I had a lot to say about face to face networking in 2011!
Professional networking is one of the best things about being a librarian, there are so many opportunities for it and the profession is full of friendly, helpful people.
I am a member of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), the British and Irish Association of Law Librarians (BIALL) and the Scottish Law Librarians Group (SLLG) and each fulfils a different professional need.
I joined CILIP way back in 1993 whilst still at library school and have stayed in membership ever since, chartering in 2002. In my experience CILIP is an organisation where what you get out of it is strongly related to the effort that you put into your membership.
In my time I have been an active member of the subgroup the Career Development Group, serving as both secretary and chair of the Scottish Division and honorary secretary for the Group. At the time I took on these posts I was in a fairly unchallenging job with spare time and energy to give and an eagerness to learn new skills. The confidence I gained from going to London to attend meetings was worth every ounce of effort I put into organising these meetings and the worry about hotel bookings and lunch orders! Even more important has been the people I served with on these committees, working in a commercial law firm library is a niche job, whereas the Career Development Group has members from every sector giving me a whole new set of professional contacts around the country. And not to forget the pre-meeting nights in the bar of the Tavistock Hotel which were always great fun!
I am less actively involved with the Career Development Group these days but I have also been on two international study tours with them, to Granada in Spain and to Malta so now I have international contacts as well and great holiday memories (it wasn’t all work!)
My active involvement in CILIP continues through the mentoring programme, I am currently a mentor for one chartership candidate. And I really must make an effort to submit my application for revalidation (yes, I have promised this before).
I have been a member of BIALL on and off for a number of years, my membership being dependent on the job I was in at the time. Unfortunately due to the recession and cutbacks to the training budget I haven’t been able to attend a BIALL annual conference since 2008. However membership is still valuable for access to the journal Legal Information Management, the BIALL blog and the email list and wiki. Even if I can’t network in person with the other members I still have access to support and expertise at a distance.
For me SLLG is all about the members, it is about having a support network to call on locally. Many of the SLLG members are solo librarians or work in very small teams, SLLG is invaluable to combat feelings of isolation, to bounce ideas off fellow professionals and as a pool of expertise. SLLG also organises low-cost courses that are targeted specifically at our needs and some SLLG events such as the annual speed networking meeting and the trip to the Edinburgh International Book Festival are great fun.
Very recently I started attending some networking sessions for KM professionals which run every couple of months in Edinburgh. Attendees are a mixture of lawyers, IT people, consultants, librarians and KM specialists and each meeting has a defined topic for discussion. I have only attended two sessions but so far both have been interesting topics which though not pure librarianship are related to my area of work. I think it will be very useful to network with a wider selection of people working in the legal information field. And the wine and nibbles at these events are the best I have ever come across!
With all these formal opportunities to network it is inevitable that friendships are formed (in fact a lot of my friends are librarians!) and in particular there are four of us working in law libraries who communicate very regularly with each other providing invaluable support to each other. And networking can happen anywhere, anytime; just this morning I was chatting to an old friend at the bus stop and discovered that she has a new job in a law firm know how team. After congratulating her it was natural to me to remind her to get in touch for help at any time if she needs it.
My advice to anyone new to the profession is to try out the professional networks available to them to find which suit their needs. Don’t be shy, librarians are usually friendly and helpful by nature and will welcome you. Join in, what you get out of your membership is often related to what you put in.