Improving the Librarian Image (ALA 2008)

I decided to attend a session (which had people standing all the way out in the hall to listen–125 was the number I overheard on the way out) at ALA on Improving the Librarian Image because I am always interested in hearing about how the rest of the public perceives us and how to facilitate change. Donna Cardillo is a Registered Nurse and so that was also interesting.

A big take home for me was the use of credentials. I know it may be a bigger issue in nursing to show you have the full credentials to be a nurse but I can see a reason in libraries as well. Cardillo noted that, like in hospitals, patrons often do not know who is a librarian and who is a secretary or student assistant in libraries. She recommended having business cards made up with your name, title and credentials. The title also helps to further differentiate you; in this way the public can see that librarians are not all identical. The credentials can also help patrons, students, or faculty realize you have a Master’s degree, possibly adding more respect and buy-in from the communities we serve.

As an introduction she said, “Now some of you may be wondering why an RN is speaking at a library conference. What do nurses have to do with librarians?” My notes (including answers to this question) are below:

  • Nurses and Librarians?
    • gender
    • shortage
    • undervalued and underpaid
    • image problems
      • stereotypes
    • genetics?
      • how many of you are former nurses or studied nursing? (10%)
      • How many of your siblings/family members are nurses? (40% in the room!!)
  • why does our image matter?
    • budgeting issues
    • legislative issues
    • morale issues
    • recruiting issues
  • Personal Image
    • appearance
      • dress well: conveys confidence; sets them apart
      • hair–”serious hair” Working Girl
    • body language
      • you don’t have to feel confident to act confident
      • look in the eye, but not too much
        • don’t be the first to look away every time, just sometimes
      • stand up straight, head up
        • authoritative and assertive
    • speech…
      • most of us talk too much and have trouble getting to the core message
      • say things in different ways hopefully eventually it will come across
        • think of your most important message
        • think of how few words you can say it in
        • say it
        • then stay quiet
      • we have a bad habit: Oh, I’m sorry, I’ll come back…
        • unless you truly have something to be sorry for don’t say it
      • eliminate qualifiers: controlling the reaction of the listener before you say anything
        • you probably have heard this, but…
        • you probably won’t like this, but…
        • Problem: it takes to long to get to your point, lose your audience
      • You need to realize when you do this–self-awareness is the first step to eliminating the bad habit
        • Think before you speak
    • workspace/carspace
    • learn how to take a compliment
      • you did great: don’t mention it
      • thank you for your help: it’s my job
      • Accept it
        • you dishonor the person
        • yourself
        • your profession
      • Say: it was my pleasure; anytime; thank you for telling me that; let me know if I can do anything else for you.
      • appearing modest and humble is okay but you don’t have to be self-deprecating
    • Have a business card
      • have your academic credentials
      • carry the cards where ever you go, not just on your desk
      • have them made from where you work
        • not in the budget?
          • it costs next to nothing–people just never bother to ask
    • peoples’ impression is how they will treat you
      • we believe more of what we see than what we hear about or of people
  • Harnessing the power of the media
    • monitor images of librarians in the media–this is people’s perception of you
      • movies
      • sit-coms
    • stories about libraries or librarians
      • library budget cuts?
      • positive? negative? “Hipper Crowd of Shushers” positive but the stereotype is still there
        • let them know why it is detrimental
    • write letters to the media
    • Six Steps to Free Publicity, Marcia Yudin
      • Some people shy away from the media; read about it;
      • How can I say no, my whole profession is counting on me
        • clear communication is important; you are coached on general questions prior to recording
        • break down and eliminate industry jargon and acronyms
    • contact local media directly
      • I am the librarian at…
      • use National Library Week as a spring board
      • “You might be interested to know that…”
      • write letters to the editor if the information is accurate: offer additional resources and offer yourself as another resource
    • Being visible in the community
      • people will know you and your abilities
      • if you are unknown, it will not be hard to discourage bad local legislation
  • Promoting the profession
    • people don’t know about us; we don’t talk about ourselves enough
    • brochures and websites are not going to do the full job of educating peoples
    • don’t just say “I am a librarian, staff or MLS student”
      • add a sentence about what you did that particular day
    • get out to community fairs more
      • career fairs
      • scouting troops
      • school groups
      • Rachel Singer Gordon’s “How to become a librarian” article in Library Journal–this can help you describe what you do
    • Men/ ethnic minorities: people need to see people like them to go and pursue a career
  • Networking, getting visible;
    • attend a chamber of commerce meeting
    • a work meeting
    • women business owners in the community
    • promote our services on a regular basis
  • handshaking: important social custom; only form of acceptable touching connection
      • credibility
      • colleagues and clients; even children
      • sign of respect–levels the playing field
      • shake, eye contact, and smile
  • Marketing, staying visible
    • Always wear you’re name badge, title and credentials
    • photos of who works in the library with name, credentials and title for your users
      • you have to have the delineation: librarians are all different
    • sell your value on a daily basis
      • you can’t assume
        • people know who you are
        • know what you do
        • know what you have
    • consider writing a weekly/monthly column with your picture
      • tips
      • suggestions
      • different services
      • different materials
    • consider writing competitions
    • offer to speak at a local meeting on your paid work-time
      • propose these to the people you work for:
        • why do you want to go?
          • they vote
          • they donate money
          • they don’t appreciate/know our services
      • if you don’t ask you don’t get
      • even if it is no, it produces awareness
        • repackage it and try again
        • if we can’t do that, maybe we can do this
        • “When the customer says no, the selling begins.”
    • other ideas
      • Comment: in the public: at the gym or the grocery: what do you do: “I am your librarian”
      • Comment: offer comments and questions
        • always identify yourself by names and permissions
      • Comment: contacted local assembly person; they told her about meetings they are looking for speakers
        • if you don’t know your local assembly person is you can find out easily;
      • Comment: a lot of libraries have public meeting space: always make myself known and who I am
      • Comment: we have a speakers bureau and offer speakers in their interests
      • Comment: passed over for promotion; one of the reasons why I came I felt I might need to change my image…but I am becoming cynical and bitter; how do you turn that around?
        • A: changing your image is a good thing; there are a lot of reasons why people are hired; make an appointment to speak with your supervisor; let your goals be known and ask for advice; can you suggest other projects I can get involved in?
      • Comment: new hires get a mentor who give candid feedback and help them in promotion
      • Comment: enewsletter: would you like to sign up for our monthly newsletter with tips on research?
  • Getting involved in national/local associations
    • joining isn’t enough, get involved
    • dues are too much
      • ask for help from your employer
        • ask for help to go to conference
        • ask for it every year even if they say no every year
        • if you don’t ask you won’t get
        • nos still create awareness
        • why is it important to be a member?
          • why is it important to go to a conference
          • Comment: when you get back meet with supervisors and tell them why it was beneficial;
          • D: write a report, give the boss material
      • cost is relative to value
      • you can probably deduct this on taxes
    • they won’t listen to me; too much politics;
      • even if you put something out there and they don’t follow, you are still feeling empowered and your voice is heard
    • you will also need to sell this to other people
      • you join associations for what is in it for you
        • you are an informed member of the profession–pipeline of information
        • garner support
        • let off steam
      • join a committee
        • hones your leadership skills
        • your communications skills
        • your networking skills
    • run for office in your organization
      • this holds a lot of wait in your employment evaluations
  • Develop speaking and writing skills
    • promotion method
    • it is the good communicators who get ahead in this world
      • articulate
    • anyone can learn how to write and anyone can learn how to speak
      • more technique involve than most people realize
      • develop it and cultivate it
    • start small and start local
      • write about something you love
      • write about something you know
      • write about something innovative
      • write in an association newsletter
      • it is the doing that grows into ability
    • Getting a rejection letter
      • when I got my first one and vowed I would never write again
      • the editor had actually taken the time to make some suggestions
      • I never resubmitted that article, but I went to the public library and got a book on how to write for publication in journals
      • today I am doing a column for that magazine now
        • I almost let one rejection letter keep me from ever doing it again
      • WHEN you get a rejection letter, you celebrate that–it is a rite of passage
        • writing and submitting is the part of publication that is important
      • Speaking? I looked up books at the library on that as well
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3 Responses to Improving the Librarian Image (ALA 2008)

  1. Chris Moran says:

    Nice writing style. Looking forward to reading more from you.

    Chris Moran

  2. Anonymous says:

    Wow -Gerrit – you sure take good notes!! Donna Cardillo, RN here. I did the presentation and just happened to come across this post. If anyone would like a opy of the handout you can e-mail me at donna@dcardillo.com. You can also find many of the referenced articles at http://www.dcardillo.com on the articles page. Even though most of the articles were written for nurses, the info all applies to librarians as well.

    It was my pleasure to speak at the 2008 ALA convention and I hope to see some of you again in 2009 in Chicago.

    Librarians Rock!!

  3. Gerrit says:

    Donna, thank you for the links. It was a real treat attending your session.

    Look forward to seeing you at Chicago!

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