librarian, weed thyself.

So the most recent Andy Poll was about weeding the library profession:

http://twitter.com/#!/wawoodworth/status/129942473882611713

Most people are replying with attributes (View the story “Weed the librarian” on Storify) rather than a set of criteria, which I don’t think is really answering the question. How do you weed librarians out of the profession? Don’t reinvent the wheel–just use the same process most libraries use for materials: CREW and its charming companion MUSTIE. CREW, as everyone should know, stands for “Continuous Review, Evaluation, and Weeding.”

As a professional, you should be continuously reviewing and evaluating your own performance, and weeding the skills and projects that are no longer beneficial to you or your organization. If you realize at any time that you’ve become MUSTIE*, then you should quit your job immediately and allow a newer, better librarian to have your job. If it’s good enough for our materials, it’s good enough for us.

*M is for : Misleading–factually inaccurate. I think we’ve all been there–we’re sitting on the desk with someone else, listening to them give out blatantly WRONG information. Even with gentle correction, our coworker refuses to change his or her way. Or, at best, they decide that they’ll just make you answer all of the hard questions because they’re too lazy to actually do their job.

U is for: Ugly–worn beyond mending or rebinding. Let’s not get into this one too much, except to say that ugly, when it comes to people, applies more to their attitude than their appearance.

S is for: Superceded–by a new edition of by a much better book on the subject. When you use the computer mouse by banging it against the desk, or answer a ready reference question with the phone book, you’ve been superceded.

T is for: Trivial–of no discernible literary or scientific merit. Have you been running the same programs for youth year in and year out with no changes? Do your booklists not have any titles published in the last twenty years on them? Are you chained to your reference desk?

I is for: Irrelevant to the needs and interests of the library’s community. Closely tied with trivial, many of the same questions can be asked. If you’re sitting at your desk waiting for people to come to you with their questions and their needs, you are irrelevant.

E is for: Elsewhere–the material is easily obtainable from another library [or librarian]. There are thousands of people with library degrees frothing at the mouth to work, and at least some of them have to be more outgoing, engaging, exciting, and innovative than your MUSTIE a**. How about you do one brave thing in your professional life and QUIT, so they can have a chance?

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7 thoughts on “librarian, weed thyself.

  1. This is a great post, Julie.

    Here’s my question–if a librarian realizes he/she is a MUSTIE, is there any hope for them? And what can we do to support them? I believe our patrons deserve quality librarians, but most people can’t quit a job without another one lined up, particularly in this economy.

  2. I think that if a librarian is self-aware enough to realize s/he is MUSTIE, there most certainly is hope for them. Even with the economy the way it is, there are still plenty of opportunities for professional development, including free ones like networking via blogs and twitter.

    I think it boils down to a lack of vision and leadership on the management level in libraries. So many managers aren’t good leaders, they’re simply librarians who stayed at an institution long enough that a management position opened up, and the powers that be said, “Hey, you, you’ve been here X number of years, and we know you, why don’t you just become a manager?” And the skills that make a good librarian aren’t necessarily the skills that make a good manager. Librarians (ideally) are outgoing people-pleasers, and when these people become managers, I think a lot of them have an extremely hard time having difficult conversations with their employees. Instead of insisting on growth and development, managers allow their team to either maintain their skill level or actually regress. While self-motivation is important, it really is a primary duty of managers to keep their staff from becoming MUSTIE. And if their staff refuse to keep up, then managers have to make the tough choice about firing them–which no one wants to do in a tough economy. But we’re not beholden to our employees. We’re beholden to our taxpayers, and right now there’s no reason that every library can’t have a top notch staff, either through retraining and developing current staff, or weeding out the bad seeds and replacing them.

    You don’t become a manager to be everyone’s friend and hero. You become a manager to manage. And if you can’t manage to do that…well. See above.

  3. […] I think if you are truly a great outreach librarian, you’re going to be treated like a rock star. Kids will begin to anticipate your visits, and–and this is truly important–they will love and want to see you so much that they will follow you to the library. Having a rock star librarian elevates the entire experience, and will spur your entire staff to higher levels of performance in turn (and if they act resentful instead, well, that’s why we fire people. Or hope they weed themselves). […]

  4. I do believe that there is a place for those MUSTIE librarians in our libraries IF, like Anne said, they realize they are a MUSTIE. Perhaps they don’t possess all of the MUSTIE qualities but only a few. Maybe if they just put themselves out there a little more and reached a little more outside their comfort zone they’d find that changing times aren’t nearly as intimidating as they seem. One of my professors said to our class last week, “If you’re not failing, you’re not putting yourself out there enough.” That statement applies to so much in life despite the fact that he was talking about technology. As a general population people have a hard time accepting change and some librarians definitely have a hard time grasping that they must change to meet the constantly evolving needs of their patrons. It’s pretty comparable to the teaching profession. There’s teachers out there who have been teaching the same way for over 20 years. But, I shall not go there.

    • I agree! That’s the thing about being a MUSTIE person rather than a MUSTIE book/object– a person can become aware and work on their shortcomings. Much like if a weeded book came out with a new, updated edition.

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