by Lyonette Louis-Jacques
University of Chicago Law Library
Life offline, what is it like? Nowadays when we think of networks, we think of the Internet, databases, any electronic means of transmitting information. It wasn't that long ago when "networks" meant personal connections--and to some people, the first meaning still is person-to-person interactions with colleagues. Lately, I've been thinking about offline networking and why it persists. The main reason I can think of is that nothing replaces talking to people on the phone or face-to-face. You establish your strongest friendships--and encounter your most valuable colleagues--when you meet people in person.
There are many opportunities to get to know other FCIL SIS members. One of them is through participation in the working groups and committees of the SIS--by attending meetings and working on projects together, you get to meet others who are interested in being part of the present and future of the SIS. There's also the annual business meeting with the wonderful reception at the end for visitors from abroad and SIS members. Then there are the impromptu meetings outside of programs: in hallways and at breakfasts, lunches, and dinners at the Annual Meeting. And writing articles for the FCIL Newsletter. Being active in the FCIL SIS is a good way of getting to know other foreign and international law librarians and for them to get to know you.
Besides FCIL SIS activities in AALL, there are also opportunities to network via other related organizations--for instance, the International Association of Law Libraries, the American Society of International Law, the American Library Association, and law library associations in Canada, the U.K., etc. There is an expanded world of people interested in foreign, comparative, and international legal resources, and it is always a joy to meet them and work with them. While it is not always possible to be an active member of every organization that is important to the work of a foreign law librarian, these entitites publish newsletters and other publications that inform about their work and their members, as we do via the FCIL Newsletter. A new welcome feature of the FCIL Newsletter is a column by former Chair Mila Rush containing news of FCIL SIS members. It will enable us to better keep in touch and to improve the personal networks that enrich our professional lives.
There is a place for electronic networks such as INT-LAW and EURO-LEX and LIS-LAW and CALL-L and LAW-LIB and . . . . They do make our work easier as we can ask questions and get answers and needed documents much faster than our off-line colleagues can or could have in the past. And we can establish strong working relationships with virtual colleagues. But not all questions can be answered online. Not all needed documents are accessible online. Not all our colleagues are online. I think in our work, we need to maintain our online and offline networks. There are personal and professional rewards to both. Nothing beats being able to help a colleague--you gain from questions asked of you as well as from getting answers to questions. And communicating offline as well as online makes the work of being a foreign law librarian even more pleasurable. So we need to consider the benefits of communicating offline as opposed to online. When should you pick up a phone and call a colleague instead of sending e-mail? Happy networking!
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