Wednesday afternoon I posted the following to my facebook status:
I have recently instituted a personal goal of trying to catch up with at least 1 interesting person a week (or so) just to see what’s rockin’ their (LIS) world, whether there are any areas of overlapping interest, if we can challenge/cheer each other on in our research endeavors, etc. To do this I am asking people to lunch or coffee … so please don’t get freaky if I ask you. If not interested just say No thanks. 😀
Not a perfect message, I agree, but facebook stati do have a character limit and I had hit it. The primary problem with it is that “interesting” word. It means pretty much anything and, thus, nothing. So it is a somewhat lazy but mostly space constrained shorthand for a lot more; including a lot more that I can’t even articulate yet.
Sometime last week I decided to ask a friend and once fellow student to lunch or coffee to catch up with her. We had taken a couple of classes together and we are both off doing our own CAS stuff now. I do get to see her now and again at the reference desk but if one can imagine how busy the reference desk at the main UIUC Library is then you can imagine that short amounts of small talk is all we can manage.
The classes we had together were all “upper-level” information organization classes and some of the projects she’s been involved in have been in areas like faceted classifications of folktales.
But she’s a reference librarian by bent. And desire. [That is, if I remember correctly from some of those disparate and short snatches of conversation at the reference desk.]
Of course reference librarians can be interested in the geeky, often esoteric intricacies of thesauri, faceted classification systems, indexing, and so on. I wish more were. 😉 But, in my own admittedly weak experience [10 12 years now], I have found few reference librarians, much less LIS students, who are interested in these sorts of things to any true depth.
So I wanted to take some quality time to catch up and see where she is in her studies, where she’s heading with her CAS project/paper, and all that stuff in the facebook message above. We were supposed to go to lunch this past Tuesday but she woke up ill so we rescheduled for next week.
Wednesday afternoon I thought of one of our Ph.D. students who I have met in person only once or so but we now follow each other on Twitter and facebook and I find her and what little I know of her work intriguing. So I invited her to lunch or coffee.
That’s when I realized I was onto something and posted the above status to facebook.
1st Lunch Date
We met at Bombay (Indian food) for the buffet and talk. She was already excited because she thinks my idea is a great one. We had a leisurely lunch and talked about my CAS paper and research, about the Library Student Journal, and about her coursework (last semester of) and teaching. We discussed Integrationism, language and communication, Symbolic Interactionism, Erving Goffman, differences between teaching undergrads and LIS students, and several other things. I’d say it was a success; not that I have any specific measures of success in mind.
Feedback in facebook
I got some good feedback shortly after posting the above status, such as several Likes, and a question or two. I found it extremely interesting that the 1st person to Like my status is the next person in my queue. Another Ph.D. student, she has taken some courses in GSLIS but is primarily in Rhetoric and Writing Studies [again, if remembering correctly]. I am going to wait a bit before trying to schedule this one as I still need to catch up with the original person I asked before I thought of this as a more sustained “program.”
One comment I received was whether I was paying or not. I am happy to do so in every case but will leave it up to the other whether we go Dutch or I pay. This is not a request for people to ask me to lunch so I will pay. I intend to still go to lunch with friends and such as I sometimes do. But if you are one of my closest friends here then, well, sorry but you don’t meet my criteria for this. I see you and talk to you anyway; I already have a good idea what you are up to. 😀
What am I up to? Do I have a purpose or goals for this. Well, yes, and no. It is a work in progress and I am leaving it wide open and flexible.
First, it is and can be a form of professional development. Normally we talk about keeping up with the literature but isn’t keeping up with fellow professionals also professional development? Especially if one is interacting directly with them, yes?
Second, it is networking.
But even more important to me, it is a way to develop better friendships and deeper acquaintances. It is about broadening my horizons. It will expose me to ongoing work and the interests of others in a relaxed environment. Overlapping areas of interest can be discerned and expanded. Efforts to support and challenge/cheer each other on in our separate research endeavors can be drawn up and implemented. We can clue each other into conferences, journals, books, people, ideas, and so on that might be of interest and value to each other. And there are, no doubt, other benefits that I will discover.
And, yes, one of my primary goals is to be of equal value to my dates for whatever purposes they have in accepting.
I have another couple of individuals in mind (one mentioned above, and another GSLIS Ph.D. student) but no one in particular after that. But during our discussions yesterday I realized that there are several newer faculty in GSLIS who I do not know at all. So perhaps that is where I’ll start. There are also several 0% faculty appointments in GSLIS with folks from Communications and other departments; they’d be good candidates.
After that I don’t know. I wish I knew more students and faculty in other departments here at UIUC. At ISU I knew people from all across campus. I have been here at UIUC about the same amount of time I was there but there I was an undergrad and an at-large grad student so I took classes all over. As much as I wanted to wander into other departments here I kept focused on my own department and my LIS education.
Certainly there are plenty of librarians I could get to know better here. And I should.
I’m not sure what will become of this but I intend to enjoy the company of some interesting people, learn more about the diversity of work and interests within our profession/discipline and in other disciplines.
If anyone has suggestions I am certainly happy to entertain them. If you are here and read my blog but we don’t really know each other and you’d like to change that then feel free to contact me.
Might this idea work for you? Only you can decide that. But I think that on a campus where everyone is busy and many come and go so quickly (Yes, 2-6 years is quickly) this may be a good corrective to that feeling of “I sure wish I could get to know so-and-so” or of “Boy, their research is really interesting; I wish I knew more about it” or any similar wistful desires.
If anyone else implements something similar I’d love to hear about how it is going/went, either here or directly via email, etc. Myself, I have no specific plans to blog about these dates. That will be on a case-by-case basis and only after I have cleared any such blog mentions with the affected party.
So, who have you had coffee with lately?