How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Social Media

12/11/2012 § 16 Comments

I’d like to start my tenure here at Hack Library School with a dose of brutal honesty: I’m not a huge fan of people.

Ok, to be fair, it’s not that I don’t LIKE people.  It’s just that, as an introvert, I find them exhausting, and the prospect of seemingly endless conversations with strangers gives me serious anxiety.

As a grad student who would, one day, like to find a full-time, paying job, I realize the importance of networking.  I know that going to conferences and seeking out new connections in the library field is an excellent way to learn new things and perhaps even procure gainful employment.  I also know that I rarely have the desire to walk up to strangers, awkwardly introduce myself, and attempt to make library-related small talk.  So what’s a library student to do?

Enter Twitter (or Tumblr, or Facebook, or the social media of your choosing).  I know it seems like a cliché to extoll the virtues of the internet for quiet people, but social media is becoming an increasingly valuable tool for networking and professional development.  It allows you to make connections and share your own knowledge, all while avoiding the dreaded small talk.

This past weekend, for example, I had the opportunity to attend the annual conference of the New York Library Association (NYLA).  The conference was a great opportunity to connect with and learn from all types of librarians in New York state, and to do some networking.

Because I’m not so great at the small talk, I decided to focus my efforts at the conference on my online presence.  I tweeted throughout the sessions I attended, followed the conference hashtag to find out what was going on in other sessions (#nyla12 if you’re interested in catching up on the conversation), and made sure to reply to and re-tweet information I found valuable.

My presence on Twitter throughout the conference allowed me to connect with librarians despite my discomfort with networking.  I found new people to follow, gained new followers, and saw, through re-tweets, tweets marked as favorites, and responses, that people appreciated the information I was generating.  It may not be a traditional form of networking, but Twitter enabled me to have a more fulfilling conference experience.

I’m not saying that we should cease all human interaction and communicate solely through social networks.  I had my share of “normal” conversations at the conference as well.  I am saying, though, that social media provides an extra layer of communication that can actually enhance our networking and professional development experiences.

Twitter isn’t the only way to enrich your library school experience.  I use Tumblr to see what’s happening in some of my favorite libraries.  I read a number of blogs written by fellow library school students as well as working librarians.  I also love Pinterest for a visual representation of cool library ideas.  I think the wide variety of social media tools can really help us be better librarians (particularly those of us who are introverts).

So, what’s your social media poison?  How do you deal with being an introvert in a field that requires so much communication and connection?  Let us know in the comments, or find Alison on Twitter @AlisonJane0306.

P.S. Want to know more? Read more about Twitter in library school here, learn more about networking at conferences here, and find out about curating information in the age of social media here.

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§ 16 Responses to How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Social Media

  • Annie Pho says:

    My friend posted on my FB wall and said that I was crazy for having 10k tweets. I guess I’m a heavy social media user! As a fellow introvert, I also highly value social media. My first semester of library school, I tried to make an appointment to see my adviser and she kept pushing me off, which was frustrating. The next semester, I discovered twitter, and I never contacted her again for advice because I found a community of mentors who were willing to answer my n00b questions. In my opinion, the sooner you can stand on your own feet and collaborate with others in your field outside of your school, the better. You’re more independent and when you graduate, you’ll be able to hit the ground running. Social media just helps that process.

    • Rebecca Halpern says:

      On the same note, it’s much easier to approach people at conferences if you’re already familiar with them vis a vis social media. That’s why this year at ALA Annual we all put our Twitter handles under our name tags! Immediate ice breaker.

  • Steve Ammidown says:

    I had a similar experience at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) a few weeks ago. As someone who was new to both academic conferences and presenting, I was terribly nervous about the whole thing. I was using Twitter as a sounding board for my nerves, and started hearing from other folks who would be at the conference.

    It became a really good ice-breaker, and I met some great archivists by starting a conversation online and then continuing it in person. I don’t think I’d really appreciated the power of tweets for the introvert until that point!

  • Twitter and reading library type blogs like this one are great ways to connect for introverted folks, like myself. I managed to hear about a library job that way, and have connected IRL with some library students and librarians in the field. At a symposium I attended last week, I participated by volunteering and live tweeting. It’s helpful to find the balance between connecting via social media and also in person.

  • Chris Eaker says:

    I’m an introvert, too, but I do not use Twitter or Facebook. I’m also not comfortable with walking up to someone at a conference and introducing myself. I prefer to make contact through email. I email many of the authors I read for assignments in class and tell them about what I’m doing. Most are quite willing to talk to students. Then, when you see them at conferences, they know who you are. I also try to make contact with someone in my field and pay them a visit (pre-scheduled, of course) whenever I visit another university library, which I do often.

  • I found the blog & twitter LIS world during my second quarter of my first year. I ventured into social media as a way to connect with the part of the LIS field that I wanted to work in after I got my degree. My program doesn’t have predetermined “tracks” for our masters outside of media endorsements for school librarians so following archive blogs & archivists on twitter was an awesome way to stay “centered” and to feel connected while I was taking more general classes (reference, instruction etc).

    Also live tweeting at conferences is a great way to get noticed. I gained several followers from a local unconference including several possible future employers. I’m excited to see what will happen when I attend ALA midwinter.

  • Teresa Silva says:

    I’ve share the same sentiments towards social media as everyone above. Twitter is an amazing resource to find out about the latest in LIS topics/events. I especially like that you can search hashtags like #LIS #openaccess, #digitalhumanities, and a wealth of information can result. Not to mention, if you aren’t able to attend an event such as NYLA or ALA, following the hashtags is a good way to get a sense of what people thought of the event, what was discussed in the workshops that you couldn’t attend, and network. As an aside, I came across this TED talk that I wanted to share this with everyone on The power of introverts:http://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts.html

  • Sarah B says:

    I have held off on tweeting. Not for any particular reason. But you have all inspired me to get the app on my phone and get tweeting!

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