating! I didn't get along to any of the CPD23 networking events this week as my dog has acute abandonment issues if I leave him alone for too long (and I missed the online alternative networking due to setting fire to a calzone - but that's another story). Overall, though, I definitely feel more comfortable 'working a room' than I did this time last year.

[the following paragraph goes a bit rant-y]

I am a member of CILIP, and special-interest groups CDG and UC&R as part of this membership; however, whilst I have attended events organised by my local branch (EMBoC) and the SIGs I still can't, hand-on-heart, say that I feel particularly involved with the organisation. I'm not exactly sure what CILIP achieves. Yes, of course, there's accreditation of library-schools, and Chartership, and being a (sometimes-timid) voice for libraries on the national stage, and the aqueduct, and facilitating the organisation of large-scale (expensive) events which bring librarians together - but apart from that, what has CILIP ever done for us? In all honesty, it feels costly to be a member of CILIP - I ummed and ahed about renewing my membership when  the cost jumped from the student rate to nearly £200 - and to be charged again to attend the majority of events which it organises (and which are held almost exclusively in London on weekdays, which adds at least £50-£60 to the cost of attendance) feels a little frustrating. I had hoped that the recent re-organisation would lead to greater clarity of mission, and would make clearer exactly what I was investing in - however, I remain unconvinced and suspect that if I wasn't going for Chartership I may have decided to save my money and invest it in CPD opportunities elsewhere. Overall, I like lots of small parts of CILIP, but cannot transmogrify this into appreciating the whole.


Despite all of this, I think professional organisations are important for all of the reasons Bethan discusses in the Thing briefing. Perhaps organisations focused around particular areas of librarianship, such as SLA (UK) and BIALL, offer a more focused level of professional support for your buy-in. However, I can't help but feel [turns out that /rant was premature!] that the amount of professional organisations for LIS exacerbates the 'echo chamber' effect; that's how it feels with my nose pressed up against the glass, too cheap to buy a ticket to enter, anyway. Feel free to correct me, readers!

Social network images from iniwoo.


  1. I have been going around asking a few people who mention having LinkedIn accounts about LinkedIn. I am only a library student and am not sure if I should join it. When did you join? Why? and how has it helped?

  2. Hey Albany L,

    I didn't join LinkedIn until after my finished library school (actually only been on there a month or so). I joined because a speaker at a conference (and the consensus of the room) said I should. Personally, I see it as raising awareness of yourself; also, LinkedIn profiles apparently rank pretty well when people search for your name, so it provides a digital calling-card. I've found that the professional groups are the most useful feature for me thus far, as they provide a forum for interesting conversations - sometimes on topics close to my heart, other times on areas of librarianship which seem entirely divorced from my experiences.

    I can't say I've seen tangible benefit from having a LinkedIn profile as yet, and I'm not sure LIS recruitment works in the way which the site naturally facilitates. I certainly wouldn't have made it a priority to get make a profile (though if you are going to join, try to avoid leaving a 'stub' profile up; it's kind of an all or nothing deal).

    Hope that helps; as this blog proves, concision of language isn't my strong suit!

  3. thank you that was very helpful :)