i just spent 3 and a 1/2 days at a library conference, which i justified to my employer as an essential networking/professional development opportunity. but i forgot to tell them that networking may be at the top of the list of things i am not best at. and that sending me out on networking events is like sending someone naked out into an ice storm.
this is the 4th time i’ve attended this conference. at the previous 3, there usually is one person who decides to latch on to me and this person tends to be an evangelical Christian. and there’s no shaking them off, as hard as i try. this always happens. it must be some vibe i am giving off. i can’t figure it out.
but this year was really easy to not network because, on the numerous shuttle bus rides i shared with i don’t know how many librarians, everyone was immersed in their iPads or smartphones. nobody was making any attempt to acknowledge the person seated next to them. i guess i fell into that behavior, too. so i’m not judging anyone. texting came to my rescue. even when the batteries on my iphone were dead. texting mime.
last night, i decided to give networking another try at a cocktail reception at one of the conference hotels. it was a sad affair. very hushed. stark. not many people. the few there were coupled at tables, speaking in murmurs, speaking in code. i picked a table to stand at by myself and waited for people to come to me, while i ate cubes of cheese and celery. I thought, ok, 5 more minutes and if no one makes any effort to talk to me, i had put in my effort to network, and that’s all that counts.
but then this guy came up to me, and read my name tag, and he was trying to figure out from the name tag what i did and where i came from and what products he could sell to me. i told him that his products, which were books, of course, some of them Christian (another one!!!!), sounded interesting, but once i convinced him that the library i work at has no budget for books, and is actually only there for cosmetic purposes, our conversation took an unexpected detour. he was very curious to know what it was like to be an art student in the 1980s. He was really into Kate Bush (and still is) and also loved The Residents and Snakefinger. I told him that i had not heard any of them in years, but i would listen to all of them on Spotify, which he had not heard of, I was surprised to learn. But, I guess that counts as some form of networking, does it not?
Then today, in the exhibits hall, where all of these peddlers of various products (online databases, library furniture, storage systems, and many many publishers, some big, some small). I stopped by the booth of one of the smallest, a Toronto-based publisher of poetry. I told her I admired the books they had on display but apologized that i could not purchase them for my library since it is only there for cosmetic purposes. And then I revealed to her my actual motive, which was to see if she might have any interest in my haikualization work. And she actually seemed intrigued. So I guess that might be considered networking, too, would it not?
So, I came back from the conference knowing more about Kate Bush, and maybe an option for creating a book that has absolutely nothing to do with my job. I am not sure how I will “package” this to my bosses tomorrow. But they may not even ask.