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Professional learning networks for online students and new grads of LIS

Jessica Begley, AIC

Tuesday 16 September 2014 – Concurrent session 4, 2:30pm to 2:55pm


The increase in online provision of library and information studies has reduced the amount of incidental student interaction particularly for mature-age students new to this area of study. The use of online social networking such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram has fostered a strong and supportive community for any GLAM professionals who choose to interact in this way. As noted by Downes (2006), the learning of knowledge is distributive, that is not located in any one place, not transferred or transacted, but consisting of the network of connections formed from experience and interactions with a knowing community (Downes, 2006).

The hypothesis tested in this paper is that professionals who choose to interact and share knowledge in this way experience a richer professional development than those who rely on workplace or professional Associations for their lifelong learning. This paper explores the possibilities for mature-age students coming to the GLAM sector as a second or third career. It examines the need for a professional online identity and the benefits of interacting in this way to optimize lifelong learning, professional development, and particularly for library and information professionals working in small and remote libraries.

In their 2012 paper, Rajagopal, Joosten-ten Brinke, Van Bruggen, and Sloep, recognised that little is known about how professionals intentionally manage connections in their personal networks and about which factors influence their decisions in connecting with others for the purpose of learning (Rajagopal et al, 2012). Through a series of case studies, this paper examines the role of peer influence in forming initial connections, and the role of regular interaction in these social networks for mutually beneficial professional learning and growth. Geographic boundaries will be examined and the importance of face-to-face interaction will be explored among different age groups.

The emergent nature of this area, particularly the influence of these social yet professional interactions on the workplace and its practices is only recently beginning to be explored in the extant literature. As noted by Cook and Pachler (2012), the literature on the use of social and mobile technologies in workplace practices is still small, however anecdotal evidence shows that GLAM professionals rely on this access for daily professional interactions, encouragement, inspiration, ideas, and support. This will be explored.

Conclusions include:

  • On-line students rely heavily on social networking;
  • On-line networks are easier to foster for new professionals than face-to-face relationships;
  • Opportunities for development of networks are promoted in librarianship and information studies communities;
  • Failure to engage in social networking will result in missing opportunities for learning and networking;
  • Social networking allows for support and mentoring on demand, without regard to time zones or geographical boundaries.

This paper seeks to spark discussion, raise awareness and contribute to the growing body of knowledge on the use of social networking for professional learning, the formation and fostering of PLNs and the future of the profession.

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