I’ll start this with the honest assertion that I still feel like I’m a new librarian. While I can logically list accomplishments and successes I’ve had as a library director, I have only been a librarian and a director for three years (yes, I jumped in at the deep end). I am constantly learning and growing as a professional, and I still need TONS of advice and support.
I feel that we should all admit to needing those things regularly, though. Our profession isn’t one built on competition but on collaboration. We work together to advance libraries and to help those people we serve. The key phrase in that sentence being, “we work together.” To be able to do that, I have learned that I need people. Specifically, I need other librarians, and so do you.
Thinking of trying out a new program or adding a new library service? Have an outrageous idea that you’re afraid to take to your supervisor until you’ve fleshed it out? Or are you writing something that needs edited? You need people. More specifically, you need Your People (capitalized because they are that important).
Your People, (or if you want to be “professional” you can call them your Personal Learning Network), are people that you can count on to support, guide, and advise you. They will let you bounce ideas off them. They’ll walk you through how they started that same new program/service at their library. Sometimes Your People will have years more experience than you. Sometimes they’ll be other new librarians or library students. Inspiration and support can come from any level.
Your People do not have to live where you live. Reach out! Join Twitter and search for librarians. There’s A LOT of us out there! I have found many of My People via Twitter. I formed relationships with them online and recently got the chance to meet several of them at ALA. Meeting in person did cement them as My People even further, but it isn’t necessary for successful interaction.
To find regional people or ones in your state look at who is interacting on state listservs or talk to someone at a conference. I know that can be a scary idea, but it’s something that could pay off in ways you can never imagine! Two of My People are ones I met at the Indiana Librarian’s Leadership Academy last year. The three of us collaborate and talk so much about libraries that we’ve scheduled an overnight at one of our homes so we can better tackle all the world’s library problems. (Okay, maybe not ALL but we do have big ideas!)
Other than in-person meetings you can use Google Hangouts to connect. Google Docs is an excellent resource when you want someone to edit something or if you’re working to write something together. Of course you can always use that old-fashioned thing called a telephone and ring someone up for a chat, but sometimes it’s easier to accommodate schedules by emailing or using another tool.
One of the most important pieces of advice that I can give you about finding Your People is to NOT only look for those librarians that work in the same type of library as you. In my opinion one of the biggest problems we, as a profession, all sometimes have is not communicating across the library types. I have several academic librarians and school librarians in My People. I have learned, and continue to learn, so much from getting out of my public library corner.
So start looking today for Your People because they’re the ones who will help you when you didn’t even realize you needed help. They’re the ones who will support you when you try new things. They’re the ones who will remind you of your awesomeness when you get in a funk or doubt yourself (because that WILL happen, and it’s ok). They will be more than your mentors or collaborators. They will become your friends. They’re YOUR PEOPLE.
Heather McNabb is Director at Poseyville Carnegie Public Library in Poseyville, Indiana. She tweets at @HeatherLibrary and is always looking to expand her people.