This excellent post on Guy Librarian got me thinking about superstar librarians. I agree with Alex that librarians need to be more like Lady Bird Johnson (actively advocating and changing things) than Lady Gaga (glitz for the sake of glitz). I have a lot to say about advocacy, but Alex’s post inspired me in another direction.
I have come to the somewhat embarrassing conclusion that I am jealous of Superstar Librarians.
There are a lot of rock star librarians out there, especially in the blogosphere. I don’t mean literally (although many librarians are musicians too). I mean the young up-and-coming librarian that always seems to be doing something way cooler than you are, and on a tighter budget. The digital-savvy, geek chic librarian who is invited to join panels and speak at conferences and has already published twelve book chapters or articles. The go-getter librarian who is constantly improving things at his/her library and turning those achievements or failures into job talks, best practices, and learning experiences. Needless to say, these are the people that seem to work at the coolest libraries.
Maybe you work with somebody like this? Maybe you’re competing with Ms. or Mr. Perfect Librarian on the job market. Maybe you are the Librarian Superstar at your library! Without being bitter or defensive, can we all at least acknowledge that not everyone can be a superstar all the time?
As starstruck as I am by these “cool” librarians, I think I’m also suffering from library envy. I’ve been feeling a little burnt out lately (due to the dead months of the summer?). Seeing how industrious some of my coworkers are and reading the happy-go-lucky exploits of “emerging leaders” in the blogs I follow have left me feeling dizzy and overwhelmed.
I’m usually not a competitive person, but being one of the youngest members on staff has me feeling a lot of pressure to do something new and innovative. I expected to have certain ideas shot down as a new librarian; I didn’t expect to be blocked for ideas!
I think maybe the discrepancy here is that by the time somebody writes about or gives a presentation about a creative accomplishment at their library, all the grunt work is behind them. The day-to-day, 40-hour-a-week pattern of a full time job has been condensed and edited to make a nice picture–fast forward to the future!
We don’t see that Superstar librarian at the reference desk being asked whether she has any binder clips. No? How about a rubber band? If not, I guess a paper clip would do. We see the Superstar roving around with an iPad and having nothing but positive interactions with patrons otherwise reticent to approach a shy or intimidating librarian.
Coming back to Alex’s point in his post…
The old catch phrases are tired. For example, when I was getting trained to be a teacher, the phrase “creating lifelong learners” started to make my eyes roll. It became a slogan without much substance. Saying you want to create lifelong learners is not daring. Explaining how you would do it, is.
I think librarians need to share more about the challenges and daily activities of our jobs both with the public and each other, and more importantly, we need to discuss how these activities relate to our overall mission and goals. These conversations happen a lot at conferences, but they need to be happening in libraries themselves.
And those superstars need to show us a small degree of human frailty. Please.