Our LIS education here at St. John’s is primarily online. There are few in person courses offered. There are no student chapters of library groups. There is one editor of the department newsletter. There is little collaboration among students except forced interactions on Blackboard and scarce group projects and presentation opportunities as a final grade for display at our Symposia.
Noticing the lack of connection students have to each other and the faculty in such a small program, the department has taken steps to remedy the problem. Believing that the first time you meet your classmates should not be at a department mandated event, steps were taken to create a social networking opportunity for students and staff: the DLIS Meetup page. The point of the group is to let all members know about upcoming professional library group events and find out who else is interested in going; because nobody wants to ever go alone to a professional networking event, especially as a student. One might think that library students, with the notion that librarians are quiet and shy and quite introverted, might take comfort in numbers and get themselves out there. Or more likely, they’ll ignore the group’s existence and still never attend anything labeled ‘optional’.
This innate lack of willingness to participate will severely hinder your success in this field. People talk, people remember faces, and people know each other. The six degrees of separation thrives in our community. Shirk away, hide from people, and never ever network and you will become one of those annoyed bloggers that complain he or she graduated with a 4.0, held internships and an assistantship but have been unemployed for 2 years after graduation and just can’t understand why because he or she sound so great on paper.
Do you want to perpetuate the notion that librarians are dull and colorless with poor social skills? Then utilize your time as a student to learn how to read social cues and accept that librarians don’t hide in a back room and have no human interaction of any kind. A naturally quiet and introverted personality is no excuse to be a recluse.
Understandably, many people are attracted to this profession because they like to read. However, throughout your education, you must realize that is but a fraction of the driving factors in this profession. I like to read, but I also like to solve problems, implement new technologies and manage people to do the more tedious work while I research ways to make what I do the best it can possibly be. Yes, I don’t particularly like people and don’t go out of my way to make small talk every time I pass someone in the hallway on my way to the bathroom. I’ll admit my laziness on top of poor weather will absolutely hinder any plans I have to attend an event. But that does not mean that I don’t understand the professional ramifications of deciding to stay on my couch and binge watch Sons of Anarchy over attending a METRO panel on current trends in digitizing archival materials. I missed a chance to talk to someone with amazing insight that speaks to my personal interest and passion in the field. I missed making that connection that could potentially move my resume to the top of the pile. Do you want your professional life to be a series of missed opportunities?
Let’s get back to the basics of social interactions:
- Slow down
- Be curious about others
- Look people in the eyes and smile
- Be audible
- Relax and breathe
- Encourage yourself
- Be positive and empathize, understand that you might be just as stressed as the people you need to interact with
- Abandon your passive aggressive nature
- Be assertive
- Act in your own best interest by expressing your thoughts and feelings directly, honestly and appropriately
Application of these simple soft social skills can be challenging to those that are not outgoing. I understand because I too am one of you. However, I also understand that some situations in life will always require you step outside your comfort zone. Trust me when I say, the lack of participation among students is so much more frustrating that any failed attempt to talk to someone at a professional event. There will always be people to talk to. Why create obstacles and barriers for yourself when this field is oriented toward the exact opposite? Open up! I bet you have a lot more in common with us in the program than you could have ever imagined.