Advocating for Yourself Librarians Can Take a Number of Steps to Market the Value and Skills They Offer That Are Unrelated to Their Presence in a Physical Library

By Abram, Stephen | Information Outlook, September 2011 | Go to article overview

Advocating for Yourself Librarians Can Take a Number of Steps to Market the Value and Skills They Offer That Are Unrelated to Their Presence in a Physical Library


Abram, Stephen, Information Outlook


This issue's theme is about advocating for librarians. This is distinctly different from advocating for libraries.

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A significant number of librarians today practice our profession outside the bounds of physical libraries. Indeed, some of the largest employers of librarians are in the information industry--publishers, vendors, database and Website design firms, consulting firms, etc. My current and my last few employers had hundreds of librarians, at every level of the organization.

So, in keeping with this issue's theme, I am sharing my views on how to market your value and skills as an information professional who is not tied to a physical library. In particular, I am sharing what I think works when you advocate for yourself.

Be the brand. Mahatma Gandhi once said, "You must be the change you want to see in this world." We must choose to model the image and behaviors for which we want to be known. If you want to position yourself as approachable, you must model that behavior. The same goes for smart, friendly, accessible, tech savvy, networked, helpful, caring, knowledgeable and every other desirable attribute of a great librarian or information professional. What do you do to create an image as a unique and significant combination of skills, attitudes, and aptitudes that your organization can't do without?

Tell stories. What we do and how we deliver value are at once invisible, and the value is mostly experienced in the subjective minds and lives of our users. The tangible aspects of our work are secondary to the end-user experience of increased confidence in decisions, increased learning and knowledge, and the creation of new knowledge and inventions. Pointing to the tangible aspects of our work only tells a small percentage of our value story.

Our great facility with technology, content in all formats, and search and discovery needs to be put in context and not just positioned as a simple collection or skill. The information professional has the valuable, unique role of pulling these together and making the magic happen. Tell stories that reinforce the experience of what we do.

Mine your network. You likely know more people in your organization than nearly anyone else. With that knowledge, you can make connections between people who need each other.

You also have a professional network within SLA, plus you have the rest of your library network. These networks extend your value when you put them to use for your enterprise. Finally, you have your personal network of friends and relatives.

These networks are something you bring to your organization that can be put to use to solve problems and make progress. Find the overlaps between your network and your users. Advocate for yourself as a connection to the entire world of knowledge.

Be visible. If you only stay in the library, you'll rarely encounter others who can influence your reputation and success. Attend industry meetings and conferences and socialize with other attendees. Participate in conference programs and try to present at internal meetings and industry conferences in your organization's area of expertise, not just library conferences. Write for industry periodicals, too. The perception of your reputation and value increases as you become more involved in your users' world. …

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Advocating for Yourself Librarians Can Take a Number of Steps to Market the Value and Skills They Offer That Are Unrelated to Their Presence in a Physical Library
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