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Nice Librarians Finish Last?

Pop a wheelie!!!

via Luke Mayes on flickr

Who normally gets the girl? The guy who helps senior citizens cross the street or the dude on the motorcycle? I surmise that the guy on the motorcycle gets more attention and likely wins in the short run, but the good egg is the one who has staying power and wins in the long run. This isn’t a dating column. This is a metaphor for our profession and ourselves.

Meredith Farkas recently wrote a response to Clay Shirky’s rant about women. She disagreed with Shirky’s assertion that “self aggrandizing” behavior is necessary to get ahead. Also my colleague Sarah Cohen also ruminated on this topic of self-promotion. She felt slightly uncomfortable sharing her success when she was nominated ACRL’s member of the week (which she deserves). I’ve also been thinking about this same topic. I recently got an article published in C&RL News (my first!) which I am really pumped about, but sometimes feel a little sheepish about when people mention it. I don’t really know how I should respond. I want to balance modesty with my excitement about being published.

As Individuals

In my opinion, the best course of action for us as individuals is to balance both the motorcycle dude with the good egg. Tweet your own blog post. Mention that you are the member of the week. You are doing great things. People aren’t going to find your stuff in this age of information overload, unless you promote yourself a little and are confident about what you’re doing. Most of the time, the reason I notice something is because it was promoted on Twitter (my Google Reader’s a mess). I don’t mind when people talk a little about themselves. That being said, don’t overdo it. It can get pretty annoying if you’re talking only about yourself or some project you’re working on.

Also, as Meredith pointed out, don’t lose sight of your values and what you’re trying to accomplish in the profession. If you’re simply trying to further your career you probably chose the wrong profession. Librarianship is about service and sharing. But if you’re looking at the big picture and what we’re trying to accomplish as a profession, you should share what others are doing too. There are a lot of cool things going on in our profession. One of my favorite bloggers, Chris Brogan, talks about promoting others a lot. He contends that you can build credibility through sharing cool things other people are accomplishing. As an individual, celebrate other peoples’ success and recognize the good they’re doing, but don’t forget that you’re making a difference too.

As a Profession

As a profession, I think we do need to rev our engines more and work on getting people to notice us. In this time of shrinking budgets we can’t afford to be meek. We need to continue to hone our PR and marketing skills. Get stories about the library in the local paper, create YouTube videos promoting the library, use social media to promote your awesome services, build relationships with faculty. If we don’t champion our own cause, who will? As a representative of your library, don’t be afraid to put on a leather jacket and be a little bad.

Thoughts? How do you feel about talking about yourself? Do you get annoyed by self-promoters? How are we doing as a profession in tooting our own horns?

Andy Burkhardt

11 Comments

  1. I couldn’t agree more that we “can’t afford to be meek”. I don’t mind self-promoters, as long as they have a balanced approach. There is nothing wrong with tooting one’s horn, as long as you sometimes toot other’s horns.

    We owe it to ourselves and to librarianship in general to market what makes us great as individuals, as professionals, and as institutions.

    Starting my own business has made this all hit home for me, in a way it never did when I worked in a library. My survival depends on my ability to market myself – there’s a sense of urgency that just didn’t exist when marketing was someone else’s job, or nobody’s job.

    Regardless, as Shirky suggests, I don’t think that we need to be disingenuous about what we do or who we are. We are great people doing great things, and there isn’t anything wrong with reminding people of that fact.

    Thanks for keeping the conversation going!

  2. I couldn’t agree more that we “can’t afford to be meek”. I don’t mind self-promoters, as long as they have a balanced approach. There is nothing wrong with tooting one’s horn, as long as you sometimes toot other’s horns.

    We owe it to ourselves and to librarianship in general to market what makes us great as individuals, as professionals, and as institutions.

    Starting my own business has made this all hit home for me, in a way it never did when I worked in a library. My survival depends on my ability to market myself – there’s a sense of urgency that just didn’t exist when marketing was someone else’s job, or nobody’s job.

    Regardless, as Shirky suggests, I don’t think that we need to be disingenuous about what we do or who we are. We are great people doing great things, and there isn’t anything wrong with reminding people of that fact.

    Thanks for keeping the conversation going!

  3. Announcing, with pride, the publication of your first C&RL News article: Good.

    Saying “after a spirited bidding war by several publishers, ACRL won and was able to publish this”–that is, lying about it to increase your importance: Not so good.

    Repeating over and over again that your article was the best thing ACRL ever published: Probably not so good either.

    There are distinctions. I have trouble with posts that not only excuse but seem to recommend lying and boasting. Which you aren’t doing, but–as I read it–Shirky was.

    Good post.

  4. Announcing, with pride, the publication of your first C&RL News article: Good.

    Saying “after a spirited bidding war by several publishers, ACRL won and was able to publish this”–that is, lying about it to increase your importance: Not so good.

    Repeating over and over again that your article was the best thing ACRL ever published: Probably not so good either.

    There are distinctions. I have trouble with posts that not only excuse but seem to recommend lying and boasting. Which you aren’t doing, but–as I read it–Shirky was.

    Good post.

  5. @Erin I think your example of starting your own business is a good one. Just like other businesses or services, we also need to market what we do. Businesses can’t get away with not promoting themselves, and we’re no different. That sense of urgency that you discuss is difficult to get in libraries. And we don’t have marketing departments. Do we need people dedicated to PR and promoting the library?

    @walt I think I see what you’re saying about distinctions. In all three examples the spirit in which you are saying it is very different. The first one is very genuine while the other two are more duplicitous. Sharing can be good but the way in which you share matters.

  6. @Erin I think your example of starting your own business is a good one. Just like other businesses or services, we also need to market what we do. Businesses can’t get away with not promoting themselves, and we’re no different. That sense of urgency that you discuss is difficult to get in libraries. And we don’t have marketing departments. Do we need people dedicated to PR and promoting the library?

    @walt I think I see what you’re saying about distinctions. In all three examples the spirit in which you are saying it is very different. The first one is very genuine while the other two are more duplicitous. Sharing can be good but the way in which you share matters.

  7. Self promotion is a bit of a slippery slope sometimes, but I think need for library PR is huge. How else do we expect people to begin to understand what we do as professionals?

    One thing we do here (the library hosts and organizes it) is a faculty scholarship and creativity reception. We ask for all faculty and staff to send in their accomplishments outside the classroom, whether it be awards, publications, honors, presentations, or creative works like performing in a play or directing a concert. It’s only the 4th year we’ve done it, but it’s nice to have everyone get together and see what we as a whole have accomplished. I never knew our campus web designer was a painter. Or that a communications professor is the local community theatre costumes person. And it gave the rest of the faculty a chance to see what the librarians are doing in our spare time: writing book chapters, articles, and giving presentations.

  8. Self promotion is a bit of a slippery slope sometimes, but I think need for library PR is huge. How else do we expect people to begin to understand what we do as professionals?

    One thing we do here (the library hosts and organizes it) is a faculty scholarship and creativity reception. We ask for all faculty and staff to send in their accomplishments outside the classroom, whether it be awards, publications, honors, presentations, or creative works like performing in a play or directing a concert. It’s only the 4th year we’ve done it, but it’s nice to have everyone get together and see what we as a whole have accomplished. I never knew our campus web designer was a painter. Or that a communications professor is the local community theatre costumes person. And it gave the rest of the faculty a chance to see what the librarians are doing in our spare time: writing book chapters, articles, and giving presentations.

  9. That’s a pretty cool idea Becky! I may have to steal it. It would be awesome to get faculty together to share each others accomplishments or just know what other people are interested in or working on. It seems like such a good community building event, and a way to show librarians in a more professional light.

  10. That’s a pretty cool idea Becky! I may have to steal it. It would be awesome to get faculty together to share each others accomplishments or just know what other people are interested in or working on. It seems like such a good community building event, and a way to show librarians in a more professional light.

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