In this post I am going to write about both thing 6 (online networks) and thing 7 (offline networks) of the 23 Things for Continuing Professional Development programme. This is partly because I’m so far behind, but mostly because I don’t feel I can talk about one without mentioning the other. I am also going to flip things around and write about offline networks first.
I am a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals), within that my special interest groups are the CDG (Career Development Group) and CoFHE (Colleges of Further and Higher Education).
I started my membership when I was doing my masters. My reason for joining was because it seemed like a good way to get an insight into the profession I was about to join and really who could say no to student membership for £38 for the year? What I found from that year of membership was that I didn’t really get much out of it so when it came to renewing, as a full-time worker on a moderate income, I didn’t feel it was worth the cost, and I didn’t miss it for the couple of years that I was on the outside.
I rejoined a couple of years ago because I had planned to charter. I haven’t done that yet, and increasingly am thinking that I never will, but I have found that I’m getting more out of CILIP now than I did before. Why is that? I think partly it’s down to the new regime under Annie Mauger who seems to be working hard to make CILIP relevant and useful to its members. Mostly however I think it’s because I’m more engaged with what’s going on in the special interest groups and my local branch. The West Midlands branch is really active and there’s a lot of good stuff being done.
In addition to CILIP I am also a member (through my institution) of the BLA (Business Librarians Association) and this is an absolutely invaluable network to be part of. The events run by the group are second to none as they have direct relevance and application to my day to day work. The conference, as I have mentioned before, is the highlight of my working year. You might say I am biased because I am also on the BLA committee. Being so involved in this group has played a major part in my development in the profession, it’s given me opportunities and challenges that I feel have helped me to become better at what I do.
You know that motto ‘you get out what you put in’? I think this is especially true with professional organisations such as these.
Other than Twitter I can’t say that I use any other online network to its full potential for professional networking. I am a member of LinkedIn, LISNPN and CILIP Communities but the truth is that I just don’t use them unless I’m directed there to look at something. Largely I use them as an add-on to the face-to-face interactions that I get through the offline networks. On LinkedIn I a member of the CILIP and BLA groups which provides an oportunity for communication between events. I contribute to CILIP Communities as a blogger, but the forums are something which I’ve never really got in to.
With the BLA I have tried to initiate more online discussion. I revamped the forum when I took over as Web Officer, but it rarely got used and has wasted away. We’ve got a hashtag on Twitter which is used a little. I think the reason none of these has taken off is because of the success of the LIS-Business email list. Between events this is where the community lives and interacts, and it works so why change it.
So what’s my conclusion? Before I started writing this post I had this in mind as my closing statement:
Online and offline networks each have their own benefits, neither is superior and together they make an awesome team.
As I have been writing though I’ve realised that without Twitter in the equation the online networks just don’t do it for me. The offline networks have by far the most value for me as a professional.