The benefits of networking for library and information staff

iStock_000019310804XSmall Career Growth AheadStaffing cuts, increased work-loads and diversification all seem to be making it more difficult for information and library staff to find time in the day / week / year for professional development or training.  If you are not there who will cover the enquiry desk?

I confess it’s all too easy to just get on with your day job and let everything pass you by , after all you probably don’t have time for all the things you HAVE to do never mind all the things you would like to do.

Our impending move to a new building has given me a fresh impetus to get out there…

This year has been all about information seeking & networking for me, it’s been great getting to talk to people in a wide variety of roles about information & library work. There have been discussions, debates, controversial ideas and comforting similarities.

Whether you are new to the job, find yourself managing change or just want to get some new ideas for your workplace, these are my top tips:

Go on visits:
I visited a couple of our own university libraries plus MMU, Glasgow and Exeter University Careers Services this year to look at different ways of providing information and guidance services.  It was really interesting to see trends in action!

  • Shared service desks
  • New multi service buildings – hubs
  • Information resources disappearing and reappearing

It was even more interesting to hear the inside story about why those decisions were taken and the impact they are having.

Can’t get away? Network from your desk.

Do some research and share it
If you have specific questions and need to hear from a lot of people then create a simple survey and send it round AGCAS – CIO.  If you want a wider audience use LinkedIn or Twitter!
Tell people what you found out – often other people have the same questions in mind.

Pick up the phone
If you need to find a solution to a problem or want to know what best practice is, then looking at other library / careers services websites can be a good start.  You can benchmark quickly and then follow-up with a phone call or email, if you try to find the person who does a similar job to you they often feel some sympathy with your quest and are really helpful.

Use LinkedIn
Join a group or create your own?  It’s a great way to debate, share ideas & information. Theres the added bonus that it probably doesn’t do your professional profile any harm either.  I’m still amazed at the amount of library and information staff who don’t use LinkedIn at all.

Tweet!
Yes really,  Twitter is good for you!

If you are a newbie start small, follow a few colleges and maybe any professional bodies you are interested in.  You will soon find out about associated groups and find people who are talking about interesting stuff and you can follow them too.

Whats it good for:

  • Making new contacts in your profession and outside it.
  • Debating issues – you will often hear more radical views than you would in your workplace.
  • Gathering information
  • Hearing the news first
  • and on occasion having a bit of a laugh

Do something for yourself
Join a professional interest group. I’m a committee member of CILIP ARLG NW (Academic, research Libraries Group) I only attend meetings outside work time, but even so it keeps me in touch with the wider profession and we have a lot of issues in common.

In my tweet week for @VoicesLibrary I had 42 retweets, 21 new followers, 146 mentions, my blog traffic increased and so did views on my LinkedIn profile and my personal twitter account.

I’m not looking for a job or career change right now but if I were then a bit of professional activity can’t hurt.

Cost / benefit analysis

Cost: Possibly a little of your free time, and a little of your employers money if they will pay for visits.

Benefits:

  • Increased knowledge and understanding of your sector which will help you do your job better!
  • New ideas from outside your normal communication channels that might cause you to reflect on or challenge the status quo.
  • Awareness of social media channels and how to use them.
  • Plus a little professional profile raising into the bargain.
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