Libraries, the universe and everything

Thing 7 – Face-to-face networks
July 22, 2011, 16:44
Filed under: cpd23

As far as I can work out, a relaxed networker is a happy networker, so I’d strongly recommend approaching any kind of networking event with as laid-back an attitude as you can muster. Wine also helps, particularly when @tinamreynolds is pouring 😉

One of my favourite things about living and working in London, professionally speaking, is the huge number and range of networking opportunities available, ranging from ad hoc pub get-togethers to more formal (and expensive) courses or meeting – there seems to be something to suit every taste, specialism and budget, so really no excuse for not getting involved. I’m mainly involved with two real-life networks – CILIP (and specifically the London branch) and LIKE.

As evidenced by last night’s networking event organised for Thing 7 by some of my lovely colleagues on the London branch committee, CILIP encompasses librarians with an enormous range of specialisations and skills, and can bring all sorts of people together in enjoyable and useful ways. I have to admit I joined the branch committee mostly because I felt that I wasn’t getting very much out of being a member, so I thought I ought to do something about it. Something which I’ve heard from quite a few people now, including one of the speakers last night, is that the SLA is much better at facilitating networking by making it easy to contact other members in specific sectors, and I must admit I’m quite tempted to join them. Sadly I can only afford the membership fees for one organisation at the moment so am deferring what could become a challenging decision…

One thing which came out of discussions I was involved with at the event was the fact that people are reluctant to get too involved with their branches or groups in case they end up being made to take on loads of work. I wanted to mention this here because in my experience this is not true – having joined the London branch committee late last year I then almost immediately became involved with two huge projects at work, which meant that I had no time for extra responsibilities. However, I still attend committee meetings and participate in discussions via email, and I have every intention of giving more to the committee later in the year once everything else has calmed down. As far as I’m concerned, we’re all volunteers, we’re all there to give what we can for the benefit of the organisation, but no one can force anyone else to take on anything they aren’t comfortable with – and if that means suppressing the yes reflex that’s not a bad skill to learn either! There are loads of different opportunities – from the more formal secretarial and financial committee posts through to helping organise events, updating the website, promoting activities via social media etc etc, so I’d strongly urge you to consider if you could get involved in some way, even just a tiny bit.

The London Information and Knowledge Exchange is just brilliant, and it’s a concept that would transfer really easily to other locations. Basically we get together on the last Thursday evening of the month in the upstairs room of a pub, for an informal presentation, discussion, dinner and drinks. The meetings attract a wide range of information people, and we learn all sorts of things about interesting and relevant topics. Because the whole thing is kept deliberately informal it’s really easy to chat to all sorts of people, and everyone is encouraged to keep circulating and meet as many others as possible.

At present I’m enjoying networking as a way to meet new people and have interesting conversations. I’m not looking for a new job, funding or business opportunity, so I don’t try to network strategically or aggressively, though I might make an effort to introduce myself to someone I thought was particularly interesting, worked in a similar organisation, or who I knew from Twitter and wanted to meet in real life. I used to think networking was scary, and it can be, but actually people are just people – it’s possible that some will be rude and unfriendly, but mostly they are happy to say hello (especially if you’ve actually thought of something to say to them first!).

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