Passive-Aggressive Networking

Ten years ago, I was invited to participate in a study tour of German federal and state libraries. I was one of a group of 10 American librarians who spent two weeks in Berlin, Dresden, Munich, and Karlsruhe learning about the German library system.

I was a graduate student at the time and I had just been elected chair-elect of SLA’s Government Information Division. The then-chair of DGI had recommended both the chair-elect at the time and me for the tour.

I am not about to recap the whole thing here, but you can read about it at the blog we set up to document the tour. Also, I got to visit the Ramones Museum Berlin. It was awesome.

Now, I admit that I am one of those annoying travelers who have a life-changing experience every single time I go somewhere. Usually I fantasize for a month about running off to Vienna or Paris or wherever, then mentally return home and get back to normal.

But in this case, the trip really was life-changing. Eventually. About three years after I went on the study tour, the connections that I made on the trip helped me get the job I have today.

I’ve read a lot about the importance of networking. But I am a bit of an introvert, so it’s hard to get out there and shake the hands and give the elevator speech to well-connected strangers. So I’m glad that I didn’t just join a professional association, but volunteered for it. It was a great way to network without really trying. If you make a good impression, you can open all sorts of doors without ever really schmoozing outside of your own comfort zone.

Where Do I Begin?

I have been writing blogs for years now. I started off writing library science-related blogs: first, a blog about censorship and First Amendment issues. Then, when I went to grad school, a blog mostly about my thesis.

After I got my degree, my interested in writing about library science has waxed and waned. I’ve started and stopped biblioblogging dozens of times. I have started new blogs, went back to old blogs, combined old and new blogs, mined old blogs for new blog content. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

I have another blog, about the Eurovision Song Contest, which has been active since 2006. It’s easy to keep that blog going for two reasons: I co-write it with my wife and it covers a specific topic.

When I had blogs about censorship and about my thesis, I had no problem coming up with content because I had a point of view on those specific topics. I used my grad school blog to research my thesis, to write literature reviews, and to discuss class projects. While the subject matter bounced around a bit depending on my classwork, I never lost sight of the fact that it was a tool to help me learn. My education was the topic I was covering.

Once I entered the workforce, though, I felt the need to be an expert. I had gotten my degree, so I was obviously an authority in library science, right? But I never really picked a topic to focus on, so my writing was all over the place. On the rare occasions when I did pick a topic, I found that I didn’t have a lot to say on it. My mistake was thinking that I was done learning when, really, my education had just begun.

So whatever topic I end up writing about here, I can promise this: I will not be an expert on it. I will be just be a student trying to learn as much about it as I can.