Thinking about online networks for Thing 6 got me thinking about the online networks in which I participate and why I take an active part in these communities. I tweet, I blog, I read and comment on other blogs. I am also an active member of Librarians as Teachers (LAT) and the LIS New Professionals Network (LISNPN) I am on LinkedIn and maintain a current profile. I do this because I enjoy being professionally linked in to the sector, to other professionals, to keep up to date with activity across sectors and to maintain an online profile.
Today I attended the LIS DREaM conference launch at the British Library. In our breakout session, a lively discussion took place on the topic of networking and sustaining collaboration. One of the questions raised concerned motivation: who is motivated to not only contribute to these online networks but also to lead the action in these networks? Any network needs motivated leaders who are able to rouse and inspire other members. Networks tend to come together due to a shared interest or area of expertise. For example, LAT concerns people across sectors involved in information skills teaching whereas LISNPN concerns people from all sectors but only if they happen to be a new professional. Are we able to communicate across sectors and stages of our careers? If we can do this, could we start to move to the next phase of cross-discipline networking?
There are formal and informal networks, online and in the real world. This got me thinking about the other networks that I am involved with, ones that don't happen in the online sphere but rather in the physical space.
I am a member of the Career Development Group committee. CDG is a network of professionals at all stages of their career from all sectors. I am a member of the German Studies Library Group, a group of library and information professionals working in some way with Germanic collections. I am an editor of CULIB, a newsletter for staff at the University of Cambridge . My conclusion is that networks are everywhere. We should not forget that, in this online digital age, not every network to which we belong will have an online space.
Which leads me on nicely to tomorrow night's CPD23 meet-up. We can network with each other in reality as well as online. True, online networking overcomes barriers of travel and cost. However, reality networking is crucial to development and must not be forgotten as an important tool.
Finally, today one delegate asked the conference how a network is expected to survive once there is no longer funding. Answers ranged from strong leadership to formalised sturctures. However, it is my honest opinion that networks do survive without funding, both formally and informally, online and offline. All we need is a group of committed individuals with vision and focus who support and inspire each other.