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Do you really need to market yourself? Community-verus-local impact

09 Mar

I think there’s a danger that being in the twitter bubble or the biblioblogosphere can really mess up our understanding of exactly what is and what isn’t necessary to succeed in librarianship.

There’s an interesting post on the ever-excellent Hack Library School blog, about New Librarianship (or, as some more cynical people are calling it, ‘librarianship’…) which I think relates to this issue. I’m going to quote a chunk of it here:

New Librarians and people-who-work-in-libraries are two very different things. The latter is a job; there’s nothing wrong with that, and I believe very strongly that libraries need passionate, good people to help fulfill their purpose.

On the other end of the spectrum, “Librarianship” isn’t a job—it’s a vocation. It’s not something you can put away at the end of the day, when you leave the building. Librarianship is an aggregation of personality, ethics, politics, education, worldview, and focus; there is a reason why librarianship requires graduate study to embark upon.

Now I have to say, I’ve thought very much along these lines in the past, but my position is changing somewhat. In particular, whilst agreeing with the notion that this is a vocation rather than just a job, I also want to be able to leave it at the door of the building (unless I’m specifically doing something library-related like a presentation) and I have no wish to walk into any room and turn it into a library, as is suggested later on in the post. It could be just that I’ve done SO much library stuff in my own time last year (because of having just written a book) but I really value switching off and I consider myself a person who is a librarian, rather than being defined or consumed by librarianship. And, I should add, I don’t think I’m any the worse for it as an information professional.

Anyhow, these thoughts prompted a debate on Twitter which I put into Storyify at the prompting of several of the participants – it’s too long to embed here but this a link where you can read it. It includes a lot about whether you really need to market yourself as an info pro – there are a lot of successful librarians who are very good at their jobs who have no interest in marketing themselves, don’t spend time online, and focus their energies entirely on what happens within the walls of the library building they work in. I think in the Twitter bubble it’s easy to imagine that all employers want cutting and thrusting info pros who’re always presenting at prestigious events etc, but actually I think a lot of them would much rather have someone who put all their energy into the 9-5 role in front of them.

The key point of this post:

There are two reasons why this is a danger – firstly that we over-estimate the value that our national or international achievements will have locally (and so our careers won’t progress as we expect them to as a result), and secondly that if we aren’t doing stuff nationally and internationally we (wrongly) assume we aren’t going to be successful in getting good jobs. In other words, being ‘on’ all the time – not leaving librarianship at the door – appears to become a prerequisite to progress, which is intimidating to many.

Fundamentally, I think the most important thing is to continually re-evaluate one’s own situation and never assume that Method A or Method B will work across the board. So for example, if you’re not employed at all then the more stuff you can do instead, like presenting and writing and so on, the better. If you’re trying to get other jobs, then again it might be helpful to market yourself – but only if the type of organisation you want to work for cares about that sort of stuff. If you want to continue working in your current organisation but wish to progress, it should be possible to learn enough about your senior management to know whether they’ll value your efforts to market yourself online (for example) or not. If you’re a brand new just-qualified librarian, then chances are marketing yourself online and getting out there nationally will be much more important because your CV will lack job-experience, meaning you HAVE to find another way to grab people’s attention. But the earlier you can start focusing what you do to the job you expect to get, the better. In my opinion.

Finally, at the risk of being narcissistic but in the interests of providing a solid example, here are some things which I consider high points in my career but which insofar as I can work out DIDN’T influence me getting my current (ideal) job:

  • Being commissioned by a publisher to write a book on marketing libraries
  • Being named a Mover & Shaker by library journal
  • Winning one of the SLA’s Early Career Conference Awards awards
  • Winning a best paper prize at a conference
  • Creating the New Professionals Network
    .

Here are some things which insofar as I can work DID influence me getting my current job:

  • Understanding the organisation I was applying to work in
  • Having a good grasp of new technologies relating to information
  • Being able to provide evidence of  innovation, and of good communication – specifically how I’d quickly be able to develop good working relationships inside and outside the library
  • Coming over as the kind of person who could fit well into the existing team
  • And my obvious enthusiasm for and dedication to this particular role at this particular institution
    .

At no point in the interview did they say ‘have you ever won an award – tell us about that?’. They don’t care about the national stuff – in fact there’s the potential for them to care about how it could impact negatively on your dedication to the role.

(That’s not to say all that stuff hasn’t helped my career – it has – but just that it wasn’t important to securing my ideal job. Unless you’re planning to go freelance, the job is the most important thing, right? It pays the bills. A lot of the presentations I’ve done and articles I’ve written were useful, however, because they allowed to demonstrate knowledge and awareness of areas my previous jobs hadn’t covered.)

If you ask people online ‘do you need to market yourself?’ then 99% of people will say yes automatically (myself included until very recently) – but remember, Twitter is a bubble. Marketing yourself online and doing exciting things nationally is admirable, it’s useful, it helps you learn and develop – but make sure you assess whether it will help you go where you specifically want to go. Find your ideal job, and work backwards from their to anticipate your ideal employer’s potential needs and desires.

I realise a lot of people will disagree with me about this, but as ever I’d be interested to hear all views in the comments…

- thewikiman

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Comments
  • Higher Education March 9, 2012 at 1:39 PM

    Do you really need to market yourself? Community-verus-local impact via @theREALwikiman http://t.co/v4jpcfYN

  • CILIP March 9, 2012 at 1:55 PM

    Do you really need to market yourself? Community-verus-local impact http://t.co/BLcAjqQH

  • Ned Potter March 9, 2012 at 1:38 PM

    Do you really need to market yourself? Community-verus-local impact http://t.co/BLcAjqQH

  • Bobbi Newman March 9, 2012 at 1:44 PM

    Marketing yourself as an information professional thewikiman http://t.co/A9FbnWDa

  • Vassiliki Veros March 9, 2012 at 1:46 PM

    Do you really need to market yourself? Community-verus-local impact http://t.co/BLcAjqQH

  • Bobbi Newman March 9, 2012 at 2:54 PM

    Very well put Ned. I don’t think of the work I do online as marketing myself but I suppose it falls under that in the way you’ve defined. I see the blog & Twitter in the same light as I see my service within ALA, giving back to the profession. When I started blogging & Twittering I worked in an organization that valued that. I later worked in an organization that valued involvement within ALA so I got involved there too. I am very aware that not all organizations value these things. In fact I once had someone say to me in an interview that they didn’t know when I was going to have time to do all of that, they planned to work me to death. Needless to say I felt that organization was not the best fit for me for several reasons.

    There are some who will tell that the awards like Movers & Shakers can actually count against you, they might be right. But then I have to ask myself do I really want to work in an organization that doesn’t value exceptional work just because you received an award for it?

    I think like all things we need balance, which I think is what you’re saying. Of course as an employee you need to focus on the organization, but there is value in having an online presence too.

  • thewikiman March 9, 2012 at 3:01 PM

    Yep, I absolutely agree with you.

    I think the best organisation’s will say – okay, how can we harness the fact that you’ve won this award and make use of it? Case in point – my old organisation’s library certainly weren’t bothered about the M&S, but just after I’d left I received a letter from the University Council congratulating me on it! I thought that illustrated some of the issues rather well. By contrast, my new organisation said when I arrived having won the ECCA but with the actual conference still to attend ‘we’ll let you have work time to attend this, and you can cascade what you learn back into the organisation’ etc.

    I think of the online stuff as a form of marketing regardless of whether we’re actively and knowingly marketing ourselves. It comes back to brand – your brand is the sum total of everyone’s perceptions of you, and all you can do is try and influence that. So putting your opinions out there, or helping people, or just collating great contact and feeding it back into the community – all of that stuff contributes to your brand, even if you’re making no effort to brand yourself (or even if you’re not thinking in those explicit terms). If you’re doing stuff in the commnunity, then when people Google you (which, of course, they really will) then they’re met with a lot of stuff which you’re happy for them to see. As opposed to not getting involved and not being online, where you’re rather taking your chances…

    And I really do think there’s huge value to having an online presence – I just think we might be making too many asumptions (in particular, that having one will definitely help, as opposed to developing in a particular direction towards a particular aim, for example). And I do worry about the new profs who feel pressure to basically be super-librarians – I don’t want people to feel oppressed by other’s successes particularly if those successes may have more value attached to them than is actually the case. If that all makes sense. :)

  • lmrlib March 9, 2012 at 3:02 PM

    Very interesting and some good points. A few years ago I had to scale back my involvement with a CILIP subgroup as my employer at the time wasn’t supportive of my request to have days out of the office to attend meetings as they couldn’t see any benefit in for them, only annoyance at my potential absences and the impact on their business. OK this isn’t the same as marketing yourself online but it does illustrate the importance of considering your employer. My current line manager occasionally casts his eye over my Twitter feed and I know that my LinkedIn profile is kept an eye on, my employer says these as not just marketing me as a librarian but also them as a firm.

  • thewikiman March 9, 2012 at 3:16 PM

    Yeah, I can appreciate that from both sides. The emphasis is on us to communicate the value to the organisation, but some organisations just aren’t geared up that way and aren’t having it. I used to do CILIP CDG committee stuff (and now do SLA Online Advisory Council stuff) in my own time – if it allows you to develop skills and experience you need to get your next job, but which you aren’t getting in your current job, it’s worth it.

    And it’s all marketing in a way – as I said to Bobbi above, it all contributes to the brand of the information professional, whether it’s blogging, organising events, volunteering, committee work etc.

    My uberboss follows me on Twitter. If you work in the corparate sector (which I imagine you do from the use of the word ‘firm’?) then I can imagine the responsibilities are more keenly defined there… I avoid saying on my Twitter profile ‘views my own’ because the idea they’d be anyone else’s is so stupid, but I can see why people put that proviso in there. I don’t have my institution listed in my bio for the same reason – although it’s not exactly high-grade detective work for my followers to work out who I work for. I almost never swear or slag people off partly for my own sake but partly because I wouldn’t want to do anything that would embarass my employers (despite swearing a LOT in my normal life!) so I am aware of the issue – it’s a difficult line to tread…

  • Bobbi Newman March 9, 2012 at 3:24 PM

    I generally assume my employer is keeping an eye on my blog, Twitter, etc. In fact I once had a coworker who fanatically watched my online activities, needless to say she clearly had issues. But it brings up something else you didn’t mention but how coworkers choose to perceive your online activities. That can be different from your supervisor or your organizations perception.

    Ned we really must hang out some time! I too swear in my normal life outside of work but am very careful not to do so online!

    I agree that including that statements are my own on Twitter seems ridiculous, especially since I don’t list my employer there or on my blog. But I’m sure some organizations require it. I do have a disclaimer on my blog (more for humor than anything else) “Statements made are strictly my opinion and do not reflect the opinion or position of any of my past, present, or future employers, or organizations I belong to or volunteer for. Nor do they necessarily reflect the opinion or position of any of my colleagues, coworkers, co-presenters, confidants, friends, enemies or frenemies. As these opinions are my own I reserve the right to update or change them at any time.”

  • thewikiman March 9, 2012 at 2:25 PM

    Ha, well you know I’m up for hanging out Bobbi (perhaps also swearing and having beer…) just as soon as we’re in the same place at the same time!

    Ouch, not sure I like the sound of the obsessive co-worker… I actually don’t assume my employer is keeping an eye on mine, but I write everything as if they were. In fact that’s not true, sometimes I allow myself a few tweets off… But generally speaking, the best filter is – how would you feel if your boss was reading this while you were in the room?

  • lmrlib March 9, 2012 at 3:27 PM

    I should probably have linked to this blog post from last week which better explains my issues with online marketing http://lornaslibrarythoughts.wordpress.com/2012/03/05/blogging-professionally-is-hard/

  • thewikiman March 9, 2012 at 2:28 PM

    Cheers for the link lmrlib!

  • deirdre_lyon March 9, 2012 at 3:29 PM

    As a new nearly-professional who is definitely feeling the pressure to basically be a super-librarian (which, to me, means all the stuff that didn’t end up being directly influential on getting your current position – which sounds incredible), I can’t thank you enough for this post! While I enjoy following and occasionally participating in the biblioblogosphere, I really needed this pressure valve to let go of some of my keeping-up anxiety and give myself permission to be learning on the job, and be satisfied with that. So thanks again!

  • thewikiman March 9, 2012 at 2:30 PM

    Deirdre that’s brilliant – best possible response I could’ve hoped for… I think the information profession is amazingly competitive because it’s full of so many great people, so we do have to excel in one way or the other, but there’s no one paradigm of The Great Librarian that we should all be aiming for. It’s possible to relax a bit, assess what you need to do, and not panic about keeping up with things that aren’t actually relevant to your goals afterall. :)

  • Ian March 9, 2012 at 3:42 PM

    Ok, so I have been (weirdly enough) thinking about this a lot myself lately: do the things I do actually benefit me in terms of my career? I guess part of the reason for this is a couple of failed job applications which, you know, kind of make you more reflective.

    I’m obviously pretty proud of the stuff I have done outside of work and I’d like to *think* it does have a positive impact on my career. I co-founded Voices for the Library and, as a result of that, I have written official statements, chaired and organised meetings, built up contacts with a range of media organisations, helped to market and promote the organisation, analysed data in relation to library closures, invited to speak at the joint YLG, SLG and SLA conference in June and I may well be speaking on behalf of the organisation at the Speak up for Libraries lobby this coming Tuesday.

    I think all of these things are good things to do and I think I would definitely say that they have developed my skills greatly. But…would an employer in the library sector look at this and think “yeah, he’s the man for the job?” or would they think “well, this is all well and good but is he a capable librarian/information professional?”. At the moment (again possibly due to the rejected applications) I would have to say it is the latter (particularly as I am not yet qualified – bring on September!).

    I don’t for one instant think I should stop doing these things on the basis that they aren’t ‘adding value’ from the perspective of my employer (I don’t do this for my career, I do it because I believe in it – or something a little less corny). But it does give me pause for thought from time to time. Is doing all this stuff helping my career or hindering it? I guess I won’t know the answer to that for a few years yet.

    I could make further comments on the whole online/Twitter/blog ‘brand’ thing, but I’ll be in danger of turning this comment into a blog post in its own right so I’ll leave it there :)

  • thewikiman March 9, 2012 at 2:45 PM

    Hey Ian, thanks for remembering to comment! :)

    I agree that we don’t do this stuff just – or in some cases at all – for the career; it’s almost all rewarding of itself. But I think a lot of people thing they HAVE to do certain things to progress, especially if they’re on twitter and bombarded with all this stuff, so I wanted to take a step back and assess it anew.

    From that list you gave, maybe something like chairing and organising meetings and analysed data will be much more attractive to an employer than the fact that you started an amazing movement and have been in the Guardian! All this extra-curricular stuff (and I’m thinking aloud here) is just like everything else, I suppose – it needs to be tailored to fit the job one is applying for. I really doubt it’s hindering your career, but it’s always worth taking a second to wonder… Part of being a reflective practitioner and all that stuff.

  • Helen March 9, 2012 at 3:27 PM

    Thanks for this excellent blog post Ned – like Ian, I have been thinking about some of these issues a lot lately, and it’s great to see the issues expressed so succinctly and clearly. I’ve been feeling quite stressed and anxious lately about job / career-related stuff, and this has really helped cut through the fog! Cheers! :)

  • thewikiman March 9, 2012 at 3:30 PM

    Helen that’s brilliant, so glad your stress has been somewhat alleviated!

  • Paul Smith March 9, 2012 at 3:34 PM

    I also read that Hack Library School piece — and came away with similarly mixed feelings. I think the Hack Library author still has that idealized image of professional employment — and I do not mean that to be disparaging: when I first started my present position, I was absolutely *pumped* and ready to work 50+ hours on a regular basis (until I was absolutely burned out 18 months down the road). The vision of walking into a room and turning into a library with just your mere presence is fantastic (in both senses) — but that kind of enthusiasm and vision can be incredibly valuable, especially if it is utilized without being exploited.

    I am now preparing to take on my second professional position. I do not consider my Twitter presence to be any kind of deliberate self-marketing, so I have no doubt that my new employer did not even register my Twitter profile.

    But Ned, I did want to comment on those factors that you feel did or did not factor into your getting your ideal (current) gig: I would venture to guess that even though the job interview did not include specific inquiries about your awards and online advocacy, that does not mean these factors were not considered.

    I walked into the interview for my new job and — in my own opinion — I did not exactly shine. (Despite chanting to myself all day long, “Channel Ned Potter! Channel Ned Potter!” This might sound strange, since we’ve never met and you’re still kicking, but it’s true.) And while my interview also did not address the M&S award or the few articles I’ve written, I have the distinct impression that these factors helped me. A lot.

  • Jessie P March 9, 2012 at 3:43 PM

    I, too, found this post welcome and refreshing. I’m still in library school, coming to the field from the hard sciences. Simply put, as I have been following blogs, reading journals, etc, in this world, I was beginning to panic that, because I didn’t want to live out loud on the web, I wasn’t going to be employable. The more I Iook around me, though, at the small-town libraries where I want to work, the more I see that libraries just want people who are good at what they do, and who do it with enthusiasm, which I am certainly qualified to do! While I wouldn’t mind blogging for a library in which I work, I don’t have an interest in firing up the computer to comment on this or that development in the field after I’ve left the office. I do love being a librarian, but I also love being a photographer, hiker, reader, and overall enjoyer of life. Thanks again for your post.

  • Aaron Tay March 9, 2012 at 4:16 PM

    RT @librarianbyday: Marketing yourself as an information professional thewikiman http://t.co/oH9KDzZH

  • lemurph March 9, 2012 at 4:20 PM

    Ned! On brilliant, thought-provoking form, as ever.

    I sort of think you’re an extreme case (this is a compliment), like Bobbi and Ian and plenty of other people I could mention. The stuff you’ve done is AMAZING, you’re all library celebrities or … oh em gee: you’re ceLIBrities.

    I agree with you to a point. I think it all boils down to two things: a) priorities; b) how far you believe you’re actually marketing yourself. The priorities thing is simple—I can blog the best stuff you have EVER read, I can become, like, the library blogger equivalent of the love child of James Joyce and Caitlin Moran, but unless I’m doing my job well I’ll be fired, and then I won’t be able to pay the ridiculously high water bill I’ve just been sent. At the same time, there may come a point where I have to justify my commitment to the profession outside my current role, and THEN I can play the social media card. My current job doesn’t involve much public speaking, but my next role might—and when it comes to the application form, I can whip out my ‘spoken at xyz conferences’ theme tune, and have a better shot at it. I’ll never get ANYWHERE without a good reference, though, so all this additional stuff is only ever a supplement to, and not a replacement for, your actual job. Otherwise librarianship would be your hobby, and not your profession.

    The second point is that I’m not hugely convinced having an online presence is always necessarily marketing yourself. This isn’t to say that I wouldn’t lock it all down if I were looking for a new job, but if someone were to judge me on the strength of my blog and Twitter account, they’d think I was a right lunatic and spent my free time stalking Hugh Laurie. Which isn’t true! Most of the time, anyway. I don’t believe that it has that much impact, unless, of course, you’re a celibrity.

    The Twitter/social medialand bubble is OF COURSE not a requisite for info pros. But it is potentially a mutually beneficial place to hang out and learn stuff. And when it comes to the real world, there’s more than one way to skin a cat, for sure. It just sometimes helps to have a few options.

  • Andy Ekins March 9, 2012 at 4:29 PM

    I couldn’t agree more about the idea that you need to market yourself for the job you want (if finding a new job is your motivation). I found myself doing all sorts of work activities that had nothing to do with where I wanted to be. It also really helps to get someone else to evaluate your activities with an objective eye. This helped me to understand where I needed to focus my energies and what I could happily let fall by the wayside.

  • Ned Potter March 9, 2012 at 4:37 PM

    The best thing about this is, from the comments, it's made people relax a bit… Do you really need to market yourself? http://t.co/BLcAjqQH

  • bdleaf March 9, 2012 at 4:53 PM

    When I was in library school, I thought I had to market myself online and nationally. Now, I do it to participate in idea sharing and development that I don’t get within my institution. Being a librarian (or “person who is also a librarian”) certainly keeps me busy, but I like having the option to leave it at the door as well. Fortunately, I don’t have to be part of the “creepy treehouse” that some libraries insist on.

  • Archelina March 9, 2012 at 4:53 PM

    Excellent post as usual, thank you Ned! I don’t feel that marketing myself by being ‘out there’ in the Twittersphere etc is necessary to succeed at my specific job (and I’m sure my employers would agree) but I do feel that it makes me a better, and happier, information professional. It’s not so much about promoting myself as having an outward-looking attitude and staying current – but I think this needs to be combined with a dedication to my 9-5 role or nobody really wins.

  • Andy Priestner March 9, 2012 at 4:55 PM

    Interesting post Ned – and you’re dead right, locally within the business school they don’t care two hoots about what ‘professional stuff’ I’m getting up to, instead they want to feel reassured that I’m heading up the best service I can, spending my budget wisely, managing my team appropriately and, most importantly, meeting user needs. As you say, the extra-curricular activity is important for some of us in order to motivate, develop and teach us stuff, but if this is done at the expense of time spent understanding your user communities and the mission/objectives of your employers then you’re on a hiding to nothing.

  • Andy Priestner March 9, 2012 at 5:03 PM

    Having said that, I’m currently looking for a new Deputy who is au fait with social media so those that apply who do Twitter (for instance) are going to be at a definite advantage…

  • thewikiman March 9, 2012 at 5:08 PM

    But that’s exactly it Mr Priestner – it’s about knowing what kind of job you want and tailoring your activities accordingly (or at least tailoring the way you present these activities). My application for that job (which, of course, I would have bitten your hand off for if I didn’t already have this one and if I lived anywhere near Cambridge!) would be very different to my one for current role, because I’d know that the chair of the interview panel would value different sorts of things…

  • Jacqueline Barlow March 9, 2012 at 5:54 PM

    You touched on this in the second paragraph, but having interests other than librarianship makes you a better librarian. “Turning every room into a library” strikes me as more than a little closed-minded… we should always be willing to question ourselves, but more importantly, we are finding/classifying/organising information for non-librarians every day, and being an uber-librarian will not help us understand them.

  • Chris Barker March 9, 2012 at 6:26 PM

    I’d say that marketing yourself, keeping up-to-date and being actively engaged in committees events etc. can help you gain an interview for your dream job. Alone they don’t guarantee you will get it however! Now all I need to do is learn howe to conquer my interview nerves and keep my fingers crossed for the next opportunity ;)

  • Loida Garcia-Febo March 9, 2012 at 6:27 PM

    Good points Ned! The comments have great insight into the current scenario.

  • @spoontragedy March 9, 2012 at 8:24 PM

    I agree very much with Ned and @lemurph. I think as a general rule, if you’re expecting something to help you advance in your career, you need to be able to articulate exactly how it helped you develop skills or knowledge that are directly relevant to the job. If you can’t do that, then there’s very little chance that the potential employer will see value in it. I think this even goes for qualifications. In some (definitely not all) public library services, there has been a lot of deprofessionalization and employers don’t automatically see a librarianship qualification as an important factor in hiring. I think in these cases, the onus is on the candidate to explain in their application and interview why their qualification will make them a better librarian. If you can’t explain why it would make you a better librarian, then maybe it doesn’t! I know that’s a bit controversial, and I’m not advocating deprofessionalization or knocking the value of qualifications. I just think it’s important in the job application process to be clear in your mind about how your experience, professional activities and so on have actually helped you be better at the job.

  • Ned Potter March 9, 2012 at 8:40 PM

    Some fantastic comments on here. Do you really need to market yourself? Community-verus-local impact http://t.co/BLcAjqQH

  • Eric Rumsey March 9, 2012 at 9:01 PM

    RT @librarianbyday Marketing Yourself as an Information Professional #Libraries (@theREALwikiman) – http://t.co/c0E0fkOv

  • Constance Wiebrands March 9, 2012 at 9:21 PM

    RT @theREALwikiman Some fantastic comments. Do you really need to market yourself? Community-verus-local impact http://t.co/k8BbOvpe

  • deirdre_lyon March 9, 2012 at 9:33 PM

    I love the discussion that this has sparked! In response to your comment about the field’s competitiveness, I definitely think it can feel more that way when you get sucked into reading about all the incredible things people do and then miraculously have the time to blog about and attend award ceremonies for. But one of the BEST things about this field is that when you meet those people, they are so kind and enthusiastic about sharing their experiences. Ultimately, this is a very collaborative profession – we collaborate with other departments, institutions, fields altogether, but mostly we collaborate with each other, and the more I can break out of my panicked, self-promotional mindset, the more I see and can take advantage of that. So thanks Ned, for collaborating with me on a new perspective!

  • Keegan Osinski March 9, 2012 at 10:35 PM

    This post is very comforting to me as a first-year library student who often feels the pull to become a “super librarian,” but simultaneously is completely UNinterested in devoting oodles of time to pursuits I don’t particularly care about. I may not be a Mover or a Shaker, but I’m capable enough to pursue the things I want to do!

  • Aaron Tay March 10, 2012 at 3:19 AM

    Great piece by Ned as usual.

    All the smart comments have being said already.

    It’s a timely piece since I am starting to get “what advise would you give to new/younger librarians starting out” questions and the temptation is to say you need to become an exact clone of me and start blogging , tweeting ideas… when I actually know there are a lot of ways to thrive in our profession though the minimum requirement always has to be doing your own “day to day job” super well!

  • Ned Potter March 10, 2012 at 1:27 PM

    A little light saturday reading.. :-) Yesterday's Do you really need to market yourself? Community-verus-local impact http://t.co/BLcAjqQH

  • thewikiman March 12, 2012 at 12:21 PM

    Hey Paul, thanks for the comment! I’m astonished that anyone would want to channel me, but very glad you got the job… :-)

    I think the point is, different factors will help in different situations. Even something like who the chair of the interview panel is should have a bearing on how much one emphasises online activity versus whatever else we talk about in interviews.

  • thewikiman March 12, 2012 at 12:24 PM

    Hey Jessie, I’m really glad you were reassured by it.

    As it happens I think blogging has a lot of benefits, not least alerting people to your opinions and areas of interest, but I don’t think anyone should do it if they don’t want to! And it’s good that you’re involved in the biblioblogosphere anyway, reading and commenting – I must admit I didn’t really know this whole world existed (certainly not how useful it is) till I actually registered this blog.

    If you’re a photographer you could always set a up a blog to showcase your photos – even if you don’t promote it or tell anyone about it – so that if and when a library asks you to blog, you can say you’re familiar with the software, etc…

  • thewikiman March 12, 2012 at 12:30 PM

    ‘Murph – first off, you already ARE the library blogger equivalent of the love child of James Joyce and Caitlin Moran: FACT.

    I’m not sure about the ‘never get anywhere without a good reference’ thing – in all the insitutions I’ve worked in (all 2 of them but I think this is common in HE) they only ask for references when they offer you the job, so a discouraging one probably wouldn’t be a deal-breaker due the logisitcal nightmare of it all. Unless it said “Lemurph is a liar and a thief, who often kicks her co-workers” or summat. :-)

    I agree an online presence isn’t neccessary to market yourself – but it’s a good option because it’s so easy to achieve. (And because people will Google you, etc etc.) There are lots of high-profile people who don’t blog or tweet or anything like that – they’ve built their reputation by articles, presentations and so on.

    p.s ceLIBrities is ace…

  • thewikiman March 12, 2012 at 12:31 PM

    That’s a good point Andy. Did you get someone within your organisation for another viewpoint, or someone in the community, or someone unconnected to libraries entirely, out of interest?

  • thewikiman March 12, 2012 at 12:32 PM

    Bdleaf, I’m facinated by the phrase ‘creepy treehouse’ – what does that refer to?

  • thewikiman March 12, 2012 at 12:33 PM

    Archelina – I completely agree with everything you said. I’m still in favour of doing all this stuff, very much so. As you say, it’s all about achieving a balance where everybody wins.

  • thewikiman March 12, 2012 at 12:34 PM

    Chris, Jacqueline – I agree with you both.

    Loida, thank you!

  • thewikiman March 12, 2012 at 1:02 PM

    Spoontragedy, that’s a very good point. I’ve knocked the value of qualifications before, and I’d agree that the emphasis must be on us to show why they help, rather than just pointing to the fact that we have them.

  • thewikiman March 12, 2012 at 1:04 PM

    Deirdre – it’s a pleasure! I agree it’s a very collaborative and open profession, which is my favourite thing about it. Almost everyone is extremely nice! And mostly enthusiastic too.

  • thewikiman March 12, 2012 at 1:06 PM

    Keegan, I’m glad you feel comforted. There’s certainly no point in devoting time to stuff you’re not interested in! It only works if you want to do it.

  • thewikiman March 12, 2012 at 1:07 PM

    I agree Aaron. I’d still advise people to tweet mind you – it’s the biggest single thing you need to be plugged into the profession, in my opinion – but I don’t want people to see this sort of thing as a prerequisite for job progression…

  • Kyle Breneman March 16, 2012 at 12:18 AM

    Thanks so much for blogging/tweeting about this! I am still in my first year of my first full-time job as a reference librarian at a small private college, and I’ve been reading blogs, watching my other young colleagues who are assiduously marketing themselves, and feeling woefully unproductive. Its just not possible to be “always on.” I am married, and I have an 8 month old son. I’m afraid that the total dedication of being “always on” (as a librarian) produces diminishing returns.

  • Lesley March 28, 2012 at 2:05 PM

    Hi Ned,
    My experience in the library sector has been like this:
    “Being a library assistant is fun and easy, wonder if there’s a career in this?”
    “Ooh look a graduate traineeship!”
    “Time to start the MA (because thats the next step, right?)”
    “Lets investigate the sector, what organisations are there, who are the people to listen to?”
    “Oh god, EVERYONE has a blog, and Twitter, and KNOWS each other already, and has spoken at the latest conference”
    “Wow this ejournals spreadsheet is dull. I wish was a cool superduper library person!”

    Ahem! So this post has really calmed me down and made me think about why I want to get involved in the online world of librarianship and why I think I want to blog/Tweet etc.

    I think having an online presence that you control is vital for jobs. If I can have a positive image through blogging and through Twitter its going to help an interviewer have a positive image of me in their head before interview. Without it they have nothing in their heads. (This is assuming that all interviewers google their interviewees, of course). Hopefully the more I write my blog the more I can show that I’m reflective and seek to learn things that I’m not learning in my current job.

    Second, the blog is a way for me to get out of my comfort zone. If I’d have thought that a month ago I would be commenting on *the* Ned Potter’s blog post I’d have thought I was getting above myself – who am I to be getting involved with the library cool gang?

    And third, my blog will help me to stay connected to a sector which moves so fast you can feel very overwhelmed about all the things you’re not doing you forget to notice all the things you are doing.

    Thanks for the post, its chilled me out a bit!

  • [...] intimidating new professional guru (!), Ned’s blog has many engaging and informative posts but this one in particular helped me a lot as well as his commet, “I do worry about the new profs who feel pressure to [...]

  • thewikiman March 30, 2012 at 10:55 AM

    Hi Kyle, sorry for the massively long delay in replying to your comment!

    I used to be a lot more always on than I am now – I have a 19-month-old so I know how you feel. Writing a book whilst looking after a baby is the closest thing I have to a regret in my life – I certainly felt I couldn’t give enough time to either.

    With regards to diminishing returns, I personally feel like a sustained period of on-ness (for me it was maybe a year and half) can sort of set you up for a while, and then you don’t have to carry on being ‘on’ after that… But it works differently for everyone. I think the most outstanding successful professionals probably will be the ones who are on the most (coupled with talent, of course) but there’s something of a cost to that and it’s up to each person how much they are willing to pay. It’s a really tricky issue, and one I find quite difficult to write about.

  • thewikiman March 30, 2012 at 1:41 PM

    Hi Lesley (I’m quite excited to find out your name – I saw on your blog that Her Slant Finely was an anagram but I couldn’t work it out…),

    I really liked your timeline of experience; quite possibly a lot of people have exactly the same thing. Mine was roughly:
    “Being a library assistant is a lot more interesting than I expected, I wonder if there’s a career in this?”
    “Oooh look a job as a Project Assistant on some digitisation stuff!”
    “Time to start the MA (because I’m sticking with this career so what else can you do, right?)”
    “I should really respond to a call for papers and get out there and DO something – what about this first ever New Professionals Conference thing?”
    “Oh look, Jo Alcock did a really interesting thing about blogs and social media at the conference – I’ll start a blog I reckon”
    “I’ll start commenting on other people’s blogs too, that’ll be fun – and I’m starting this thing called the Library Routes Project so I’ll just email amazing librarians whose blogs I like out of the blue, and ask them to get involved”
    [Much later]
    *gets dragged onto Twitter against wishes, realises error of previous ways and learns to Love Big Twitter*

    So I never really had the stage of thinking that everyone else was already in a gang and how could I join, I just approached people directly and built relationships. Some people didn’t respond, others did – some of the really cool people. (Although I do think ‘library cool gang’ is basically an oxymoron.) I think partly I felt like @Woodsiegirl had sort of taken me under her wing a bit – she was really encouraging about my blog and kept telling me how good Twitter was – making it easier to get involved. We worked together on Library Routes, too. I’m very grateful to her for all that.

    Anyway, my point really is that the idea of a gang or indeed anything closed off or pre-existing is really just a perception thing – I was probably too unself-aware to even have that perception (which helped me enormously!) but a lot of people do have it. All I can say is, there’s no real hierarchy there (if anyone thinks they are at the top of a hierarchy of librarians, they probably aren’t worth bothering with anyway), and social media is a great leveller, as it allows everyone access to everyone else. Blog comments should be something EVERYONE feels comfortable doing – any blogger appreciates feedback so honestly, please don’t ever feel intimidated by a library blogger… I really enjoyed getting your comment! It’s a good one.

    Anyhow, chilling people out was one the aims of this post so I’m glad. :-)

  • Lesley March 30, 2012 at 2:02 PM

    Hi Ned,

    Yes, library cool gang does have the feel of an oxymoron!

    Totally agree about the perception of a group being just that, a perception. Over the last few days I’ve had two nice blog comments (ta!) and felt comfortable commenting. I always knew it was me being too anxious to say ‘Hello’ then it was a scary gang of librarians going ‘Who are you?!’ Its just a learning curve really and I’m happy to be on it rather than not!

    Name anagrams FTW! I like my name’s anagrams although if I take out ‘Ann’ I get Slithery Elf which conjurs up too many Lord of the Rings connotations for me to use…

  • [...] that we all have to aspire to be like the really well-known, uberlibrarians), following on from this blog post about whether or not we really have to market ourselves at all, which explains a lot of the stuff I talked about [...]

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