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?


Pressure and Time

“That’s all it takes really, pressure, and time.” – Red, Shawshank Redemption

Last week I finished teaching a batch of information literacy classes. I was also able to read some papers that students wrote in relation to my session and their reading of the article Is Google Making Us Stupid? From reading these papers and conversations with students in class, I got great insight into how these freshman use and think about information.

One of the themes that kept coming up was that of time. In this day and age students and people in general have so little time on their hands. There are multiple classes, clubs, sports, children, work, etc. They are also under a lot of pressure from parents or themselves. The reason students use Google for research is not necessarily because it has the best information (they even said it doesn’t always), but because it is the fastest. They’re under pressure and only have so much time.

How then do we get students to use our awesome library resources? If we can let students know that the library can save them time, more students would use us. Instead of spending time wading through a lot of irrelevant garbage on Google a librarian can quickly get to highly relevant (and scholarly) information whether it is in books, articles, or on the web. Save time, ask a librarian!


Seven More Things Libraries Should Tweet

I got some good feedback on post my a couple months ago called Six Things Libraries Should Tweet, and I think it helped a lot of people. I haven’t stopped thinking about that topic though. It’s difficult to come up with fresh things to tweet everyday, as I’ve found posting to our library Twitter account. But I’ve learned a lot in the past few months, and I figured I’d share seven more things libraries should tweet:

  • Pictures – Posts can get stale if all you are giving your audience is text or links to more text. Set up an account through a Twitter enabled photo-sharing service like TwitPic or Yfrog. Services like these allow you to easily upload photos from anywhere and share them to your library’s Twitter account.
  • Retweet other people’s stuff – An easy way to make friends is to promote content that other folks are sharing. Perhaps one of your friends just shared an interesting fact or video or article. By retweeting that piece of content you’re complimenting the friend that shared it because it shows them that you think they share good things. You’re also passing on interesting information to your followers. Retweeting is win-win and really easy to do.
  • Community Info – Going along with retweeting, you can also pass along information of significance to your community. When there are events going on on campus, even if they have nothing to do with the library, I’ll post about them. Libraries are community centers and central hubs. It’s only fitting that you share information of interest to your community.
  • Encouragement – People are often trying to accomplish something at your library. Let them know that you’re on their side and ready to help. It’s important to include the personal touch when you’re tweeting.



  • Announcements – Keep your followers informed of anything that comes up. If your website crashes, post a quick tweet about it letting people know you’re aware of the problem and working on it. Snowstorm? Alert people of sudden library closings. Twitter is where people go for real-time information. Make sure that they can get it.
  • Links to cool library content – You’re doing other cool things besides Twitter, right? Maybe you have an awesome Flickr stream, or perhaps you just shot a really fun video about ninjas and laptop lending. Twitter is a great way to link to and promote the other content that your library is creating.
  • Respond to criticism – I can’t stress the importance of this one enough. People are saying things about your library whether you like it or not. If they’re talking about the library online, you should definitely be addressing their concerns in a positive manner. You have power online to influence conversations about your library, and the worst thing you can do is ignore people.

Figuring out the problem of what to post as a library is easier if you think about what interests you as a consumer of social media. What kind of tweets do you read or click through? What are interesting tweets? Not all of your tweets have to be related to the library. The measure of your tweets should be, “Is this interesting or useful to my specific community?” If you think it would be, then post away.

Are there other thoughts? I’m always trying to come up with good ideas. Tell me about some of your favorite library tweets.