As I am falling behind with this programme I have lumped together Things 6 & 7 in a somewhat desperate attempt to catch up. However, since I think that there is an overlap between the two I hope to get away with it. Networking can mean different things to different people. For some it means developing contacts to exchange information and further your career and for others it means forming a group of people who exchange information and experience, for professional purposes, in order to create a support group. My own experience of networking is most definitely the latter and for this reason I find some of the tools mentioned more useful than others.
Although I have an account this is because I was invited by a friend and I did not wish to be rude and say no. However I think that this particular network is only of real value if you are actively seeking new employment. I have joined some of the groups; CPD23, School Librarians and CILIP but am not sure what to do next! The discussions and information tend to duplicate what I am learning on Twitter or elsewhere already and the School Librarians Group particularly is very USA biased in content. The etiquette for connecting with others is also a bit bewildering. At the moment I am connected to colleagues or friends so am not really gaining anything from my LinkedIn account at present. LinkedIn is something that I will put on the back burner for now.
I am not a huge fan of Facebook partly due to the privacy issues and rarely post on it myself using it mainly to keep in touch with relatives in other parts of the country. Ironically I signed up initially for professional reasons to keep in touch with book review, education and school library information but now use it extremely rarely for this purpose. All of this I now find on Twitter and that has become my first port of call for all professional information of late.
LISPN and LAT
Both of these were new to me and I think that as a school librarian the Librarians as Teachers Network could in theory be very useful indeed. Although it looks a bit inactive at the moment I think I will sign up and try to participate in future.
Having been a member of CILIP for ten years I did not renew my membership last year so am not able to access this particular network at the moment. Unfortunately I had felt that the cost of membership was too expensive for what I gained in return. However, I have started using the web site more regularly recently and particularly like the blogs. The Shout about School Libraries campaign is a positive move too so I am now considering re-joining CILIP and if so will start to use the communities network again.
Other On-Line Networks
For several years the on-line network that I have found the most useful is the Yahoo Group The School Librarians Network (SLN). Even though I rarely post comments myself the knowledge and support that I have gained from other school librarians has been invaluable. I also belong to Librarians in Independent Prep Schools in South East England (LIPSEE) http://mrpartis.wordpress.com/ and although it is not possible for me to attend meetings the regular newsletter and the e-mail contact is a terrific support system. As there are so few school librarians working with this age group this is particularly helpful.
Twitter is my favourite on-line network and I have already blogged about my conversion to it here This has resulted in my using the other on-line networks less and less although both SLN and LIPSEE are still valuable to me.
Face to Face Networks
Ever since I transferred from public to school libraries in 2000 I have been a member of the School Library Association and it has helped keep me sane for a number of reasons. Initially I used their comprehensive and helpful publications to help me set up a new school library and then very tentatively I started attending the local branch meetings. Twelve years on and now I am on the committee of our local branch, attend meetings every term and have gained so much from it. As school librarians are usually solo workers I think there is a real need for the SLA and particularly the local branches. It is so very helpful to be able pick the brains of experienced and knowledgeable librarians in the same field. I have heard speakers such as Aidan Chambers and Julia Eccleshare, learnt about everything from how to create displays with the wow factor to using Animoto and QR codes. The revamped web site is useful too with a range of resources to download and information on key issues in the area of school librarianship. Over the last twelve years I have also attended several SLA training days and these too have been extremely valuable covering topics such as teaching skills for librarians, promoting reading for pleasure and developing an information skills toolkit for primary school children.
There is a bit of a cross-over with all the networks I use: I have met librarians from LIPSEE at the SLA conference; some who I follow on Twitter are also SLA members; I have heard librarians who post on SLN speak at meetings. As a solo worker I think this is wonderful as it makes me feel part of a wider network and this provides both professional and personal support. Without this support my job would be very much harder.