March 2, 2011

The Solo Librarian's Relationship Status: It's Complicated

Last Friday when I was presenting at my alma mater, I hit on an accidental and important theme while describing the success of our conference Twitter feed: collaboration. I hadn't intended to be obvious about it, but in reflecting on what made (and continues to make) our use of social media unique and effective, it's that not one of us is tweeting or blogging in an empty room. Instead, we're helping each other through the Internet wilderness. It's a complex chain of trial, error, feedback and trust, and it works.

At its inception, the idea behind this blog was to chronicle my adventures in the white spaces, a seemingly lonely place. Solo librarians need other solos to network with, bounce ideas off, and to generally know that we are not alone out here. The truth is, you are not alone in your organization. If you think you are, it must seem enormously difficult to get anything done.

The only task I truly do alone is cataloging, and too often I avoid it altogether in favor of my more collaborative responsibilities. Activities like SMUG would not see the light of day without teamwork and support among many staff members. And no matter how small your own role is in something like a social media users group or tweeting from your employer's trade show, you should try to get involved at some level in any area that could benefit from your skillset. Building relationships through the non-traditional stuff also makes a huge difference when you're sitting down to do a reference interview with someone.

I am greatly enriched by my colleagues in the DC Chapter of SLA, the Solo and Transportation Divisions, and the Associations caucus. Of equal influence are the subject matter experts who make up my customer base. I could not do my work without them because they're the ones I serve, and I have to anticipate their needs. Doing this effectively requires the sturdy structure of a good relationship. (Even better if you happen to like your colleagues and enjoy their company.) But, as I've said here before, these things take time. Nothing happens until we collaborate.

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