One of the things that I love about libraries is the fact that there is always something new to learn and it provides the perfect forum in which to do the learning. However, there is always something new to learn, which can be more than a bit overwhelming. This is particularly the case in an internet enabled world where the information that we can easily access goes so far beyond that which can be found in hard copy in our libraries. Given that, I need to take advantage of any tools that will help me to find quality resources without needing to devote my entire life to weeding through things.
I have found that LinkedIn and the groups to which I belong through LinkedIn are great tools to help me find great resources that I might have missed otherwise. I particularly like the links that I get through the ALA group and the LIS Career search group, etc. Through them, I get links to all kinds of articles that are both personally and professionally interesting and have the opportunity to learn from and with people from around the world. Even with the assistance of the other group members to choose articles, etc. that are on topic and interesting, I don’t have the time, or inclination, to read them all, however, I do often find content and sources of which I would not have otherwise been aware. (LinkedIn appears to be a tool used primarily by individuals rather than organizations, but it is possible for institutions to have LinkedIn profiles. More of them should take advantage of this opportunity as it is less work intensive than Facebook and Twitter as it requires less constant updating for it to remain active and relevant.)
These groups also provide great opportunities to expand the conversation, reaching out to people from around the world to talk about a whole variety of things. Last semester I took a course on instructional design and was putting together a unit of instruction on research and information literacy. There were some really interesting conversations taking place about things like the kinds of skills that we needed as LIS professionals and that we should be teaching in the libraries and schools. There were also discussions about using internet resources, etc. I didn’t find anything that was earth-shatteringly new, but hearing opinions from people who I do not know/work with/etc., meant that I was able to look at my unit of instruction from an outside perspective and confirm that what I was looking to teach was broadly applicable. I even found some interesting resources that I was able to share with my students when I taught the unit.
One of the challenges as you are getting settled into LinkedIn is to figure out how much or how little you want to participate in things like online discussions. To paraphrase what Scott explained to my class last semester, it’s a balancing act, but if you have something that you think will be value added, add it, if not, feel free to “lurk” and learn from the things that you are reading. I do not think that I’m presently in a position to judge whether my input into discussions has had a lasting impact on the people with whom the discussions have taken place, but I have to hope that what I had to say was “value added”.
One last thing about my experience using LinkedIn. As a distance learning student, I don’t have the opportunity to randomly learn things about my classmates and professors because we are in the same line for coffee, etc. However, I have learned some great things about and from professors and classmates based on their LinkedIn profiles. You can include volunteer work that you do (a GREAT way to showcase skills that you have that might not be directly linked to past employment!), pieces that you have published, conferences that you have been involved in, blogs that you write, etc. Just as I suggested to my students that they use Wikipedia as a starting point for other sources by accessing the bibliographies at the end of each entry, I can use a professor’s list of publications as a springboard for information on subjects that are often related to my coursework. I know that much of this can also be done via Facebook, but doing things like this via LinkedIn gives them a professional spin that can be very valuable.