Lost Librarian seeks kind-hearted mentor for no-strings careers advice.

Flowers.Although I’ve never had an ‘official’ mentor in my career so far, there have always been people I’ve looked up to and hoped to emulate in some way.

Having only ever worked in para-professional roles so far, I think that having a great manager is really important. Especially in my first couple of jobs, having someone (preferably someone who’s ‘been there before’) to give advice, talk things through and support my decisions made a massive difference. My first job after graduating from Uni (as a Public Information Officer – not exactly library-related) was really tough at first – I (an inexperienced writer in her first ‘real’ job) had to go into a social services department where people had years of experience and tell them that their leaflets/posters/website/promotional materials were not up to scratch. Needless to say, they were not thrilled at the prospect of being told what to do by an extremely naive 21 year old.

I can honestly say that I would never have got through this experience at all (never mind getting through it AND actually winning the respect of my colleagues AND ending up loving my job) without my absolutely amazing boss. One of her most admirable qualities was the absolute support she gave our team – almost to the point of being fiercely supportive! If you made a decision and had a good reason for doing so, she would always back you up – even against the highest authorities. That made a real difference to my ability to have confidence in my own judgement, not only in that job but in everything I’ve done since.

As I’ve already mentioned, from September I’m going to be a School Librarian, alongside studying for my Masters distance learning. I’m really anxious not to allow myself to become detached from other ‘library’ people, as one of the most positive things about my traineeship has been the huge library-based support network I’ve been able to build. I think I really need to look into finding myself an ‘official’ mentor. I’ve heard from lots of different people that school librarianship can be very isolated, and I will no longer have the benefit of real-life-Librarian contact on my Masters course. So as much as I dislike the idea of approaching someone and asking them to give their valuable time to help me, I really think one-to-one support will be essential for me to continue to develop.

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Exploring the library landscape

wilderness

Lost in the Library wilderness…

Weaving a web-based network

Despite my apprehensions about social networking and promoting myself online on a personal level (the gory details of which can be read here), I am a member of many online ‘professional’ groups, mailing lists and forums. Since starting my traineeship, I’ve made a concerted effort to join and contribute to groups that are of particular interest – including LISNPN, Lis-International, Lis CILIP reg and numerous groups for specific events such as National Libraries Day.

This has had a beneficial impact on my ‘real life’ connections in a number of ways. I’ve met people who I first spoke to on LISNPN, I’ve been to a number of meet-ups and events first arranged or advertised on these networks, I’ve attended library visits organised by groups, and have had national feedback on work I was involved in via the mailing lists.

For some reason (unknown even to myself) I seem to shy away from networks with a more ‘social’ basis, where I am required to add personal details. I joined Twitter fairly recently, but have quickly become an avid user (where else would I catch such intriguing escapades as #tropicallibrarian?!). Twitter is extremely useful for keeping up to date – but so far I seem to use it more as a news feed than a social tool, which suits me just fine.

However, for me, Facebook is an entirely different beast. I do have a Facebook account, but I use it very rarely. The only function I still find useful on Facebook is the ability to publicise and invite people to events.  Having said that, I can definitely see how Facebook is a useful promotional tool for organisations and companies – The audience is already there and already engaged, so the scope for creative advertising is huge.

I haven’t yet set up a LinkedIn account, as I feel that I’m still too early on in my career to make proper use of it. There is also the danger that I would forget to update my profile when I changed jobs or gain qualifications.

venturing into the real library world…

Personally, I still get far more out of actually meeting people and speaking to them in person than I do from online communities. As previously mentioned, I mainly use the groups and lists that I am a member of to get involved with and initiate ‘real life’ meetings.

Recently I’ve been along to Library Camp Leeds, The Oxford trainee library visit and CDG’s Tackling social inclusion & disability issues event – all of which I found out about via my online connections.

However, I also try to arrange trips and events myself – such as the Leeds Library visit (which you can read about here).  Talking to people about their library experience and how they got there is always fascinating and encouraging, but I don’t feel like I could do that so easily online. It is much harder to approach someone you’ve never met before and start asking them personal questions about their job!

Like most people, I do feel apprehensive before meeting someone new,  particularly in a group situation – but I just sign up for everything I can and hope that I’ll have found the courage to do it by the time it comes round (and I always have so far!)

So basically, I use online networking to find out what’s going on, and then go out and do it!