Thing #15: Attending and presenting at conferences

I really enjoy going to conferences and workshops and look for opportunities to attend them.  It is a great way to meet other people in the profession and to learn new things.  Money is a factor; I would love to go to ALA annual or midwinter but both the membership to ALA and the conference registration are too expensive.  I have attended the Nebraska Library Association annual conference twice and will attend again this year. 

Speaking at a conference is something that is relatively new to me.  Last year I participated in the New Members Round Table poster session at NLA annual.  A coworker and I created a poster and presented our idea to a small group.  It was a good introduction to presenting; it was low-key and there weren’t a lot of people there.  This year I have signed up to present by myself at NLA.  I am not totally comfortable speaking in front of a group, so this will push me out of my comfort zone and give me valuable public speaking experience. 

As an aside, the New Members Round Table of NLA is sponsoring a resume/cover letter review session at NLA this year.  You can have your resume and cover letter reviewed by hiring managers in Nebraska for free and meet with them at the conference to hear feedback about your materials.  If you are interested, please contact me.  My contact information is on my blog.

Thing #12: Social media

Social media has been a valuable part of my career development.  I joined Facebook and LinkedIn a several years ago and have since built up a network of family, friends, past and present coworkers, classmates, and professional acquaintances.  The best example of using social media for networking and creating a sense of community occurred when I was working on my MLS online.  My classmates and I were all on the same “track” and were in the same classes each term.  We created a Facebook group to ask questions about assignments, vent our concerns and frustrations, share information, and help one another.  Although we were spread across the country, we were able to get to know one another and provide a support structure similar to a traditional classroom. 

I see both advantages and disadvantages to using social media.  The advantages include connecting people who are far apart, creating a fast and easy method of communication, providing a low pressure way to communicate, especially for those who are shy, and providing a fun way to keep in touch and share with others.  The disadvantages include replacing the intimacy of face-to-face contact with hands-off online communication and the occasional misinterpretation in communications.  In my mind, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.   

I plan to continue using social media for career development and appreciate that these free, easy-to-use tools are available to us.

About Nebraska Library Leadership Institute

In 2011, I attended the Nebraska Library Leadership Institute at the St. Benedict Center in Schuyler, Nebraska.  Thirty people from public, academic, and school libraries across the state were selected to attend the five-day Institute led by Becky Schreiber and John Shannon of Schreiber Shannon Associates.  Participants were divided into four learning groups and each group had two mentors, experienced librarians that observed, guided, and advised the groups.

Each day, we completed interactive learning activities, listened to presentations by John and Becky, and participated in group discussions.  Every evening, we learned about our mentors during Mentor Moments.

Highlights of the Institute:

  • Learned about our personality/leadership types using the Enneagram model
  • Identified strengths, weaknesses, ability to take risks, reactions to change, and self-limiting behaviors
  • Developed personal action plan to overcome weaknesses and develop strengths
  • Created vision statements, strategic goals, and funding proposals
  • Participated in learning group to complete strategy game, case study, problem solving exercises, and creative skit
  • Developed connections with people from libraries across the state
  • Presented to a group of 40 people in a simulation of requesting for funding from city council and library board

Thing #7: Face-to-face networks and professional organizations

Participating in professional organizations is an opportunity to meet people, develop professionally, and contribute your talents.  Currently, I am a member of the Nebraska Library Association (NLA) and the Mountain Plains Library Association (MPLA).  Being a member of my state organization has been extremely beneficial to my career.  At the first NLA event I attended, I met a woman who told me about a job opening at her library system; because of this conversation, I have the job I do today.  Since then, I have been involved in the New Members Round Table and currently serve as their secretary/treasurer.  This involvement has helped me meet new people and given me the opportunity to present at events.  I am running for office for other sections as well.  I have not participated in any MPLA activities because it has not been convenient to do so.   

Recently, I have been debating about joining the American Library Association (ALA).  The membership dues are higher than NLA and I am concerned that, like MPLA, it is more challenging to become involved.  However, I am considering expanding my job search across the country and the conferences would be a great place to meet people from other libraries.  Has anyone participated in the ALA Emerging Leaders program or in ALA?  What are your thoughts on the value of being a member?

Just yesterday I had a conversation with two other young librarians about face-to-face networks.  Has anyone participated in an informal “after-hours” library network?  Thoughts?  This could be a fun way to meet others who have a passion for libraries, to share ideas, and to help one another reach new levels in our careers.

Thing #6: Online networks

Online networks have created an easy and efficient way for people to come together and to keep in touch.  My grandma had never even touched a computer, but she realized the best way to hear from her grandchildren on a regular basis was to embrace technology.  She now has a laptop and an active Facebook page.

I opened a Facebook account about four years ago.  I almost immediately reconnected with a good friend from high school that I’d lost touch with after a move.  Since then, I have friended (and unfriended) coworkers, friends, classmates, and family members.  I have seen Facebook’s value in a variety of uses.  When I was working on my Master’s degree online, my classmates (who lived all over the country) and I created a Facebook group to communicate with and support one another.   An artist I know uses Facebook to share his work.  The library has a page to keep patrons informed.  I use Facebook for sharing pictures and keeping in touch.  If you’re smart about what you post and use the custom privacy settings, Facebook is a great way to connect with people.

I opened a LinkedIn account in 2008 when I was preparing to move and looking for a new job.  It has been a great networking tool.  If I meet someone new in a professional capacity, I try to connect with them.  I consider a LinkedIn profile to be a glorified business card- a reminder of who you are and how they know you- that won’t be lost or thrown away.  Any time I consider applying for a job, I check LinkedIn to see if any of my connections work for that company or know anyone who does.  I often wonder if potential employers do the same to me.  If they do, I feel better knowing I have a professional, updated profile.  In addition to networking, I have joined several “groups” on LinkedIn.  Following discussions on different aspects of the library profession has been interesting and helpful.  I would like to continue building connections on LinkedIn; if you would like to connect, my profile is located at http://www.linkedin.com/in/bethanygrabow

I know some people are hesitant to have a presence on online networks, but I have enjoyed my experiences and would encourage everyone to give it a try.