The ILN has been running for over two years, and we’ve matched over 1500 participants with a new international connection. Lots of those connections have endured over time, well past the end of the program round. We were recently contacted by two participants from 2013 who took the time to write a piece for us about their partnership, which is still going strong. It’s wonderful to receive this kind of feedback, and we’re grateful to Shannon and Connie for sharing this with us! If you’re curious what benefits participation in the ILN can bring, we think you’ll find this post very interesting.
Partners through the International Librarians Network, Connie (from Sydney, Australia) and Shannon (from Ohio in the United States) share what they learnt from their “global colleague” in a library across the world, on topics from search technology, professional development to the best mystery novels.
Connie is a librarian at Central Queensland University Library in Sydney, a large public and very international university. Shannon is a subject specialist librarian at Denison University in Ohio, a small undergraduate college. When they were first put in touch by the ILN, they were both tentative of what they would have in common.
The two librarians started their conversation with weekly emails, and quickly realised that though they worked in libraries at the opposite ends of the globe, and which on first appearance looked entirely different, there were many similar underlying policies and practices. “Connie told me about how there is one library system even though her university has many campuses across the country; they have a floating collection between library branches,” Shannon says. “This reminds me of the two consortia in which my library participates; at the core, our libraries function very similarly.” They also found that though they had very different backgrounds and training, the essence of their roles were not disparate. “Shannon’s day to day work duties are very much like mine – helping students, information literacy classes and answering reference questions,” Connie says. “The only difference is that she is working with art students and I work with international students.”
From these simple conversational exchanges, Connie and Shannon were able to tap into a wealth of accumulated knowledge in another library that would otherwise be inaccessible and unknown. They were able to share technical expertise and innovative approaches to managing information. “Connie has shared some of her LibGuides with me, such as one on e-Books and another on Open Access Resources, and I sent her a book chapter on designing LibGuides,” Shannon says. “Keeping up with changing technology is a large part of both of our jobs and it has been great to talk with Connie about our personal learning experiences with the technology.”
Each librarian was also able to get a taste of what it was like to work in an entirely different library setting, which then informed and changed her own way of working. “From Connie, I have learned what it is like to work at a large institution with many distance students and international students,” Shannon says. “Her methods of outreach and instruction are, by nature of the university, much different from mine. I now think differently about my approaches with students, both in person and virtually.”
Naturally, both participants were proactive about continuous learning and development, and were able to swap their ideas and experiences in relation to professional development. “Connie told me about the Australian Library and Information Association which is very similar to the American Library Association,” Shannon says. “She also introduced me to the Council of Australian University Librarians, much like the Association of College & Research Libraries in America. Connie attended one of ALIA’s conferences and sent me an interesting paper on discovery systems and services.”
Aside from work and as time progressed, Connie and Shannon found they also learnt a lot about each other’s lives. “I found we both shared a love of reading,” Connie says. “Shannon reviews books for Library Journal and even has a personal online book collection with over one thousand books through LibraryThing. When Shannon found out that I liked the mystery genre, she introduced me to The Rune Stone Murders.”
“I always enjoy seeing a new email from Connie in my inbox,” Shannon concluded, on her overall experience of the ILN pen pal program. “We are colleagues, for sure, but also long-distance friends who can chat about our workplace and our hobbies.”
-Connie Pan and Shannon Robinson
If you’d like to experience a similar professional and personal development opportunity, sign up for the ILN – applications for our next round close on the 15th February 2015!
Finally, if you’re a previous ILN participant and you’d like to share your experience with the program, we would be very happy to hear from you.