Recap of Professional Networking for New Librarians: Annual Webinar on Online Networking

By Ava Iuliano

For those that are unfamiliar with the NMRT Annual Program Committee, its charge is to bring online programming to correspond with the ALA Annual Conference so that new librarians that are unable to attend the Annual Conference are still able to participate in some way.  Last year, the Annual Program Committee hosted a video contest, garnering creative expressions from new librarians across the country.  This year, the NMRT Annual Program Committee hosted an online panel discussion reflecting the NMRT President’s theme “Making & Maintaining Connections,” focused on cultivating relationships and networking.  Focusing on the details of networking, the Annual Program hosted “Professional Networking for New Librarians” on June 7th, 2012 hosted by ALA using Adobe Connect.  Using the standard journalistic questions of Who, What, Where, When, How and Why, the panelists shared information for every aspect of networking and answered questions from attendees at the end of the session.

The diverse panel featured speakers with years of networking experience.  Ned Potter opened the session by discussing “what is professional networking?”  Ned Potter is currently an academic liaison librarian for the University of York Library and is the creator of LISNPN, the New Professionals Network.  Ned is also the author of the popular blog, The Wikiman.  Clarifying that networking is not shameless self-promotion or exploitation of who you know, Ned described networking as a two-way street that includes listening and both giving and taking advice.  Networking builds relationships that evolve into a supportive system of sharing information, advice and ideas among professionals.  Ned emphasized the need to have a plan when networking, for example, looking for collaborators for projects, although it may take time in order to successfully find collaborators.

Loida Garcia-Febo, ALA Councilor-at-Large and former President of REFORMA, discussed how to network professionally, explaining that one needs to be visible, credible and trustable in order to network successfully.  Emphasizing that networking takes movement, Loida shared her own experiences with networking and getting involved in ALA, suggesting reading as much as possible about the ALA divisions, roundtables and groups in order to be informed and better equipped to be involved.  Addressing the issues of being an introvert, Loida recommended jumping in and starting conversations with others by tapping into passions, asking for introductions and preparing 3 talking points beforehand.  A little practice goes a long way and Loida recommended practicing relaxing, smiling and going over talking points.  Describing building networks as being more similar in spirit to farming rather than hunting, Loida encouraged the audience to cultivate relationships by sending notes, articles, newstories, and other items of interest to one’s new contacts, suggesting a system of balanced giving and taking.  “Never be afraid to get back in touch,” Loida advised regarding lapsed contact.  By practicing reciprocal giving and taking, one can nurture a healthy support system, where both the networker and the network contacts benefit from each other.

JP Porcaro, the master mind behind 8Bit Library and the ALA Think Tank Facebook group, discussed with whom to network.  In a word?  Everyone!  Porcaro encouraged participants to be active in state- and national-level library organizations.  Both state and national library associations provide large groups for networking and annual conferences tend to have a lot of opportunities for informal networking.  Porcaro encouraged new librarians to “find your tribe” by being friendly to everyone.  With all the tips and tricks for successful networking, Porcaro reminded the audience to above all have fun and seek out fun activities.  Friendships will grow naturally out of the work that one does for and within libraries if one is open to meeting others and doing good work.  Staying in touch with one’s alma mater is also an important, and often untapped, network.  Porcaro urged current library science students to build networks while in graduate school and maintain a relationship with their graduate school after graduation.

Courtney Young, current Head librarian and Associate Professor of Women’s Studies at Pennsylvania State in Greater Allegheny and past president of NMRT, named a Library Journal “Mover & Shaker,” focused on where to network.  Starting first with structured events, Young discussed the importance of attending alumni events and conferences as any structured event will bring together like-minded people, including the ALA conferences.  Young discussed the importance of visiting the exhibits hall as a way to catch up with friends and contacts and provide a way to meet new contacts.  Attend social events such as dine-arounds, receptions and other relaxed events for the purposes of informal networking and remember to follow-up with new contacts via social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.  Young also reminded new librarians to attend orientations, conferences, and virtual and face-to-face events, as there are events for every comfort level, budget, and time constraint.  She also encouraged attendees to attend vendor-sponsored online events, participate in the #libchat events on Twitter, join the NMRT-L discussion list, attend webinars in the Carterette Series, follow the, as well as a number of other easily accessible and fascinating virtual events.  With so many events and resources, Young encouraged new librarians to start networking right now!

Pat Hawthorne, Director of Library Organizational Development & Human Resources for Emory University Libraries and Vice-President/President-Elect for Library Leadership and Management Association (LLAMA) of ALA, began discussing when to network by encouraging the webinar attendees to start early.  Building a network continues over the entire span of one’s career.  Hawthorne encouraged participants to have a short “elevator speech” prepared to introduce one’s self and to ask questions for similar information from potential contacts.  Hawthorne, as an experienced HR Director, shared that she has had to do many “cold calls” to many people and has received rich information and developed many fruitful relationships.  She encouraged others to network often as it becomes easier and more natural the more often one does it.  Hawthorne also encouraged the audience to network not just for themselves, but for others in one’s network.  In short, help your connections make other connections by referring and connecting people together.  Hawthorne also encouraged new librarians to network in all settings and with all types of people including vendors.  Visibility in the community is important and being active in one’s community increases not just personal visibility, but also visibility for libraries in general.  Hawthorne encouraged participants to reach out and maintain one’s network by following up with contacts.  Short emails can go a long way to maintaining contacts and strengthening one’s network.  Although it may seem daunting for those new to the profession over the course of a long career, a strong network will help cultivate and expand one’s own professional experiences.

To close the session, Ned Potter discussed why one should network.  “The best part of this profession is the profession itself,” Potter reminded.  Librarianship is a dynamic profession where collaboration is a key component.  By sharing information, compassion and support, one can feel connected to the profession at large.  Being part of a network is a very effective professional motivator and encourages one’s progress.  Looking back on his own career, Potter shared that every interesting opportunity came back to networking in one form or another.

The archived webinar remains on ALA Connect for reference and for those who were unable to attend.   The NMRT Annual Program committee was excited to host such a successful event.  Most attendees indicated that they were unable to attend the ALA Annual Conference, making the webinar another opportunity for new librarians to connect and participate in ALA regardless of budget or time constraints.  With such a group of dynamic speakers, it is hard not to get excited about networking!  Visit the NMRT group on ALA Connect for the archived webinar!