Enthusiastic about Thing 7 (because real life networking always involves more cake)

I never really trusted the word ‘networking’, as I don’t like the idea of only making an effort with people if you can use them to further your own career.  However, I may be looking at it through rose-tinted spectacles but there really doesn’t seem to be too much of that involved with networking in the library world – from what I’ve seen, people are enthusiastic about meeting other information professionals, sharing their knowledge and expertise, and making connections in order to work together on interesting projects.  And I have to say that one of the best things about my graduate trainee year has been the chance to get involved with real life networks, attend events, and chat to other people working in libraries.

I would highly recommend any new trainees next year to try and get involved as much as possible with real life networks – not only have I learnt a lot about the profession and met some nice people, there is often plentiful tea and cake as well!

Cake! Photo courtesy of A.L. Nunn

I thought I would make a list of all the real life networking I’ve taken part in this year – hopefully it will help me remember, and perhaps give new trainees an idea of what to get involved with.

BIALL Graduate Open Day: I attended this event way back in October, when I hadn’t much of an idea of all the different possible library careers.  BIALL is the British and Irish Association of Law Librarians, and as my trainee placement has been in a Law Library, my work kindly paid for me to attend the open day (the cost was around £35 I think).  It was the first time I had been outside of the Oxford bubble, and it was great to meet trainees from law firms, inns of court, media libraries and health libraries.  We heard talks from more experienced law librarians, representatives from the Masters course at City University, self-employed librarians and people working in library recruitment.  We also got to visit the Wellcome Library, which specializes in the history of medicine and was really interesting.  We got the chance to chat to the speakers and the other attendees over lunch, and I found it useful to hear from people who had already started the MA, as well as trainees at the same stage as me.

LISNPN London Trainee Meet-up: Although I probably prefer real life meetings to online networking, I don’t think there would be so many opportunities for one without the other, and this trainee gathering is a good example of that.  It was organised through the trainee forum on the LIS New Professionals Network mentioned in Thing 6, and a couple of us from Oxford ended up adventuring into central London after work to meet some London-based trainees for food and drinks.  It was fantastic to meet enthusiastic trainees from different libraries – we talked about plans for MAs/jobs, the differences between traineeships and what it was like working in such varied libraries.  It’s something that I’d definitely recommend to any new Bodleian trainees, as it’s easy to start thinking that the Oxford libraries are the be all and end all, just because there are so many of them!

Libcamp Brunel: I didn’t get the chance to go to Library Camp 2011, as it was too soon after the start of my traineeship, but I heard good things about it from one of the other Bod trainees, so when I saw (via Twitter – again, the value of online networking!) that there was going to be a smaller version of Library Camp based at Brunel University in Uxbridge, I decided to go – encouraged further by the fact that it was free!  Libcamps are organised in an unconference format, which means they are participant driven and anyone can choose to pitch and present a session.  Here and here are blog posts about the event  from other participants, which go into detail about what happened on the day.  I attended some interesting sessions about information literacy, social media and next generation catalogues – I didn’t always feel qualified to contribute, as there were some much more experienced professionals there, but I learnt a lot through listening, and it was nice to talk to a mix of trainees and librarians.

Trainee visit to Oxford: Again organised through the LISNPN forums, this was going to be a small affair but ended up being a fairly large group of trainees descending on Oxford from such far flung locations as Cambridge, Sheffield and Leeds.  One of the other Oxford trainees organized the visit, and I agreed to show the group round the Law Library as part of their day.  Although the Law Library sadly isn’t the prettiest part of the Bodleian, I hope they enjoyed it – we almost got lost wandering around the maze of the secondary collection and we managed to dig out some Law Library treasures to show off, a tiny sixteenth century copy of the Magna Carta, one of the first maps of an African region and the  ‘illustrated police news,’ gaudily illustrated with unlikely and theatrical true crime.  We all met up in the pub in the evening and got to know some of the (exhausted) visiting trainees.

CILIP New Professionals Day 2012: I’ve already blogged at length about this, so I won’t go over it again – I really enjoyed it (and it’s free!), and would recommend next year’s to anyone.  Remember to book quickly though, as places were limited.

New Professionals at CILIPNPD12 (the side of my head is just visible). Photo courtesy of usernametaken10 on flickr under a Creative Commons License.

CPD23 Oxford Meet-up: In order to do something proactive for Thing 7, a fellow trainee organized a cpd23 meet-up in a pub in Oxford after work.  I enjoyed meeting a few other people following the CPD23 course in Oxford, and it was especially reassuring to find that they were behind with the programme as well!   The Library Bee and  Charlie’s 23 Things are two blogs from Oxford library staff and part time UWE students who I met at the meet-up.  It was interesting to hear about their experiences of library school, dissertation topics and how their careers have progressed after the traineeship – especially interested in Charlie’s job as an information specialist for the NHS, as it sounds quite different from traditional library work!

I’m going to leave the blog post here for now, but I shall return with ‘Thing 7’ part 2, as I realise I haven’t touched on joining professional networks like CILIP – so far, I’ve stuck with free networking opportunities!  But I finally got round to printing out the joining form for CILIP this week, so watch this space…

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Confused by LinkedIn: Thing 6 (online networks)

A couple of weeks ago, the Bodleian trainees had a useful training session at the university careers centre.  As well as tips for writing CVs and practice interview questions, there was an introduction to LinkedIn – how best to use it, how to make sure you appeared in Google search results and why you shouldn’t link your Twitter account to it if you’re going to post inane comments about sandwiches.  Our careers adviser, who was very good, was a fan of LinkedIn, even if it was just in terms of having a professional CV floating around out there online.  She made the point that when you’re applying for jobs you have to fiddle around with your CV, removing and adding things in order to tailor it to the specific position you want.  The LinkedIn CV can be broader if you want it to be, listing everything you’ve done, as well as skills you have, groups you’re involved in and so on.  She wasn’t so keen on the actual social networking aspects of LinkedIn, although she advised us to use it to find other people online if we were jobhunting or trying to find someone to ask for work experience.

I came away from the session determined to create a LinkedIn account, especially with the added incentive of cpd23 Thing 6.  And I have indeed created one.  But so far I’m not very enthusiastic about it!  It may be that I haven’t quite grasped its full potential, but it just doesn’t seem as user friendly as some other networks.

1. It just doesn’t look very nice.  This may be fussy, but profiles on other networks are a lot more aesthetically pleasing – even my actual hard copy CV looks smarter than a LinkedIn profile.

2. I don’t understand the social code of LinkedIn when it comes to making connections.  Unlike Twitter, it seems to be that you are only supposed to ‘connect’ to people if you know them quite well, so therefore the only people I’ve felt comfortable about adding are my colleagues at the library, and a couple of fellow trainees I’ve got to know quite well at conferences.  Although they are lovely people, I’m not sure I really need to see their CVs, and if I want to talk to them I can always talk to them on Twitter (or in real life).  If anyone else knows the unwritten rules of connecting on LinkedIn, I would be pleased to hear them.

3. I find it a bit scary that LinkedIn knows so many ‘people I may know’, and therefore I imagine I (and my photo) am coming up on other people’s homepages too.  As this is the only time I’ve decided to use my real name, I am still slightly uneasy about it.

4. For some reason, it seems to be recommending jobs to me, but not ones that are actually useful.  There are plenty of other ways to find useful library and info jobs online – no, I don’t want to be a graduate trainee analyst or a call centre assistant, thank you.

Anyway, I have added a few of my colleagues, just to see what happens, and have joined the groups recommended in the cpd23 post.  Hopefully I can explore them in the next few days.  I’m not 100% convinced I will keep my profile, especially after the recent security breach, but I will give it another chance before I make a decision.

Onto friendlier networks… Twitter…

I’ve already written about Twitter in a previous post, and it’s probably my favourite online network at the moment.  I think this is partly because it’s the one network which has enough library and info people engaged with it to make it a valuable resource. It’s all very well to have forums, but they easily fall out of use if not enough people use them regularly.

I like the fact that on Twitter you definitely are allowed to follow people you don’t know, just because they look like interesting librarians, and it is even fine to start a conversation with those people.  I have heard about many things on Twitter that I wouldn’t have done otherwise – Libcamp Brunel, CILIP New Professionals Day, CPD23 itself – all things that have really enriched my graduate trainee experience and caused me to become more enthusiastic about librarianship.

I have even used Twitter usefully at work today, in order to search for what people are saying about replacements for the Meebo instant messaging widget, which has been bought out and discontinued by Google.  Searching for the #Meebo hashtag brought up comments and links to blogs and articles about other IM clients, and I got a couple of replies from other information professionals about their experiences with Meebo replacements, which I can usefully take back to my colleagues.

I have to say that not all of Twitter is useful – I have had to unfollow a few people who tweet a lot about their personal lives (this is OK on Facebook, but I find it odd to read so much about the lives of people I’ve never met).  But for the most part, I’d give Twitter the top marks for online networking, and will definitely continue to tweet for a while longer.

… and Facebook

Like most Thing 6 blogs I’ve read, I’ve decided to keep Facebook personal and private.  I really appreciate it – I’ve moved so many times that I’ve got friends scattered every which way, and I don’t think I’d keep up with them if I didn’t have Facebook.  I’ve had a look at the CILIP page, and other library pages, but I’m not going to use them for networking.

While we’re on Facebook though, I think this is a great example of a library page.  It’s St Hughs College Library in Oxford, and I think the use of photos and the new timeline format makes it look really smart and professional!

LISNPN and Librarians as Teachers

As a new graduate trainee in September, the staff development team at the Bodleian recommended that we checked out LIS New Professionals network, and I found the Graduate Trainees forum really interesting – it was the first time I’d heard what was happening in the world of libraries outside of Oxford, and I went to a trainee gathering in London organised through it, where I met a few people that I’m still in touch with, and have seen at other events.  There was also a really successful trainee trip to Oxford organised through LISNPN – I showed a large and enthusiastic group of visitors round the Law Library, and I think everyone enjoyed seeing the different Oxford libraries.

I haven’t been on LISNPN for a while, and it doesn’t seem to be hugely active, but I explored it a bit for Thing 6, and particularly like the downloadable resources.  Anonymous reviews of the MA courses are a really good idea, as well as other good advice.  There’s a new thread to discuss the future plans of this year’s cohort of trainees, which I’ve posted in, and am interested to hear other people’s experiences.  The jobs and placements section also sounds really useful.

Finally, my role at the moment doesn’t involve any teaching, but I know that it’s a skill that more and more academic librarians need, so I look forward to looking at Librarians as Teachers Network at a later date!

Next up – leaving the virtual world behind and meeting face to face…