Making friends is tough. Networking is tough. Many people (and librarians especially, if the stereotype is to be believed) struggle with social anxiety.
When I moved to Arlington last year, I hoped making friends would be as easy as it had been when I was in undergrad where I was surrounded with like-minded people. It has been more challenging than that, in part due to a busy schedule but more so due to my shyness. In public, I am most often with a book. I read in public to keep myself entertained but also to avoid talking to other people. I realize this is counter-intuitive. So how do I make friends without the ridiculous amount of pressure I feel when approaching people I don’t know?
The solution came to me a few days ago. To both engage like-minded people in conversation and take the pressure off myself, I’ve designed a button to attach to my bag. It says, “Ask Me What I’m Reading.” Whether or not I’m actively reading while wearing this button in public, I hope a few brave souls will take the cue and start a conversation with me. I hope, in turn, I will ask what they are reading. I hope we exchange a few good titles. And I hope we agree to meet up to browse a bookstore in the future.
Bibliophiles of D.C., say hello! I don’t bite; I’m just shy.
To tie this back to libraries — perhaps this is something we should consider offering as a prize or “party favor” at library events. I made my button with Zazzle, though there are plenty of similar sites that allow users to create buttons, mouse pads, t-shirts, calendars, and other items. Alternatively, host a button-making program and, as an example, create this button. Your patrons will thank you.