The rise of the New Professional

The New Professionals are using social media to extend their professional influence and raise their profile.

You can't go far in the current library/information landscape without falling over New Professionals.  They have their own IFLA Special Interest Group, CILIP-organised support, conferences, and events, and an Archives & Records Association section for new archivists. They have their own thriving social network, LISNPN (LIS New Professionals Network), with over 1100 members from across the globe.

There are awards aimed specifically at New Professionals. They are joining forces to help each other Hack Library School.  They're active on Twitter, they blog and podcast and create cool pop culture mash-ups. The get involved in committees and groups. They start movements. They run for vice-president of CILIP

So where did all this come from? It's a fairly recent phenomenon: LISNPN and the ARA section for new professionals started in 2010; the first CILIP CDG New Professionals Conference was in 2009; the first SLA Europe Early Career Conference Award was awarded in 2006. The IFLA Special Interest group is the granddaddy of the lot - set up in 2004 at the Buenos Aires Conference by Loida Garcia-Febo and Stuart Hamilton. (Loida has a great set of links for new professionals on her website

The rise of social media has definitely been a factor in the New Professionals Revolution. While they've been acknowledged as a distinct group for quite some time (Facet published the New Professional's Handbook in 1999, and will be publishing a New Professional's Toolkit in 2012.

It's only recently that New Professionals have become so visibly active in the profession.  Social media has enabled this in a number of ways:

  • Breaks down geographic boundaries. The simple fact of being a New Professional probably means that there aren't many other New Professionals in your organisation, or your local area. Social media makes it much easier to find and connect with other New Professionals.
  • Breaks down hierarchical boundaries. CILIP's past-president, vice-president, and CEO are all active on Twitter, where they chat to, encourage, support, and debate with info pros from across all areas and stages of the profession. New Professionals are welcomed, and their opinions heeded. They are counted influential enough to be named Library Journal Movers and Shakers. Social media has enabled professional mobility, and free and easy discourse between professionals at different levels.
  • Provides platforms for sharing and debate. New Professionals do seem to have quite a lot to say for themselves, and social media provides them with places to say it. They can share ideas and listen to those of others. They can be anonymous, if they like, or self-promote to the rooftops. They can speak, or just listen. They can find out about what it's really like to work in other sectors, other countries, at other levels. It allows them access to hundreds of years of accumulated vicarious knowledge.

The library profession as a whole is fantastic at supporting and encouraging its members. New Profs have taken this a step further. They're getting involved - at least in part - because they see others getting involved. They're also getting support from established professionals as 'champions'.

It's an exciting place to be.

Bethan Ruddock is Content Development Officer, Library and Archival Services for Mimas, at the University of Manchester.  She is also a member of the Voices for the Library team, the SLA Europe Board, and the LIS New Professionals Network.

Image courtesy of Horia Varlan via Flickr.