A colleague—and friend—once told me that I was the best “natural networker” she had ever met.
I was stunned, because the idea of going to a networking social and trying to make small talk throughout the evening and to sell myself sounds completely and utterly miserable. I’ve never even attended a networking event. The idea of doing so makes me break out in hives!
But, when I thought about it, her opinion didn’t come out of nowhere. I have made a decent number of connections with colleagues in my system, my state, and now nationally. All without having to suffer through one single painful networking event. In truth, I don’t call it networking. I call it getting involved with the profession of children’s librarianship, and it’s something I encourage in my staff, and try to give them the time and tools to do.
Thus far, for me, involvement has had three tiers that naturally grew into each other. First, is to firmly get involved in your current library system. Perhaps there is a mentoring program you can join. Do they have a staff book club? I’ve found that to be a most enjoyable way to make connections. Depending on the size of your library system, you may be able to volunteer for committees or work groups that will allow you to meet more people within your organization. And when you are competent in those groups, people will remember.
One great experience was joining the group that conducts Mock Youth Media Award Elections for my system. Such a fun way for Youth Librarians to connect and talk books!
Next, try to get involved on the State level. I am lucky to live in Ohio and was able to get involved with the Ohio Library Council (OLC). At first, I was a member but really struggled to actively join in. This changed when I talked to someone who was on one of OLC’s Divisions, which led to me being elected to serve. Most often, names of people you might be able to contact are prominent on State Library Council websites. These people are librarians just like you who most often would love to answer questions about their involvement and are probably looking for other people willing to volunteer and help.
State library councils give you the opportunity to network outside your system but in an area you may be able to visit and in which you can perhaps more easily develop mentoring relationships.
And then, of course, there is ALSC. Even after working through the leadership tract at OLC, I was still unaware of how to navigate a national organization. Luckily, I met Membership and Marketing Strategist Elly Serrano at a conference I attended. She presented, and I went up afterwards to talk to her. She suggested I try writing for this blog, which ALSC Blog Manager Mary Voors just suggested right here. It was a great suggestion and an easy way to get involved with the organization. Also, consider filling out a committee volunteer form (you must be logged in to your ALA account for this link). Many process committees do not require travel to conventions and are therefore easily accessible for all ALSC members. I’ve had an amazing time volunteering for the Managing Children’s Services Committee and am now on year three.
Please share how you have built relationships within children’s librarianship below!
This post addresses the core competency of VII. Professionalism and Professional Development.
Maria Trivisonno is a Children’s Librarian at the Mayfield and Richmond Branches of Cuyahoga County Public Library. She in a leadership capacity in the Children’s Services Division of the Ohio Library Council and currently serves on ALSC’s Managing Children’s Services Committee. Maria loves being an aunt, reading and discussing kids’ books, and all things Star Wars.