#uklibchat summary – Building your own network – November 2014
November’s chat on networks and networking was an animated one! Many thanks to Manchester NLPN for suggesting the topic and writing this month’s feature article. In the summary below I have grouped together similar answers, but the original, un-edited tweets can be found in the chat archive.
1. Which networks do you find it particularly useful to be a member of?
Online networks such as Twitter and blogs were mentioned by a lot of people, as well as a variety more traditional networks (local, national and international). The most frequent responses are at the top of this list:
- Library school cohort
- CILIP – regional group
- CILIP – Youth Libraries Group
- CILIP – Commercial, Legal and Scientific Interest Group
- CILIP – mentoring
- Special Libraries Association
- School Librarian’s Network on Yahoo Groups
- Manchester NLPN
- Cambridge Library Group
- Cardiff: Libraries in Co-operation
- Informal networks in my area – e.g. librarians’ lunch club
- Informal networks within my workplace – e.g. linking with peers in other departments
- Physical peer networks
- SCONUL (HE libraries)
- Northern Collaboration
- Council for Learning Resources in Colleges
- Jisc lists
- Face-to-face meetings
2. Some tips for those new to networking?
The most common theme among the tips shared was to not be afraid of diving in! Basically, the vast majority of librarians are lovely and will be happy to help you out.
- Don’t be afraid – library networks are very friendly and helpful
- Say something real and make a connection
- Take it seriously. It’s your career that will benefit from an outstanding network.
- Start with something you’re comfortable with like #uklibchat so that you can engage at a level that suits you. You can start off as an observer and gain confidence to participate.
- Follow up with the people you meet at events (perhaps on Twitter or LinkedIn – give context of how/where you met) so that you stay in touch
- Remember that networking is just talking to people about things that mutually interest you. It can be fun.
- Think of conversation topics beforehand
- Start off with what you know you’ve got in common e.g. talking about the event you’re at
- Be friendly, open and listen
- Ask lots of questions!
- Don’t get overwhelmed. Take it as seriously as you need or want to. Sometimes networking is about making friends
- Volunteer to do something such as help organise an event or even take on a small committee role!
- If you can’t find the network you want already, have a go at creating it yourself!
- Don’t let shyness be excuse why you don’t network. It’s a skill to be learned regardless of personality
- People will be glad if you approach them & start discussion.
- Just have a chat – people aren’t as scary as you think! Say hello & next time, you’ll know someone
3. What do you think a network should provide?
Several people pointed out that our sector is so diverse and it’s not possible to have everything in one place, so you will probably need a combination of networks to provide everything you need.
- You need both a broad range and people who face same problems as you.
- Support and encouragement
- Practical advice drawn from experience
- A place where you can be signposted in the right direction
- Inspiration! Reminders of what can be done and tips on how to do it
- Friendships and networks
- Sometimes it is just reassuring to know you are not alone when facing day to day challenges
- Learning from the wider professional community and sharing your knowledge with others
- Opportunities for personal development. Manchester NLPN tried this by offering members the chance to do presentations at their last event
- Having trusted advisers in your field.
- A place where you can discuss things with like minded people
- A sounding board when unsure re subject matter.
- Source of innovation
- A place to have fun and socialise
- A chance to develop your skills
- A network should have an awareness of personal life concerns, e.g. can members afford (time- and money-wise) what you offer?
- What a network ISN’T is a group of people you just bug to “do your homework” for you. It’s a give and take relationship.
- Networks don’t have to be formal or physical. I love #uklibchat for its flexibility to chat with others
4. What do you see as the benefits of being in networks?
To some extent this overlaps with question 3, although it’s not always the case that what a network should provide matches up with what the benefits of being a member actually are. Here are the benefits our participants identified:
- Excellent way to gather evidence to support on-going development & engagement for Chartership and job interviews
- Knowing I can get help when I need it
- Learning from others
- Meeting people who share your interests and hopefully becoming friends!
- Sharing issues, struggles & ideas with people in similar situations – helps you realise you are not isolated
- Unpressured opportunities to learn and share
- Being recognised either through twitter or events
- Leads to other opportunities
- Great way to get experience not available in the day job
- A good network will have both more advanced professionals as well as students. You can learn from some and teach others.
- Advantage also of having some time away from demands of day job to think creatively and also to reflect
- People who can help you out when you’re stuck, sympathy when they can’t and new ideas and ways of working
5. Is there anything you would like to see from a network that is not already being done?
- Start a revolution.
- A real life social network in the East Midlands would be good
- Do something new every time – people sometime stick to what they know – individuals should push themselves to try new things but events can make us do that by switching things up
- Networking events that invite some of our various customer groups along to share and contribute information
- Challenging people to do more. Perhaps more proactive networks to really light fires under professionals.
- I would like more free CPD events open to everyone not just members. (Manchester NLPN, Library Camp, Lib Teach Meets and #applis14 in Cambridge identified as examples of free events)
- Community of practice for people using Social Media and doing Marketing and Promotions!
- I’d like to see even more international collaboration, Like what the International Librarians Network are doing. We need more international in our professional lives.
- More collaboration with relevant sectors/stakeholders/departments, library + IT, library + e-learning etc. (@AgentK23 is hoping to run an appswap event at her university to meet non-library staff
- Cross-functional networking is to our benefit. Collaborate with professionals in complementary fields.
6. Do you find online networks more useful than “real-life” ones? Or vice versa?
Most people felt that the two complement each other. Points to note:
- I think I prefer the online ones for a international perspective, but the real life one for home
- Twitter has been great for immediacy, Real life you can get more in depth about a topic maybe, and just to know people better.
- Online good for broad reach of advice, but in real life the hugs are better!
- You can make lots of connections & learn from people but deeper connections usually need offline contact
- I think online can be more useful because they’re more accessible-not dependent on waiting for people to get together physically
- It’s all kind of the same to me. You can meet someone once at a conference but keep in touch online for years. Doesn’t matter to me.
- Online networks are great for breaking down barriers
- Each spoke of your network serves a different purpose or function to you, online or IRL.
- IRL starter conversations are sometimes a bit more awkward than online maybe?
- Online networks are convenient – engage whilst in the comfort of your home, break or commuting etc.
- Some people are better skilled at face-to-face relations, while some excel online. Your network should include all kinds of people for balance
- Both depend on participants’ willingness to share and support
- There is room for both and they provide different benefits. It also depends on how individuals prefer their interaction.
7. Have you started a network? Why, and how did you do it?
Several people had! Here are their reasons for creating a network and tips for going about it.
- @ManchesterNLPN – #uklibchat feature article explains it all http://wordpress.com/2014/10/27/feature-article-19-building-the-new-librarians-professional-network/ … tl;dr basically, we didn’t see any other free CPD events in the North West so thought we’d fill that gap. Get a good team, we couldn’t do it solo! We started by creating a brand on social media, using some existing contacts and people we knew were doing similar things, i.e. Manchester Girl Geeks.
- #SLAtalk for the Special Libraries Association (started by @LibrarySherpa) – I’m a member of SLA’s Online Content Advisory Council. In 2013 I saw a need for it & just went to work to put into place
- #uklibchat was talked about at a New Professionals Conference then got member via Twitter. Tips – get at least one other person who is willing to do it too. #uklibchat would be impossible to run without a team
- #libdimsum was organised by @agentk23 informally at first with repeated tweets asking people to come and eat yummy Chinese food, then set up a mailing list.
- #chartership chat was set up by a group of people doing Chartership who felt the need to share thoughts & ask questions. It has carried on too which is nice!
- General tips : find a good team, you’ve got to be willing to commit, and be ready to fill your inbox with network stuff!
8. Have you created an online brand for yourself? Why or why not?
Several people said they didn’t consider themselves to have an online brand but it was something they have created for their institution or projects (including #uklibchat and Manchester NLPN)
- For Manchester NLPN – hopefully our online brand is useful and friendly. That’s what we aim for! We have created an online brand to make ourselves more identifiable, this includes tagline, colour scheme etc.
- I think it’s important for libraries and organisations to try to have a brand, not so much for normal people.
Some people had crafted their own online brand:
- Yes, Library Sherpa was created out of necessity and it just stuck. I very much like having a brand or professional identity. I’m glad I did it. A brand can also just be your professional identity. What professional identity/persona/qualities do you represent?
- For me Twitter is very much part of my professional identity
Others did not consider themselves to have an online brand:
- I did look into the brand thing, but I’d rather just be me without thinking too much about cultivating a brand.
- I certainly don’t think of my online ‘brand’ being different to the real me. I like to be myself through all media!
- I think in a way I have created a reverse brand – I want privacy on twitter so I keep it low key….how unlike IRL
9. Is marketing speak such as ‘online brand’ useful/necessary/off-putting?
It was very interesting to see the different viewpoints raised during the discussion of this question and the last one!
- What’s off-putting to me is hearing librarians or info pros complain about things being off-putting.
- The “b-word” is probably considered to be overused or is scary to some. It’s just the professional presentation of yourself.
- To me it also kind of also has implications of my importance as an individual I guess. I don’t feel I need a brand because I don’t expect people to search me out or need to find me beyond friends
- The concept of an online brand was useful to Manchester NLPN as it ensured we created something identifiable across platforms
- I think too much marketing speak strikes a false note with me. When I see something “leveraging your personal brand for professional development” it sounds so much like empty selling.
- Whatever you call it, having a strong professional identity helps w/networking & other interpersonal aspects of a career.
10. How do you “sell” the importance of networking to your manager or colleagues?
- A very good question. I’ve been asked to show how CILIP membership (for me) benefits my team so all advice welcome
- having a manager know the benefits of your network can help sell them on things like paying for conferences or association fees. How you sell it is by name dropping if your network helped you solve a query or benefited you in some other way. Whether you #humblebrag or straight up #shamelessplug, people need to know how network has helped so that the value increases. ABC = Always Be Closing. Always be promoting positives of a network and your prof self.
- I am pro being shameless! I talk about #uklibchat stuff at work (when appropriate) and offered networking opportunities to colleagues
- I must be lucky, I’ve never had to sell the concept to my managers and that has lead on to me now being (I hope!) a supportive manager & keen for my staff to do professional development themselves
- Benefits to terms of good value professional learning & development (access to new ideas and perspectives skills development opportunities) as well as someone going into the wider world advocating for your organisation
- Mainly if it’s free goes down well… after that if it’s not free have to justify its value to my work directly – current awareness, making contacts who may have new ideas/ways of working, training opportunities
Links discussed during the chat: