When I started my first full-time youth services position back in the beginning of 2019, a word came up in those first conversations with my new coworkers that completely terrified me: networking. I had come from the world of teaching, and networking seemed like a very intimidating, corporate concept that seemed to have little to do with my job of planning story time themes and creating fun children’s area displays. I wasn’t even quite sure how the process worked– my mind could only conjure up images of a fancy cocktail party where everyone tried to get the ear of the “big guy” (whoever that was).
Fast forward almost five years, and my idea of networking in the library is very, very different from what it was. While in 2019 I had thought about it as an unquantifiable ability that I would need in order to “get ahead,” today I think of it as a way to generate resources for myself. I network to meet and make connections with other librarians, and sure, that might help me get a job one day, but that’s not necessarily my primary goal. I want to get to know other people in my profession so that I have folks to reach out to when I need ideas, resources, inspiration, or just community.
Networking is also much easier than I had previously thought. I’ve been at my current job since February, and here are some ways I have networked in my new job:
- Reached out to other youth librarians in my district to observe their story times
- Had lunch with other youth librarians
- Organized a potluck with the youth librarians in my district
- Organized a “We Survived the First Day of Summer Reading” happy hour with colleagues
- Offered resources to librarians needing extra supplies for their program
- Planned a lunch with a youth librarian new to system (I am clearly a big fan of lunch)
Of course, I am a part of multiple other library communities, so here are some ways in which I’ve networked outside of my current job:
- Partnered with an ALSC committee member to lead a webinar
- Shared stories, ideas, and experiences with my ALSC committee members
- Reached out to former coworkers to ask for resources
- Reached out to former coworkers to share my own resources
- Reached out to an Emerging Leaders cohort to tell them I loved their ALSC blog post
And if you’ve been to any library conference by yourself, you know that feeling of looking around a session room and suddenly being transported back to your high school cafeteria and thinking “Where do I sit??” I am here to tell you: literally anywhere! Everyone in that room feels the same way that you do, and others will be so, so grateful if you are the first one to sit down and ask “So what library do you work for?” And that’s exactly how I walked away from the recent YALSA Symposium with multiple business cards from other librarians working in youth services.
So if you’ve been intimidated by the prospect of networking until now, I see you, and I understand you. I was you! But I want you to know that it is much easier than you might expect, and it will reap you many rewards. Your first step can be small and easy: send an email, and invite someone to lunch!
What simple ways have you networked in the past?
Please feel free to share in the comments!
This post addresses core competencies seven, Professionalism and Professional Development.
Megan Jackson (she/her/hers) is a Youth Librarian working in St. Louis, Missouri. She was selected as a Class of 2022 Emerging Leader and currently serves on the ALSC Managing Children’s Services committee. She loves ramen, TTRPGs, and Taylor Swift. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.