I’ve been thinking more about that hipster librarian. Well, not so much her as about her blog, and not so much about her blog specifically as the ways that new librarians interact with social media to promote themselves. So I guess I haven’t really been thinking about her at all.
Just as I’m glad that when I was in high school and college every inconsiderate jerk within eyesight didn’t have a cell-phone camera and a Facebook account, I’m also glad that when I was starting out as a librarian it wasn’t so easy to share yourself with the world, because I’m not sure that would have been good for me, just as I’m not sure it’s good for library school students and new librarians today.
Though the people who snap everyone’s photo at public gatherings and post them to Facebook have no concern for privacy, I like privacy. Privacy is good for you, and contrary to the false claims of some, privacy is still attainable as long as you choose it.
Which leads me to my question, should students and newer librarians choose privacy? We could also ask what choosing privacy means.
It means that you don’t share your entire life and opinions with everyone in the world through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Friendfeed, Foursquare, Ning, Tumblr, Blogger, or Social Media du Jour. It means you don’t go commenting on every blog post or news article you read (at least under your own name). It means you do not expose your real self for people to evaluate when it comes hiring time.
Whatever you say is going to annoy someone, and that someone might be hiring, so it pays to be careful.
But, others would say, librarians who don’t drink the twopointopian kool-aid and promote themselves in every way possible will never succeed! That’s the sort of malarkey some librarians like to spread about, but it’s obviously false. The fact that most librarians, even new ones, don’t blog or tweet proves it’s a lie.
It’s sort of like being hip. If you’re smart and do your job well, nobody cares if you blog or tweet. You might get fewer invitations to speak, but that’s about it.
There is a third way between the hyperexposure of some self-obsessed librarians and the silence of others, and at least one good reason that newer librarians should experiment carefully with social media. If search committees Google you and find your ill-considered rant on your last interview experience, it’s a problem. But if they Google you and find nothing but Facebook pages of people with similar names, it could also be a problem. It won’t cost you the job necessarily, but it squanders an opportunity. So what to do?
You create a persona that you want the public to find online. You have to be careful with this, because you need to think about what other librarians want to see, especially other librarians who might be hiring. Remember that this persona isn’t about you; it’s about other people.
Other librarians don’t want to see you poking fun at cherished dogma, so don’t make fun of “banned” books or anything like that. Other librarians do want to see excitement and passion and knowledge about libraries, so pretend to be excited and passionate and learn something about libraries you can pass along to the hapless many who can’t keep up on their own.
Apparently there are a lot of librarians who have to turn to others for inspiration, so try to be inspirational, too. As far as I can tell, that means pretending bad things don’t exist, and talking up everything else as if it were the greatest thing in the world. And use feel instead of think, because inspirational people feel a lot. Librarians at the end of their tether want reassurance they’re not wasting their life, and you can offer them that reassurance. Who cares if it isn’t true?
How you do this will depend on your talents. If you can write quickly, blogging might be good. Steady blogging is hard work, though, so you might want to try something easier.
Twitter is good for short thoughts. If you have lots of good short thoughts, lots of people might follow you, but even a few short thoughts are sufficient for the purpose of Googling you. Just make sure they’re excited and passionate and inspirational.
None of this has to be extensive, just enough so that when people Google you they find what you want them to find. Lock your Facebook page down to actual friends and steer other professionals to your carefully crafted LinkedIn page or Twitter feed.
The most important thing to remember is that this isn’t you. It might be based on you or informed by your interests, but it’s not you. It’s not real. It’s a character you’re playing for the library world. People who don’t know you don’t really care about your personal interests, and if you write about them people will read only to see if you’re a freak, and that’s something you should keep to yourself.
My advice, don’t expose yourself. Give people a self they’re going to like and just pretend you’re exposing yourself. Before every public expression, ask yourself if it’s the sort of thing you want other librarians to associate with your name. If you’re clever, you can pull it off. If you’re not clever, then go find another line of work.
With all the advice I’ve been doling out this week, I should rename this blog Annoyed Agony Aunt. Next week I’ll be back to griping just so people won’t think I’ve gone soft.