Building Your Network

By Laura Birkenhauer

Social mixers and elevator speeches may be where your mind goes when you think about networking. And, if you’re attending a professional conference or networking opportunity, it never hurts to brush up on the traditional networking tips: bring your business cards and prepare to schmooze by brainstorming engaging questions, perfecting your pitch, and researching registered attendees (Sweeney, 2014). But, there are many ways to connect with others in libraries that fall outside of the conventional wisdom.

The NMRT Online Discussion Forum Committee asked NMRT members to share creative strategies for forming meaningful connections within the LIS community and networking tips for those brand new to libraries (Birkenhauer, 2022). Members shared the value of volunteer work for networking and also suggested the use of social media as an alternative to in-person networking opportunities.


Volunteering your time and participating in committee work is a great way to get started in collaborating with library colleagues across the country and meeting others in the profession outside of your organization.

If you’re unsure where to start when approaching networking at large conferences or other professional events, joining a committee may give you a concrete starting point. “[A]s a committee member I automatically had purpose and a place to be.” (Brickey-Jones, 2022). For example, ALA committees and discussion groups often host meetings at the ALA Annual Conference, which you can join as a member. Violà, a networking opportunity. 

Serving on committees relevant to your job duties will help you find professionals in similar positions or with related interests. Keep in mind that some committees lend themselves to networking more than others, depending on factors such as committee size, charge, and regularity and modality of meetings. While some groups may meet exclusively in-person, some committees’ activities take place primarily online, on Zoom, via email, through ALA Connect, and the like.

If a committee is too large to facilitate significant connections, seek subcommittee work. Serving on a smaller subcommittee often allows for the opportunity to get to know a few familiar faces. Additionally, starting small with volunteer work for a regional organization may be a less overwhelming approach to networking, as state and regional groups attract a fraction of the memberships of national and international organizations.

Social Media

While a variety of social networking platforms offer virtual networking opportunities, Twitter is a favorite for LIS professionals. A 2016 study focused on #medlibs found that Twitter served as a space for medical librarians to network with colleagues (Ford and Tolmie, 2016). A recent article in Medical Reference Services Quarterly presented case reports of health sciences librarians’ use of Twitter, maintaining that use of the social media platform can professionally benefit librarians (Danquah et al., 2022).

If you’re hesitant to jump immediately into online networking, Twitter allows for participation as well as observation. Users can follow others in the field, monitor hashtags like #librarytwitter, participate (or lurk) in Twitter chats like #critlib, and keep an eye on trending topics.

Twitter also allows for the sharing of knowledge gained from professional development opportunities. “I have found that Twitter is particularly valuable for not only networking, but just learning about opportunities […] I’ve learned about two different conferences from just being in the LIS twitter space.” (Zerrenner, 2022). Conferences often assign an official hashtag, which allows users to monitor tweets with that hashtag for conference updates. Conference attendees might tweet about breakout sessions attended, new insights gained, or other conference happenings, opening up the opportunity for Twitter users to interact with their tweets by replying, retweeting or liking.

After the October 2022 acquisition of Twitter by Elon Musk, many are uncertain about the future of the company (Fung, 2022) and, by extension, the future of Library Twitter. Potential alternatives include Discord, Reddit and Mastodon, a decentralized platform featuring LIS-related servers such as and For those looking to join Mastodon, Twitodon allows users to identify and follow those you’re connected with on Twitter on Mastodon.

Keep in mind that ALA Connect and listservs also function in much the same way as our favorite social media sites, in that they connect people with similar interests. Conversations with others in the LIS community, like those hosted by the NMRT Online Discussion Forum on ALA Connect, are happening online in these spaces. Join the discussion!

While some of the above suggestions relate to conference attendance, neither networking approach necessitates in-person participation, funding, or travel. Are there other accessible approaches to building a network that you’d like to recommend to those new to the field? Leave a reply below.


Birkenhauer, L. (2022, October 3). Online Discussion Forum October 2022 Topic: Building Your Network. Message posted to

Brickey-Jones, M. (2022, October 5). Re: Online Discussion Forum October 2022 Topic: Building Your Network. Message posted to

Ford, C. & Tolmie, D. (2016) Breaking the limits of time and space: How Twitter is helping #medlibs collaborate and communicate. A descriptive study. Journal of Hospital Librarianship, 16(2), 116-131.

Fung, B. (2022, November 11). A day of chaos brings Twitter closer to the brink. CNN.

LaVentra, E., Danquah, M. B. B., Lopez, B., Justice, A., Sikora, L., Grooten, T. M., Haygood, L. (2022). Trends in… Adoption of Twitter by health sciences librarians. Medical Reference Services Quarterly, 41(4), 397-407.

OpenClipart. (2021). New logo for Mastodon Social [Online image]. Free SVG.

Sweeney, P. (2014, December 1). Schmoozing for beginners. Library Journal, 139(20), 1.

Zerrenner, E. (2022, October 4). Re: Online Discussion Forum October 2022 Topic: Building Your Network. Message posted to

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