ego, thy name is librarianship

cc license photo by flickr use r zoonabar
cc license photo by flickr use r zoonabar

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I have a bit of an attention problem. No, not attention deficit– I have a need to be, if not the center of attention, at least left of center. Even though I am an introvert at heart who needs significant alone time to recharge and prepare, I am actually happiest when I am in front of a crowd. I meet this need for attention in many ways–by working in an area of librarianship that demands that I present storytimes and other programs, by being a performing songwriter on my personal time, by writing this blog. Often these endeavors are satisfying enough in themselves, but sometimes–during dark, lonely afternoons as I type up program plans, or ponder what to write about next on the blog–I crave even more attention, but I don’t know how to get it.

Doesn’t this all sound awfully conceited? I know. It does. But I’m nothing if not honest, so yes, I’ll admit to thinking I am awesome. I think I do excellent work, and have unique contributions to make, even though I don’t have a slogan or a hashtag or a large, slavish following. Sometimes I wonder if I were a man, writing about ebooks, if I’d get more attention. But since I am a lady writing mostly about playdough and early literacy, decidedly unsexy topics in librarianship (and when did “sexy” begin to equal “intriguing” or “worthwhile” or “interesting”?) I have a decidedly smaller circle of admirers and colleagues, most of whom are my fellow unsung heroes of the library world. As a children’s librarian, if you write more about how you use books with children than you do about the books and authors themselves, you don’t get as much notice.

Perhaps it is just my sensitive ego at work, but I feel like the librarian bloggers who work with children and teens and who write primarily about programs don’t get the recognition they deserve. Storytime blogs such as So Tomorrow, Awesome Storytime, Mel’s Desk, Playing by the Book, Tiny Tips for Library Fun, Bryce Don’t Play, and Storytiming provide real, concrete advice for creating worthwhile programming, which should be the bread and butter of libraries. If all of us wrote more book reviews and less about the programs we created using those books, or why we create the programs we do, perhaps we’d get more notice. If we blogged about hot button topics like e-books for babies or stripping our children’s departments down to look like futuristic lunchrooms filled with ipads, perhaps we’d get a ton of traffic. But we don’t. We write about our quiet successes and failures, about the simple craft of creating a flannel story, about what rhymes will fit with certain themes, and when we do review books, it’s always with an eye to How will I use this with a group of children? When we get dressed for work, it’s always with a thought about how easily we’ll be able to get up and down from the floor during storytime, and whether or not sweat will show if we’re doing a lot of jumping songs that day.

In a profession that’s supposedly dominated by women, I find it sad that the librarians who get the most attention are mostly men (and, admittedly, some women), men who very rarely write about honest, simple, day to day issues in librarianship (Swiss Army Librarian being a rare exception, with his marvelous ref questions of the week). These men spin elaborate fantasies about librarians being information rockstars who dress to impress (either flashily or with an eye to ironic hipsterism), dismiss librarians who still use books to connect with patrons as hopelessly backwards, and come up with gimmick after gimmick to get libraries “noticed” without ever once writing about a concrete, applicable thing that they have actually done. Show me how libraries and librarians are amazing, don’t just tell me and expect me to be convinced.

I’m on very precarious ground as I write this, because honestly, my main motivation is that I am sad that I am not more recognized. [I really regret this sentence right now! While I, personally, do want to be recognized, more than that I want my tribe–kid and teen librarians who work so damn hard with little to no recognition in the wider library world–to be noticed and appreciated. Which they might be. I’ll admit to not being able to read everything ever printed about libraries. JJ 01/16] I want to be noticed. I want people to listen to what I have to say. I want to be offered speaking engagements, to have a larger platform to  discuss my ideas of how to better librarianship, to be valued. I want to win awards. I crave approval and recognition, and yet, to paraphrase Lillian Hellman, I cannot and will not cut my librarianship to fit this year’s fashion. I don’t particularly care about e-books, only that I wish we could give our patrons what they want. I don’t particularly want to shove ipads into the faces of babies and toddlers because I still believe screen time is ultimately damaging. I don’t really care to have the perception of librarians go from shushing bun heads to strutting pimps. (I think Frank Zappa* is a better rock star librarian model than any rapper, but that’s just me. Like Frank, I believe in free speech, showmanship, and being a decent human being. Like Frank, I think you can push the envelope of expression without being hateful to women.) I like books, and I believe librarianship is about books, if you stop and think about how books equal stories, and it doesn’t matter what goddamn container they come in, be it paper, digital, audio, or a film or a video game. Stories are what people crave, and stories (like the storycorp partnership with libraries, or the not so new resurgence of reading aloud to adults–and adult librarians, if you need help on reading aloud, you know who to ask) are what libraries have and always will do best.

So next time you need a keynote speaker, perhaps consider one of us librarians who spend most of our time on the floor–often literally. Our subject matter might not be “sexy”, but we know how to tell a damn good story.

*”If you want to get laid, go to college. If you want an education, go to the library.” – Frank Zappa

104 thoughts on “ego, thy name is librarianship

  1. Well said, Julie. I have thought about this too as I see people getting recognition for things I don’t find that recognizable. I’m too busy being a damn good teenbrarian to stop and ask anyone but my boss to pat me on the back. When I presented at my state’s annual conference a few months ago, I started out by giving some stats to explain why I thought I was qualified to speak on my topic–and the crowd audibly gasped at the strides I’ve made. Not only had these people never heard of me, but I had to PAY for the privilege of presenting, while a man with nothing useful to say was flown in and paid to speak at the keynotes.

    My awards are the notes and drawings from kids and teens that are posted in my workspace.

  2. As a man who writes about ebooks, I couldn’t agree more. I believe storytimes -book-based performances – are probably the single most important thing we do. So thank you!

    But I think there are different kinds of writing. You’re talking about useful practitioner literature. I know there’s a place for it; it’s how we give support and celebrate our successes.

    The other kind of writing is about what’s next. One isn’t better than the other. They’re just different, and serve different

    But there’s another kind of wrng, the kind that focuses on what’s next

    1. Sorry, I hit the post key too soon. I meant to say that both kinds of writing are necessary. You may be right that there’s a media preference for the “visionary” at the expense of the immediately useful. But I am well aware that I have the leisure to write about ebooks only because we have figured out how to do so many other things right. So again, thanks for what you do. I enjoyed reading your post.

    2. I’d say that without children’s librarians, libraries would and could die much faster. You’ll find no stauncher advocates of the library than parents of children. So, without us, what future is there (and here I mainly speak of public libraries; academic libraries are different). So by writing about what we do today, we’re also writing about the future. How’s that for some timey wimey amazeballosity?

      1. People are willing to support libraries and pay taxes because of children and education, but they really don’t like it if that money is only going to support adults (see: welfare). Children’s departments are like the football programs at universities: the institution that supports all the other sports that would never make it on their own gate receipts.

  3. Hi Miss Julie! I agree with a lot of what you are saying. I feel like most of the presentations at conferences and the articles in library magazines that I encounter are much more theoretical. Should we have ebooks and iPads in Youth Services? What is the value of graphic novels in our collections? Most of the time I’m frustrated because I’m looking for specific, concrete ideas on how to use these resources at my library. I don’t want to go over another argument for or against, because honestly, these things =are= a part of my department and what I really need to know is how to work with them. Book reviews can be really helpful, but honestly, I read a billion of them every month when I’m ordering, so reading more (even if they’re super clever) is not exactly how I want to use my 3 minutes of free time🙂 I have been working in Youth Services for 5 years now, and it’s only been in the last 6 months or so that I’ve come across great blogs, the Flannel Friday group on Pinterest, and a group of YS librarians in my area who meet to talk about the nuts and bolts of programming. Where have these resources been? Why isn’t anyone promoting the incredible awesomeness of these resources? I feel like I just kind of stumbled upon great blogs and great colleagues by chance, which makes me hope that other librarians who are just starting out have much better luck than I did. Maybe you’re right and it’s because exchanging recipes for homemade playdough isn’t considered sexy or visionary or world-changing, but seriously, it’s incredible to finally feel like I have found a library community that is talking about the things that are important to me. Like storytime outfits, because you know that we all have them🙂

    1. While we’re talking about storytime outfits, can we talk about the dance you have to do before you decide that said outfit can be worn to storytime? Because that’s something I wish someone had taught me before my first handful of programs!

      1. Kind of a weird variation of Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear with lots of arm waving and bending to make sure that everything stays properly covered, right?

      2. I have a few pieces of clothing that are reserved for my storytimes. Honestly, sometimes I wonder if my parents ever notice that Ms. Trista usually wears the same 3 tops, pants, and shoes. lol.

  4. Thank you for this wonderful, honest post! I think you and many of the dedicated librarians I’m getting to know via the twittersphere are amazing and I, for one, will do what I can to share it with the world.

    Unfortunately, I agree that male librarians, despite their minority status in our profession, disproportionately inhabit library marketing, managerial/administrative realms. Whether this is because men automatically get more attention or authority by virtue of their sex or because men often display more proactive, aggressive personality traits or a combination thereof, it is unarguably the case and it sucks. It often does not reflect the many many creative brilliant women in the field. It does, however, behoove more of us women to take up the “shout-out” gauntlet as you are here, and to do it in a way that supports and nurtures other librarians and the folks we serve.

    A thought on not getting attention when writing about the little things: It’s important to sometimes go beyond the “how-to” or details of a program and connect it to something bigger, perhaps more philosophical or even more personal, that might resonate with a wider audience. I’m not super involved with or interested in children’s programming, but I like your piece here because you are talking about yourself in a confessional, honest, well-written way that touches me. It’s very human and does what you seem critical of some of the slick, male technologists for not doing; it goes beyond slogans and gets across what makes librarians valuable: The caring, committed engagement of a public educator, facilitator and in your case, also entertainer. You are the kind of librarian I want to see in my library.

    1. ‘The caring, committed engagement of a public educator, facilitator and in your case, also entertainer. You are the kind of librarian I want to see in my library.” Aw, this is so nice of you to say!

  5. Man, Julie, thanks once more for speaking truth to power – and the virtual pat on the back. Bak at ya!

    I think the youth librarians you mentioned ARE blogging about cutting edge youth stuff – stuff that librarians on their own out there need to hear. Stuff that happens at small and medium sized libraries and not just the mega-buster, mega-funded, big-staffed and PR-departmented-up libraries. All the bloggers you cited have been looking ahead and that doesn’t always mean ebooks, digital contents or the libraries of the future.

    I add to your blog roll of youth people talking about services the Show Me Librarian

    1. Yes! Let’s hear it for the small/medium libraries! I sometimes get very frustrated when I see articles in journals, or online with a “everybody should be doing this!” vibe, or my director hands me something and says “this is cool, why don’t we do this?” and I’m “well, yeah, if you want to triple my budget and hire me five more staff members.” Usually, I can figure out a way to do it scaled-down for one librarian and my budget, but it’s a lot of extra work to figure that out! My consortium is almost all small libraries and we work hard to offer service and materials comparative to big systems with only a fraction of the resources. You won’t see a lot of my colleagues online because they have no office, maybe not even a computer at work, so anything like that has to happen at home (assuming they aren’t too rural to get decent internet access at home!) You won’t see us at too many conferences because if we’re gone there’s no one to do storytime or cover the information desk – or, sometimes, run the library! But we’re out here, working hard!

      1. FYI (and apologies if you know this one already!), I am a fan of this Big Talk from Small Libraries conference, all about cool stuff small libraries are doing, with only speakers who are from or work with small libraries: (It’s online, so not so helpful for your colleagues who aren’t, but for those who *are*, really cuts down on the travel, hence the coverage problem.) Free, and the next one is Feb 28.

  6. Important points eloquently expressed! I used to wonder why so many of our field’s big speakers left me feeling frustrated and tired, not energized and ready to go back to my library and make a difference. And it’s because, like you point out, they’re not concerned with the daily impact. The visionary element IS important, but the practical, useful, how-to-do-it-better-starting-now is what helps give me the mental space and emotional energy to start to think about what comes next.

  7. THIS. THIS. The response on Twitter to your post has bern phenomenal this afternoon and you have said what so many of us feel. I think it’s easy to dismiss “traditional” library service when in reality, it’s what keeps our patrons coming back for more. And that’s what I got involved to do — storytimes, book clubs, reader’s advisory. I may never win an award or whatnot, but my wall of hand-drawn thank yous make me my library’s rockstar.

    As for online, I’m planning on trying to recognize my colleagues more. It’s the little things we can do that might lead to a bigger change down the line.

    Thanks again for this post!

    1. Thanks for reading! The response has been amazing and wonderfully gratifying…my call for attention (to myself, yes, but also the wider issues that were bothering me) has certainly been answered!

  8. Reblogged this on The Yummy Librarian and commented:
    Reblogging, I think this is so true for many of us as modern librarians. I think libraries are still about stories & yes books. We, as librarians need to do a better job of recognizing our people that are rock stars, because they do a great job day in day and day out, and not the ones who throw the most raging after-party at conference.
    Rant over, but not my admiration for Julie.

  9. I saw this on Facebook, shared by a fellow librarian, but all I can say is WOW! I agree wholeheartedly that there needs to be more accolades for real librarians who are rock stars in their own way but not “sexy” enough for main stream……I thought I was the only attention whore, but it is also one of the reasons I think I work well with teens; I understand their “selfish” need for attention and to be heard. As a bonus, working with teens means I can dress a little more funky than I could as a children’s librarian (translation: Heels!)

  10. I happen to love your blog and get great ideas for it. Believe me, I am so, so grateful you write about excellent contributions I can make to my community through the library. (You and all the other awesome bloggers you mentioned).

    I don’t crave attention in any way shape or form, at least not online. I do hope that as I continue to work with my community, my parents and caregivers and community cohorts will eventually begin to recognize the work I am doing is valuable. I have a lot to learn but I am not afraid to do what it takes to garner their recognition.

  11. I was going to write a reply on how and why I made my personal keynoter-shortlist choices for the conference I’m involved with planning, and what people did to make themselves more appealing candidates, but it ended up being 309582390035 words long, so I made it a blog post: Hope it is useful and you get some great invites. (And I hope people involved in planning conferences on your topics speak up too! I’d love to hear how similar or different their advice & process are.)

  12. As a blogger who writes both book reviews and posts about programs, librarianship, etc. I have to say that I get a MUCH better response to my posts about programs and librarianship than I do to the book reviews (at least as far as comments, retweets, links, etc.). And for me, it’s less about the quantity of people who are reading, and more about WHO is reading. I’m happy my blog has enabled me to make connections with awesome children’s librarians doing awesome things.

    As for speaking engagements, I feel like the path to getting gigs is presenting, presenting, presenting… State library conferences, regional library system workshops (if such a thing even still exists in Chicago…) etc. Maybe you’re doing this, I don’t know. I can tell you that as part of our district conference planning committee, we’re more likely to book someone for a keynote if we’ve seen her speak before and know she’s a decent speaker. And, at least in Indiana, it seems like conference organizers are always looking for speakers to present on practical program ideas, as that’s something many (most?) youth librarians are drawn to at a conference.

    1. For librarians in the Chicagoland area – check out LACONI at I served on the youth services board of this committee for many years. When we planned programs, we tried very hard to plan programs from which attendees can actually take the information back to their library and use it. No matter what size library. Many times the speakers were fellow librarians who were willing to share their knowledge of whichever topic they were speaking about. And as a major plus, it’s only $30 to attend an all-day workshop – including lunch!

      Also you should be sure to check out your state library conferences. I have presented a few times at ours and yes, while I did not get paid, it was still very rewarding. Not only did I get to share my ideas and successes for the programs I was presenting (the most recent program was on how to include babies in your summer reading program) but people who attended, were actually able to go home with ideas that they can use. It is up to us to make these types of programs a part of our conferences.

  13. Julie, Thanks for writing about what we a lot of us are thinking. I want to be recognized too! I’m not sure even my own co-workers “get” what I do. Even ALSC gives more awards for books than it does to people.

    I’m not saying that “famous” librarian bloggers aren’t good librarians. I have no way of knowing whether their patrons are satisfied or not. I do know they’re great at self-promotion. I don’t think that’s what we should be celebrating as a profession.

    Youth librarians have plenty of opportunities to speak and write for our professional audience. The only problem is that no one is listening to youth librarians except other youth librarians. And that’s a detriment to the profession as a whole, because We Know Things.

    1. If the things you (or other readers) know are plausibly related to technology as well as youth services, please do pitch a talk for LITA Forum: This is the conference I’m on the planning committee for and — for all that lots of my friends are white males in academe! — I’m going to consider it a personal failure if that’s what our speakers all look like. Technology use cases and creators extend way past that and I want to hear more of those voices in the conversation.

      I apologize to Julie if this brings us straight back to ebooks😉

      1. E-books are a valuable topic! But, like corn syrup, is only fine in moderation. Let’s balance that sugar with a little fiber, ie, old fashioned paper books that so many folks still seem to like.😉

      2. I think part of the point being missed by the larger library community (NOT Andromeda) is that tech in libraries is not just ebooks. Lots of YS librarians are doing really cool things with digital storytelling, gamifying, maybe stop motion animation?, making comic books online, etc that is totally unrelated to ebooks. (Andromeda, I’m working on a project right now that might be an amazing LITA program 2 years from now, and I’m super sad it’s not ready yet).

      3. Cory, I 100% agree that tech is not just ebooks. Those are a bunch of fun uses of technology you’re alluding to and I’m sure they all have an audience as well as real-world impact. I’m sad that we won’t be getting a proposal from you this year, but glad that Forum 2015 might be!

  14. I wish I had a children’s librarian like you near me! We have no local library (was shut several years ago due to budget cuts), and the nearest library I can get to has no dedicated children’s librarian. Thanks so much for mentioning my blog.

    1. Consider me your long distance librarian! Your blog is wonderful and it’s very inspiring to me in my work. Thank you so much for documenting what you do with your girls!

  15. I have been thinking A LOT about the gender side of this. It’s even worse in the school library world, where idolatry of a few high-profile male librarians has reached fever pitch. Not that we don’t need great male role models for our kids, but still… there are lots of women, doing lots of the same sort of things, that never get that attention. Thanks for a great post.

    1. Thanks! The gender talk got a bit covered up by so many people deciding I was an ego-centric simpleton who doesn’t know how things work, but really, it’s one of the more salient points. We get so worried about positive male role models when it comes to kids that we blow our adulation of them all out of proportion. It’s not that they don’t necessarily deserve attention, but I do think it could be dialed back a bit.

      1. Sorry, Julie. I’m posting all over this joint. Kids really do need positive male role models, and in the urban setting I’m in, it seems extra necessary. HOWEVER, these speakers at ALA? These rockstars? *I* don’t need a positive male role model? I’m fine! Aside from actual achievement, why do *I* need exposure to them?

  16. What a thoughtful, honest post. I think part of the problem is that there are so many librarian bloggers–far more than I ever realized–and there’s no way all of us can develop the kind of following that the big guns have. I write about a lot about library culture, and I often complain to myself that the things I write about aren’t practically useful. I don’t have a huge following, but I do have a small, loyal one. I truly believe that the unsung heroes of librarianship are the ones like you–making the day-to-day changes on the front lines that really make a difference in the community. As others have said, I believe there is room for all kinds of discourse on library issues big and small. I hope you get the chance to have your time to shine.

  17. Julie,
    I’ve started writing this response a dozen times so if this seems to ramble a bit I apologize but your post has made me think of many responses to what you’ve said. Unlike others with long responses however, I’ll post them here instead of my own blog ( as they’re more “direct responses” than “further thoughts” on the subject.

    First, I’m a male librarian blogger who does occasionally write about e-books and cool new stuff going on in libraries. If you consider me “famous” I’d say that I must be doing something right. However, I’m not in what you would define as a “traditional” library as I’m at the Nebraska Library Commission, the state agency for libraries, and before that at the now defunct OCLC network, BCR. I work with librarians, not with the public.

    Second, my path to where I am today as a speaker is nothing like yours has been or will be short of you considering a very sharp career path change. For the past 17 years the core portion of my work has been to speak in front of groups, typically as a technology trainer. This inherently has introduced me to thousands of others, some of whom have later asked me to speak to their group or write a book for their publishing company. So the work I do helps me become the type of “speaker” you seem to be trying to be. I also got into blogging when it was new along with other social platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. When the social web new, I was unique and I’ve been able to build on that over time. Someone joining these platforms today does not have that advantage. So, I’m not sure I can say any more that others such as Andromeda and Julie haven’t already said. But I will add that having been at this as long as I have I am just this week giving my first “keynote” to a state-level conference. So, no matter how much you’re out there, things like keynotes aren’t going to be offered to you all that often or quickly.

    Third, which so far this has all been a preface to; I’d like to offer what I hope you would consider some constructive criticism. After reading your post and the responses, having never heard of you before, I thought I’d start on your post and see what I could discover about you. Here I ran into what I view as some significant problems. Please feel free to correct me if any of this is wrong…

    * Your about page is a bit short. It works great for a short bio in a program but it doesn’t tell me much about your history. More importantly it doesn’t tell me where you actually work. There are a lot of libraries in “Chicagoland”. And how about a nice headshot. Check out the blogs of the “famous” people. Most, if not all of them, include a nice semi-pro photo.

    * Your CV link goes to a template page. Better that link not appear than for an information-less page.

    * I Googled you. I found your Twitter page, LinkedIn profile, and this blog. I thought it was bad luck that you shared a name with a singer/songwriter. It was only after a bit of surfing through those pages that I realized that they were both you! I know there’s a debate as to whether you should present your work and personal lives separately online but I’d say in your case don’t. Or at least cross link this blog and If I was searching for a speaker, one that could also play a guitar and sing would definitely peak my interest.

    Lastly, and this may be a bit of a repeat from some others but the only person who can change this situation you feel you’re stuck in, is you. You have to put yourself out there. Follow everyone you can online, not just other children’s librarians. Submit proposals at every (appropriate) opportunity.

    Maybe you’re not allowed to mention your library’s name in your blog. Maybe you’re not offered funds to travel. Other respondents have dealt with these issues. But I do wish you all the success you hope to achieve and would be happy to discuss any of these issues with you (or anyone else) further. Just drop me a line.

    Michael Sauers,
    Technology Innovation Librarian,
    Nebraska Library Commission

      1. Ugh. Forever a children’s librarian. I don’t even notice when I’m doing it anymore. BTW, I shared this on ALA Think Tank, but we’ll see how well it goes over with that crew. Ahem.

      1. “And how about a nice headshot.” Michael, I’m assuming you were well intentioned, but this smacks of mansplaining.

        edited to add: Michael, I’m sorry for being kind of a dick. Which is a gender inequality lesson in and of itself, probably. While I personally didn’t need any of this advice (firstly, because honestly I’m not angling for a keynote any time soon, and secondly, I’m aware of all that stuff already and just not worried about it because my focus is elsewhere right now), they are all good points and I am sure many a librarian will find them very helpful. I didn’t, but that doesn’t mean they have no value. Which is something I’ve talked about before–not to dismiss elements/aspects of the profession just because you don’t particularly care about them–and I need to remember to apply to myself.

        So thanks for reading Michael, and I appreciate the intent and the dialogue.

      2. I;m not sure that Micheal’s response didn’t have to do with the topic. The post is about “How do I get myself to be keynote material”?? Michael’s response was another version of Andromeda’s. Pull together your online presence — if it’s too all over the place, you aren’t making a good case for yourself. Accomplished public performer? That helps people know you have chops on a stage in front of a room of folks.

        Your presence, your name, your skills, your thoughts your vita. That’s how you get to be invited to keynote. Michael pointed out concrete examples that Andromeda made more general. But Julie asked the question publicly, loudly on her blog. I see no reason a specific answer would be inappropriate in the comments. Michael didn’t say anything bad about Julie, just gave advice on how to tighten up her presence. Advice that the scores of folks talking and amen’ing this post might be interested in applying to their own online presences. A private answer wouldn’t help that me-too chorus at all.

      3. I never asked how to achieve those things. I can figure that out. I said I don’t see librarians like me having the same exposure and cache as some others have. I never said “I don’t know how.” I simply said “I want.” In the future. And “Follow everyone you can online, not just other children’s librarians. Submit proposals at every (appropriate) opportunity.” just sounds condescending.

        edited to add: I actually don’t think this post is about “How do I get myself to be keynote material”. But I did put the suggestion out there, and the advice offered was good and sound. I should not dismiss it out of hand. But it’s not really the point I was getting at, truly, but I think I didn’t explain it very well. I did say “I” quite a bit, but I’m not that concerned with all of that stuff immediately. I know I am not at that point in my career yet. I am saying, however, that I don’t see a lot of librarians like me who are further along getting a lot of time on a larger stage.

      4. These suggestions Michael and people on other blogs have offered are coming from a good place (even if some of the advice might not be on-point or might be obvious) and to call those people inappropriate or rude or condescending or whatever is short-sighted and rude. Pissing off people who have influence with conference organizers and are offering you friendly advice is short-sighted in the extreme. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over time (by making the same mistakes you are here), the key to having a successful blog and speaking career is to take the chip off your shoulder, be open to criticism, and not take yourself so seriously. Making people who have good intentions feel beaten up for commenting will make them never want to visit your blog again because it feels like a cliquish place where only people who agree with you are welcome. While I don’t necessarily agree with all of Michael’s advice, I was much more surprised (and disappointed) by the response. I really like your writing style and humor (and, as the mom of a 3 year old I love the topics you cover!), but I think you need to be way less defensive in your comments if you want to build a larger community of readers; if you want them to feel welcome.

  18. I love you Julie. And while I have been blessed with so many wonderful male librarians in my life, I’m sick of the glorification of male “rockstar” librarians. I’m sick of that hype. I see those cock-of-the-walk librarians at ALA Annual/Mid-Winter and the pats on the back they get are ridiculous. Not because they’re not deserving, but because us less rockstarry women aren’t giving ourselves the credit we deserve.

    1. Now I kinda want to know who those people are, cuz I think I missed them and their blogs! I’m sure they’re out there, I just never noticed them. I don’t follow any blogs that don’t give me anything useful…and my colleagues don’t allow me to attend keynote sessions anymore because I heckle the speakers under my breath and then our table starts laughing and…we’ve never been thrown out, but only because that last time our adult svs librarian made me leave in the middle, escorted out by our cataloger…but come on, the guy had the MOST LAME powerpoint ever!

  19. I remember my first ALA and all the BIG NAME LIBRARIANS I was supposed to go hear speak and then what? Feel shame because I couldn’t make pie in the sky ideas happen for my large library system that serves one of the poorest patron bases in the country? Am I supposed to be demoralized that I will never be a Mover and Shaker when I have former patrons who are now finishing college stop me on the street and come visit the library (not even the same location!) to tell me how their lives are going? I am so glad I grew out of that.

    I have lost patience with any blogger, tweeter, reviewer etc that doesn’t work in a library making things better for users – not in a theoretical strategic planning way, but in a concrete here is how we can be better librarians tomorrow way. Part of that is that I have no ambitions to be in charge, I love the practical work of librarianship and would not trade it away for power.

    I feel a need to disclaim a few excellent kid and teen librarians who work with librarians directly rather than patrons, they are still lending practical expertise that make things directly better for users.

  20. Hi all,
    I started commenting on twitter @RedheadFangirl but here’s more:

    1/2 I think a great conversation was opened by the egoism post by @himissjulie . I can relate to many of her points, and some comments.
    [especially ‘The only problem is that no one is listening to youth librarians except other youth librarians’ by Anne (@sotomorrow). In our NJLA, we have amazing New Jersey Librarians, and as Chair of the Member Services committee, I’m glad I grabbed a few excellent children’s librarians. Many only spend time with Children’s or YA sections- obviously interesting and part of their job, so I think many are unknown]

    2/2 I disagree with that “librarianship is about books”. Of course I’m an avid reader & advocate, @ulotrichous more than ‘book temple’.
    I can stretch that we are about stories. I’ve spent 10 years working on Adult programming and fighting the perception the library is only for kids and parents (which can leave out the many adults, childfree or not, in their communities). I think we are about our communities, in all the ways we can reach them — books, movies, quilting, storytime, star wars, comics, meeting space, book sales.

    1. “I like books, and I believe librarianship is about books, if you stop and think about how books equal stories, and it doesn’t matter what goddamn container they come in, be it paper, digital, audio, or a film or a video game. Stories are what people crave, and stories (like the storycorp partnership with libraries, or the not so new resurgence of reading aloud to adults–and adult librarians, if you need help on reading aloud, you know who to ask) are what libraries have and always will do best.”

      Star Wars party: based on the Star Wars films, which are stories.
      Movies: stories.
      Quilting: quilts have been used to tell stories, and while quilting, women often trade stories, advice, and even recipes.
      Comics: stories.
      Meeting spaces: People meet to tell stories in the form of tutoring, business meetings, etc.
      Book sales: books. full of stories.

  21. I have no yet commented, but I just wanted to add that I’m pretty sure any “Amen”s that Julie’s hearing would not be not a bunch of people lamenting over their disjointed web-presences.

    Just putting that out there.

  22. Meredith, this is a reply to you, but I’m having trouble replying. I’ve amended my comment to Rudi which I hope clarifies my position a bit. I never intended this post to come off as “gimme all the keynotes libraryland.” I am in no way at that point in my career. I did make statements that came across that way, however, so getting so much well-intentioned, unsolicited advice is completely understandable, and it is all useful and applicable for many people (myself included, when the time comes). Since my website isn’t exhaustive, Michael couldn’t have known–without poring through the archives–that I /have/ presented at conferences. Also, I do follow people on social media who are not youth librarians (many of the people I follow are not librarians at all, even). That point in particular rankled me, implying that I was too short sighted to even deign to observe the library world outside of youth services, which I know was not his intention but it irked me just the same.

    I’ve always had trouble taking both criticism and advice, so I let that tendency get the better of me in regards to Michael’s very nice and well intentioned post. Further, it’s not really the heart of the issue, which I think is: Why are we so dismissive of the fundamentals of our profession, and why does it feel like men who have very little to say about actual library work get the bulk of the attention?

    Is a lot of this jealousy? Sour grapes? The fact that I am currently feverish and ill? Could it be it’s only my perception and not the truth? These things all factor in. I could, honestly, just be an asshole. It’s possible. But I don’t mean to be. And I sometimes let my quick tongue and sarcastic defenses get the better of me.

    Thanks for your input, Meredith. I appreciate you taking the time to tell me to check myself before I wreck myself. Which has been known to happen.

    1. Believe me, I’ve had my moments on my own blog (I remember someone writing almost the same thing I wrote to you six years ago). You’re not an asshole. Based on how you wrote it, I think it’s easy for people to mistake your questions about why certain topics are valued more than others by conference organizers for why am I not getting asked to speak. That said, you make some great points and I’d argue that it goes far beyond just tech being valued. In academic libraries, the Value of Academic Libraries movement is making every director think that assessment is about proving our value to funders rather than about learning and improving our teaching, services, etc. My research lies squarely on the assessment for learning side of things at a time when that is increasingly ignored in the discussion. It’s frustrating, but I’d rather be right than cool.

      I wrote a (sort of) response to your post on my blog. I hope you feel better soon!

  23. You are my library hero. I will immediately nominate you for both Mover and Shaker and Emerging Leader, with the hope of inserting some sanity into the library hype-o-sphere.

  24. I think the root of the problem here is that people care a lot more about what can be done than what is being done. There are tens of thousands of all types of librarians doing what we do.
    Which is great, and helps many people, but is not really interesting (to other librarians), since it is so widespread (which is why there is not much demand). What’s interesting- what people want to hear, see and read- is what they haven’t done.

    I’ve worked in many facet of librarianship. And from a children’s librarian point of view, I changed how I did things, but in the end, I rarely changed what I did. While I would certainly advocate for children’s librarian getting more respect in the librarian world (and have), I do not deign to think that just because I have something to say about what I’m doing, that others would want to hear it. I can understand why people want to read, see and hear about what is new and different, not what I do day in, day out. We cannot satiate demand that does not exist.

    1. I think many of the comments left here by youth services librarian bloggers would speak to the opposite. They are grateful and excited to have a community that talks about books to use, flannel story patterns, and how to adjust department procedures to best meet the needs of their particular community. Just because it isn’t something you’re interested in, doesn’t mean that no one else is.

      1. “.. left here by youth services librarian bloggers” That is, unfortunately, the point. It’s not those in youth services that need convincing, it’s everyone else. And to convince everyone else, you have to consider what THEY are interested in. (For example, writers and publishers want to sell books. They need to learn storytimes can do that as well as a review.) Your views, as a product, are solid and don’t need defending. They need marketing.

  25. Hi Miss Julie! I just posted a quick response to your post on my blog:
    I completely agree when you say that there is a sort of “oh look what I can do” quality shared by most of the keynote speakers at events. I just listen and think, “ok, now what can the rest of us do with this?”

  26. Don’t worry about if you get asked to keynote a conference or if the library “paparazzi” follow you. As exciting as that sounds, I suggest finding and working somewhere where you feel you can make a difference and are allowed the freedom to innovate and are appreciated and you won’t need the external validation anymore. And if you have an internal team that supports you, they will open up opportunities for you. It may be hard to find the right fit but good innovative libraries are looking for good innovative people, not rockstars. But you need to be able to show what you have done in your area of responsibility, not just talk about things other people should do.

  27. Late to the party, I know but since I linked to this one of my posts, it was time to chime in as well…

    I feel what you’re feeling, and those of us who work outside of a library setting sometimes feel it as well. I work for a vendor, and sad but true, there are still some in our profession who equate working for a vendor = selling your soul to Satan. No matter that I have the MLS, that I present and publish, that I was an ALA Emerging Leader – my choice of job has seemed to stereotype me, and some do not look past the Big Ole V. By being vocal about how the two worlds can work together, and showing my commitment to libraries outside of my work life, I’m hoping to change that perception.

    As someone who used to work as a children’s librarian (very briefly – I volunteered at my sister’s library for about 7 months while unemployed/under-employed) I completely respect and admire the work you and all my fellow children/teen librarians do. It was a career path I didn’t pursue at the time mainly because I was working under supervision of a family member (I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS) but I still keep up with some issues and trends, and may revisit it down the line.

    I would rather be known for making changes in culture and helping people (be they the libraries I work with or the students/new professionals that come to me for advice) than throwing the best parties at conference.

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