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David Lee King

Social Capital in Action



Consider the social capital of networksAwhile back, Joyce Valenza, an assistant professor at Rutgers University (she blogs here and tweets here), asked me and a bunch of others to contribute content on the importance for a librarian to develop “social capital.” Joyce defined “social capital” this way:

How, through your blogs, reviews, tweets, webinars, have you developed friendships with authors and experts and other librarians that you’ve been able to leverage in less-than intangible ways? How has sharing a lot changed your position in your community, or, perhaps, led to speaking gigs and requests to publish? How do you digitally mentor and in what ways do you experience a return on those kind investments? How do you serve as a network bridge? How do you build and nurture ties weak and strong? How has the digital building of social capital benefited you either personally and professionally? (from Joyce’s email to me).

Here’s how Wikipedia defines Social Capital:

… social capital is the expected collective or economic benefits derived from the preferential treatment and cooperation between individuals and groups. Although different social sciences emphasize different aspects of social capital, they tend to share the core idea “that social networks have value”.

Interesting concept, huh?

Here’s what I sent back to Joyce as my response:

Check out this video of mine on Youtube – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wj0B2RzuyZE – it’s not actually the video that’s important, but the comments. One in particular that happened recently. Melissa Saubers left a comment, inviting me (and my coworking/makerspace group in Topeka) to a conference in the Kansas City area (a cool-sounding co-working conference. Wish I could go!). She’s a coworking space owner in the KC area.

There are a couple of important social capital concepts here:

  • The invite, and that particular conference, is potentially really valuable to Topeka. We are creating a combined coworking/makerspace organization, and the library is playing a part in the developmental stages (along with 4-5 other non-profits/colleges in the area).
  • I’ve never met Melissa. I’d guess she ran across my video on KC-area makerspaces, is possibly helping to organize the KC event, and sent the invite via a comment because she thought it might be helpful to us.
  • The invite would have never happened if I didn’t already have social capital. I’m online, I’m already creating a variety of content and participating in professional-focused conversations. Because of that, and because I made a video with “social wings,” I received valuable info that can help my whole community.

My point? You can’t ignore social media. You can’t “have an account” but not use it much, or just be your “weekend self” and expect to make business connections. But if you actively participate on a variety of social media channels, and include at least a mix of business and personal, then … you just might be able to help your career, your library, and possibly even your community.

Image by Howard Lake

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Michelle Kane

    This is so true. To have social capital (I like that term!), you’ve got to engage both for the good of your professional life and also of that of your community. And really, it’s fun too.

  • Julia

    Do you have suggestions for when your non-professional self is an activist or engages in controversial work? My whole self includes things which I’m sure some find unprofessional

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