Get connected: Network theory for library professionals

Thomson, Rob

Asia-Pacific Library and Information Conference 2018, 30 July - 2 August 2018 Gold Coast: Roar Leap Dare
This conference paper discusses networking and its importance to the continuing health and development of libraries.
While library professionals are creating a welcoming and vibrant local library environment, I want to argue that networking is vital to the vibrancy of the profession, to professional development of the library professional and the richness of the lived library life. I will be using network theory to suggest that networking can add an incredible depth of richness to the local library experience. I will be touching on “small world theory” – who are the connectors in your community? Who are the people who have the time to connect to other people in your community? Small world theory arises out of the 6 degrees of separation phenomena; that through just 5 steps or 6 degrees of separation we can connect to almost anyone on the planet. How can we use this in libraries to connect ideas and learnings?
I will also talk about “lifecycles of emergence”, which is an idea that networks change the world, or, in our case, libraries, through a fourfold process – name, connect, nourish, illuminate. The world doesn't change one person at a time.  It changes as networks of relationships form among people who discover they share a common cause and vision of what is possible. I will then talk about ‘thick networks’. As George Monbiot has written “creating what practitioners call “thick networks”: projects that proliferate, spawning further ventures and ideas that weren’t envisaged when they started. They then begin to develop a dense, participatory culture that becomes attractive and relevant to everyone…” How can libraries and library professionals become the creators of these “thick networks” and how will that change how we do things?
Lastly, I will touch on “Modality and Sodality” theory. A modality is an organisational structure that is designed for long-term stability. It establishes routines and typically stays in one place for an extended period. Libraries are an example of a modality. A sodality is a group structure that is designed for mobility and trans-local activity. Their goal is not permanent residency, but seasonal, itinerant residency, that is marked with transition and travel. We, as library professionals, can be seen as a sodality.


Deakin, ACT: Australian Library and Information Association
TAFE NSW - Wollongong