For those unfamiliar, LinkedIn is an online social networking website targeted towards professional and business users. Similar to Facebook or MySpace, tools which are aimed at high school or University students, LinkedIn allows members to establish connections with their preferred social contacts. You are also able to see your contact's contacts, making your visible 'network' expand each time you add a connection. Members are also given facility to create an online CV to establish who they are, with the choice to add as much (or as little) as they want to their personal profile.
So here's my thinking... Every online trend has a window of opportunity. Obviously some are going to fizzle, while others become ingrained in our day-to-day online experience. Social networking is now, IMO, entering that phase of opportunity. And LinkedIn, with a user base of over 7 million, looks ready to make such an impact.
I can see many benefits to establishing a Librarian's social network. For example, Can you imagine job hunting in another city, and knowing every contact your current colleagues have in that city? I know some established Librarians do this (very well) without a social networking website, but the greater benefit here is to the community as a whole. This type of tool could help continuity between generations, especially helping younger Librarians. Knowing who can help you when you're just starting out can be difficult -- reference requests, job hunting, etc. -- are all difficult tasks without connections. What if established Librarians mapped and shared their connections with younger members of their Library community? Social Networking could be a great tool for supporting the collegial nature of our profession.
I also see social networking websites as an opportunity for increased exposure to our profession. As a group, Librarians were very quick to pick-up professional blogging. Do you think we gained from it? I do. There's more than a little evidence from other blogging professionals that express an altered perception or a hidden appreciation for our profession. And those that know we're in the mix, also know that we're not sitting on the sidelines waiting for our card catalogues to come back in style. Facts are, if you deal with any Librarian online, you come away with a greater understanding of the multi-disciplinary nature of our work.
So I have to wonder... Will we be on the front end of the social networking curve too? I certainly hope so.