I’d like to start my tenure here at Hack Library School with a dose of brutal honesty: I’m not a huge fan of people.
Ok, to be fair, it’s not that I don’t LIKE people. It’s just that, as an introvert, I find them exhausting, and the prospect of seemingly endless conversations with strangers gives me serious anxiety.
As a grad student who would, one day, like to find a full-time, paying job, I realize the importance of networking. I know that going to conferences and seeking out new connections in the library field is an excellent way to learn new things and perhaps even procure gainful employment. I also know that I rarely have the desire to walk up to strangers, awkwardly introduce myself, and attempt to make library-related small talk. So what’s a library student to do?
Enter Twitter (or Tumblr, or Facebook, or the social media of your choosing). I know it seems like a cliché to extoll the virtues of the internet for quiet people, but social media is becoming an increasingly valuable tool for networking and professional development. It allows you to make connections and share your own knowledge, all while avoiding the dreaded small talk.
This past weekend, for example, I had the opportunity to attend the annual conference of the New York Library Association (NYLA). The conference was a great opportunity to connect with and learn from all types of librarians in New York state, and to do some networking.
Because I’m not so great at the small talk, I decided to focus my efforts at the conference on my online presence. I tweeted throughout the sessions I attended, followed the conference hashtag to find out what was going on in other sessions (#nyla12 if you’re interested in catching up on the conversation), and made sure to reply to and re-tweet information I found valuable.
My presence on Twitter throughout the conference allowed me to connect with librarians despite my discomfort with networking. I found new people to follow, gained new followers, and saw, through re-tweets, tweets marked as favorites, and responses, that people appreciated the information I was generating. It may not be a traditional form of networking, but Twitter enabled me to have a more fulfilling conference experience.
I’m not saying that we should cease all human interaction and communicate solely through social networks. I had my share of “normal” conversations at the conference as well. I am saying, though, that social media provides an extra layer of communication that can actually enhance our networking and professional development experiences.
Twitter isn’t the only way to enrich your library school experience. I use Tumblr to see what’s happening in some of my favorite libraries. I read a number of blogs written by fellow library school students as well as working librarians. I also love Pinterest for a visual representation of cool library ideas. I think the wide variety of social media tools can really help us be better librarians (particularly those of us who are introverts).
So, what’s your social media poison? How do you deal with being an introvert in a field that requires so much communication and connection? Let us know in the comments, or find Alison on Twitter @AlisonJane0306.