CIL : Social Awkwardness at Computers in Libraries Conference

I am at my first library conference in several years.  I’m always amazed at the challenge conferences present to my social skills.  I  like to think of myself as outgoing and assertive.  These conferences  give me a chance to rethink these beliefs.  I realize something about myself:  I’ll basically talk to anyone.  I can hold a conversation with anyone about anything and feel comfortable.  However, I feel quite uncomfortable about the approach.  I always do better when approached as opposed to doing the approaching.

Maybe I should set a goal of meeting 3 or more people during the next 2 days.  I am here with a colleague; but, I see people who are obviously traveling solo.   Would they like it if they were invited to dinner?  Or if I sidled up to them and talked techie shop?  I’m always curious about these opportunities for human interaction that come so easy to some and are so difficult for others.  I imagine that there are folks that come to these conferences alone and never really interact with any strangers.  Isn’t part of the purpose of these conferences networking with our peers.

I have never really been a good networker and I wonder how my career has been effected by this weakness.

Since I have been out of the library field for 3 years while I recovered from a scooter accident, and I am recently returned; I have really been evaluating my career trajectory.  What parts of librarianship are important to me?  What parts of being a librarian offer me the most fun and flexibility?  What is my niche?  I’m a techie but not devoted.  I’m more of a curious and practical geek:  is it cool?  How will it make my life easier?  How will our customers use it?  How can we use it to reach customers?  That pretty much sums up my filter.  So, where do I fit now?

I know that my love of librarianship has a lot do with serving the public.  Just the existence of this blog will give a clue as to the direction of my interests.  Before my accident, a friend and I were conspiring about how I could find a job that I loved.  I was working part time at a large library system and was bored and rarely challenged.  I remember so clearly what I said:  I need to feel challenged.  I need responsibility.  I need opportunity to spread joy.

I have friends who don’t use their public libraries because they claim that the librarians and/or circulation staff are unpleasant, mean people.  I find this hard to believe; but, then they relay stories to me about incidents they experienced or witnessed.  It is these discussions that prompted me to think:  for some people are we as painful as the DMV?  are we as unpleasant an experience as the Post Office can sometimes be?  What are we doing wrong that members of the reading public don’t want to go to the library?

This is why I started Civil Civil Servant.  I want to address the simplest, cheapest thing we can do:  be nicer.  Of course this is a simplistic answer; but, Civil Civil Servant is going to explore the nature of “be nicer” and how we can manifest and create an atmosphere that pulls people in instead of repelling them away; how we can create an atmosphere where staff are happy and that spreads to the customer.  Putting the civil back in civil servant.

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