CC image courtesy of Aidan Jones on Flickr.
Throughout my traineeship I’ve been lucky to have been given lots of opportunities to go out and meet other professionals in the field. The first proper “networking” activities that I was part of was with the London Research Libraries Trainee Programme. The graduate trainees of the various libraries of the University of London take part in visits and events to help them understand how different libraries run and the roles within them. The first event, a welcome party at the start of the year, taught me a couple of things about networking events: 1) that I will attempt to eat as much free food as possible and 2) that I freeze up whenever I’m told to “network”.
This is something I’ve consistently encountered with each event I go to. Socialising informally – fine, but when it’s timetabled in as “networking opportunity”, I get all awkward and begin to panic. What this “thing” has brought to my attention though is that, thankfully, I’m not the only one who feels this way. Joeyanne Libraryanne’s great blog post on networking for introverts has really been insightful and hopefully I can use the tips that she highlights from “Networking for people who hate networking” to take some of the pressure off next time I’m faced with the dreaded networking opportunity. But what’s really important for me is to not look at it as a structured activity but just as free time when I can chat to other people who are in the same place for similar reasons.
Though I feel like I’ve become more comfortable networking in real life as time goes on, there are a couple of things that I’ve found impact on what I get out of it: firstly, going to an event with someone that I already know. Though this is very nice, I do have the tendency to talk to only them for the whole time and personally, being on my own forces me to push past the awkward-barrier and have a chat to other people. Secondly, I’ve been finding that sometimes I’m just not “in the mood” for networking. I think I have a mixture of introvert and extrovert characteristics, and presumably this is the more introverted side of me that sometimes just wants to be alone or with people that I know and are comfortable with. For me, the only way around this is to just fight through the unwilling thoughts and get stuck in.
I became a member of both CILIP and ARLIS this year to take advantage of the fact that graduate trainees are charged at student rates (otherwise membership would be a really tricky decision as it is quite expensive). I enjoy being a member and getting the publications sent to me and I think I have been to quite a few events with both organisations. Admittedly I don’t have much of an excuse as I’m in London where most things are happening and I have lovely employers who encourage me to go to workshops, visits, conferences.
With ARLIS (the Arts Libraries Society), I’ve been to a workshop on art and design reference resources, an event on art librarianship as a career and a visit to the National Maritime Museum. All these events have been fantastically helpful and interesting in their own way and because it’s all about arts libraries everything is directed very much the way I’d like my career to go.
CILIP events are obviously much broader and I’ve really enjoyed getting a sense of other tempting routes of librarianship. The New Professionals Day held fairly recently was a fantastic opportunity and there was lots of time in between sessions and at breaks to network.
I’ve also been to a couple of things run by cpd25 including a visit to the Wellcome Library and a one-day conference on applying to library school. I’d recommend keeping an eye on their events page to anyone working in an academic library in London as they do arrange really interesting things.
These have, for the most part, been paid events but there are still a wealth of networking (and professional development) events that you can attend without paying a penny. The London LibTeachMeet is probably the best event that I’ve been to, for networking and for information. It had a great atmosphere and there was an opportunity to meet all kinds of librarians and information professionals. I’ve found that at London events, it’s often hard to meet someone not working at an academic library, so for me it was a chance to speak to people in other sectors. I’ve also attended visits and meet-ups organised online. LISNPN is a great one for organising nice pub meetups and, thanks to Rosie, I went on a visit to various libraries in Oxford which was organised through the forum.