Like a lot of people, I don’t find real-life networking all that easy, but I try not to let that put me off too much. I’ve always been one to ‘join in’ – from the local village hall committee to being a school governor, I have always enjoyed giving my time back to organisations that I’ve benefitted from myself.
I have carried this on in my life as a librarian too. A few years ago, while working as a slide librarian/visual resource manager, I joined ACADI (Association of Curators of Art and Design Images) and even chaired one of the meetings. This was such a great network to belong to and I learned a lot from the others who attended the meetings or who shared their image management problems on the mailing list. While in that job, I was also lucky enough to get funding to attend the Visual Resource Association (VRA) conference in Toronto. It was really enjoyable, and so invigorating to meet so many others with similar professional interests. I went with a couple of other librarians from the UK, one of whom had been the previous year and seemed to know everybody! This was really useful in terms of getting to talk to lots of people – I think it would have been a very different experience if I had gone on my own. However, the experience was very positive and it was a great opportunity to share ideas with others in similar situations.
In my current job, I have joined the ARLIS Cataloguing and Classification committee, more by luck than judgement. Initially, I thought it would just involve going along to some meetings and looking after the committee’s web page, but I quickly realised that good committees need active members, and although this means that I am sometimes (often?) outside my comfort zone (presenting at one of our workshops, for instance), I am learning so much from these experiences and from the other committee members, that I am really glad that I joined. It’s a great way of increasing my knowledge of the cataloguing world beyond the walls of my own institution.
More challenging are the networking opportunities when I attend an event or a workshop. In these cases, it is likely that I won’t know anyone and I have to make much more of an effort to start or join conversations. I do try my best, and am gradually starting to recognise a few faces now, but it is definitely outside my comfort zone. I am going to the CILIP CIG conference in Sheffield in September and that is really going to test my nerve. I’ll make sure that I read Joeyanne’s blog post on networking for introverts again before I go, although the bit about the elevator pitch freaked me out a bit – maybe I’ll leave that for another day!
[my sister is not going to thank me for that photo – but at least she has a whole bathing suit on!]