I’ll be doubling up on Things 6&7 because they’re related: both about networks. Thing 6 is about online networks, including LinkedIn, Facebook, and library-specific ones like LISNPN, LATnetwork (Librarians as Teachers Network) and CILIP communities (or for those of us in the US, ALA Connect). I’m adding Twitter, because this is the one I used most often for online networking.
I think these tools are all useful for slightly different purposes. For me, this is how I use the more general networking tools: Facebook – personal; Twitter – professional-ish (or “profersonal”); LinkedIn – professional. We were asked to comment on LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman’s statement, “Facebook is the backyard BBQ; LinkedIn is the office.” I think I do agree with this statement to an extent – I guess in this analogy, twitter/google+ is the office barbecue/party? The lines are blurring for me because I’ve started to add more library colleagues to Facebook as well. I think there is always room for new services because people end up using them in different ways. When twitter first started, it was up to the early users to define the best ways to use it. However, now that it’s more established, there are set ways of doing things and slightly less freedom to define the service. It’s not like anyone’s going to get kicked off for not following the “rules,” but people see the patterns already set and start following them to fit in. When a new service starts, it’s an opportunity for a new set of people to define it.
I tend to find twitter most useful, personally. It’s probably because I have the largest network there, mostly library people, and I find it a great tool to interact with colleagues and maintain current awareness. I find that now that I’m working rather than in school, it’s harder to find the time to keep up with all my social networking tools. I usually only get the chance to read through a few updates, maybe reply, but not post much or interact in any meaningful way. This is probably why I haven’t gotten into Google+ too much yet, because I just haven’t been able to play around with it. It’s hard enough to keep up with Facebook and Twitter, so I’ve been ignoring Google +. Hopefully I will find a good balance someday. As for the library-specific networks, I am on ALA Connect and I signed up for LISNPN when I was preparing for Thing 6 last year. I really only use ALA Connect to keep up with my committees and for the conference scheduler, and I haven’t really been back to LISNPN since I signed up. Hopefully when I start doing more professional-level work I’ll feel I have more to contribute to these communities.
Thing 7 is real-life networks, such as professional organizations. This discussion is good timing (for me, since I’m behind) because this week I’m gearing up for the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Meeting in Anaheim, CA. I’ve been a member of ALA since library school, since I was lucky enough to attend an institution that paid for 1st year MLIS students’ memberships. However, I didn’t really get involved until after graduation, when I joined the New Member Round Table (NMRT) and started volunteering as a liaison to my state library association (the California Library Association, or CLA) and then for a couple of NMRT committees. Because I don’t yet know which direction my career will take, I haven’t joined a lot of interest groups or more specialized organizations. That said, I did join the Association of College & Research Libraries (a division of ALA) and the state chapter, CARL (California Academic & Research Libraries), since I currently work in an academic library and am interested in the issues specific to them. I’m also active in my library school’s joint student and alumni organization, SLISConnect.
I’ve found my association memberships to be valuable for meeting other people in my field, keeping up-to-date through publications and electronic communications, and having an opportunity to get involved through committee work and other volunteer opportunities. I wish I could join more sections and interest groups in within ALA – but the dues really start to add up! However, I am going to try to explore either RUSA (Reference and User Services Association) or LITA (Library Information Technology Association) – their 101 sessions are at the same time, unfortunately! But I’ve heard good things about both of these divisions of ALA.