Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

Exposing Yourself

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.



  1. No, AL, librarians shouldn’t promote themselves openly. They should carefully select a cowardly pen name, give themselves a cute image (possibly a feral cat), and then make fun of everyone who is trying to honestly and openly move the profession forward with the use of new technology. Yeah, that’s the way to go…privacy with an edge. That way they can make a fool of themselves without hurting their careers. Problem is they still have to look at themselves in the mirror every morning. For you to go after bloggers who use their real name is rich. AL, I gave you a chance. Now I’m outta here for good. Adios.

  2. Annoyed Librarian says:

    A very interesting misreading, since absolutely nothing here argues for not blogging under your real name. But then again, I’m used to people reading into this blog all manner of misconceptions. Apparently, all who write under their own name should share everything, like the hipster librarian who wrote in great detail mocking the interviewing process at her local public library. Yes, that’s a good professional strategy.


  3. “It means you do not expose your real self…”

  4. Islamorada says:

    Does this mean that I should stop changing my name every time I post? Or only if I am being a cheeky monkey?

  5. Annoyed Librarian says:

    Oh, Will. First of all, people never expose their real selves, at least not completely. There are always hidden parts. Secondly, savvy professionals will expose the parts of themselves that will benefit them, and keep hidden the parts of themselves that will harm them. The same is true of professional self-promotion that’s true at work. Leave the hobbies and personal obsessions at home, and when you come to the library do your job.

  6. Techserving You says:

    I think that as you say, the key, as in any profession, is to carefully create an online persona. Control, as much as possible, all online content which can be linked to you. I know many librarians who post on as many blogs, listservs, etc. as possible, in their own names, merely so they have an online presence. But, you’re right, AL – what they say is bound to annoy some people. Many of them are very open about and aggressive with their political ideas, and some of them (here I’m no longer talking about politics) post things which reveal a real lack of critical thinking skills, or even an inability to follow a thread. Some people post flat-out stupid and immature things. Others just post opinions – often very strong opinions – with which others completely disagree. I’ve googled potential hires before, and thought, “this person looks really annoying and is likely to be a huge pain in tha a$$ and probably lazy.” So, I think these posts do more harm than good, except maybe if their potential hiring manager is one of those librarians who says, “they might not have understood the topic about which they were responding, but at least they made an effort… they joined the conversation.”

    But, in this day and age, it is (supposedly, anyway) important to have some online presence. A carefully crafted and completely professional LinkedIn profile can be a useful way to maintain an online presence. An open Twitter feed which shows that you post all throughout your work day, is not. I also think that unless you create an entirely separate Facebook profile for your professional life (as some people do) you should keep your Facebook settings very private. And if you do want to have a Twitter page (is that what they’re called?) have one personal one locked down, and another professional one in which you only make short comments about, say, new developments in the field. (Though I still think Twitter is stupid and the only people using it are old people who think it is hip, and librarians.)

    But even if you keep all of your public content very professional in nature, if you have too much going on, I really think it will make people wonder when you’re taking the time to keep it updated. While at work, no doubt. I know one woman (a Mover and Shaker, at that!) who seems to think she’s “on call” all the time. She shows up in my Gmail chat list, and she ALWAYS has a status like “be right back” or “call my phone!” or “chat with me now!” In between these, she’ll have a rapidly changing listing of what music she’s listening to right then. She also has a blog and a constantly changing Twitter feed. She was also one of those devoted Second-Lifers… in fact, apparently being a reference librarian on Second Life was one of her key accomplishments for becoming an “innovator” in the Movers and Shakers list. But I know exactly where she works, and what her job is supposed to entail, and she’s not being paid to do all this on work time.

    I never understand why people think it’s somehow inherently wrong or “cowardly” to ever post anything under a pseudonym. It’s just smart. It’s like employees (yes, I know this is a rarity in the library world) getting together at Happy Hour after work, out of sight of the boss, and venting. At a blog like this one, posting under a pseudonym, as most of us do, is the online equivalent of venting when your boss and your coworkers aren’t around. I have no doubt that there are people who only ever post with their real name, and who criticize those who use pseudonyms, who also go home and vent to their spouses, saying things that they would never want to get back to the people about whom they’re venting. That’s what posting without using your real name is! There’s nothing wrong with it. I post to listservs when I have serious work-related issues to discuss, but when I want to vent, I don’t use my real name. Like I said, that’s just smart.

    And by the way, I’m not at work right now.

    Will Manley – you’re so vain, I bet you think this song is about you.

  7. AL…we are in a new era of openness and transparency. People want their true selves to be outed. There is even a new movement afoot among some library bloggers to display a new photo of themselves every single day on their blog. You might think this is the height of narcissism, but they think it is a kind of self revealing art form. Times have changed, AL. These kids are tired of living in a world where secrets are kept. Privacy is over. Openness is in. It’s fun to watch the cultures clash. But you are right, if you are a hiring authority, it’s never been easier, for better or worse, to do a background check on the newbies. It’s all there on their social networing sites.

  8. Annoyed Librarian says:

    Will, that last comment sounds like a parody of somebody.

  9. You’re right, AL. Not sure which self that was. It gets confusing.

  10. Wow, really? says:

    So I just googled myself and realized that none of the people that came up were me. What then? Would an employer looked at the astrological new-agey persona I found under my name (yikes!) and assume that I’m someone I’m not?

    Some of us, Will, aren’t so hyped up about this newfound “openness and transparency”. Apparently you are one who enjoys this sort of “me me me” attention grabbing. But please don’t speak for the rest of us.

  11. AL, you hit a home run here today! People need to know what professionalism is. Thinking is a practice which comes from common sense. Promoting new technology is great, but do it in a responsible manner. Maybe there is a generation gap here, but I am a boomer and there was a time when privacy was quite valued. I believe – somewhere – it is inherent in human nature and if one has their right to privacy violated, you can bet that person will treasure it.

    I read once that in the Russian language, there is no true or real word for “privacy”. Privacy is a right that shouldn’t be taken for granted – it has come at a very dear price.

    You go A/L!!! :-)

  12. Will said, “I gave you a chance. Now I’m outta here for good. Adios.”

    Will! Don’t go! I look forward to seeing your comments here! Let’s face it, you and the AL have the top two librarian blogs. It is just plain fun to see you comment on the AL’s blog. I hope you will stay and continue to contribute. I’m giving you a chance. Now I’m outta here for now. Do svidaniya!

  13. You’re right, Dan. I just got my two selves confused for a minute there. It’s complicated.

  14. Pobody’s nerfect.

  15. Ok back to this newfound “openness and transparency” – what the heck?? I don’t think that Will has worked in a library for a LONG time. The “information profession” is extremely good and obfuscation and non-communication. We all know that Will entertained us for years with his personal and library lives, but get real – too much self-revelation and it becomes pathetic. Where’s the “off” switch?

    Oh, and that bit about exposing your “real self” – well, how many libraryland leaders have more than one face, depending on whom they are communicating with? Let’s not be shy here; we can all think of several.

  16. I’m not thrilled with creating a fake persona, which the AL seems to suggest here. I’d like to propose a middle ground between AL’s cynicism and some people’s habit of letting it all hang out online. How about presenting the professional you? Think of it as the online equivalent of the way you would conduct yourself in the workplace or at a work-related social event: professional behavior but with some personal (but work-appropriate) information included to the degree you’re comfortable including it. It’s not the whole you (we really don’t need to know the location of all your tattoos, what you do in the bedroom, or how much you drank last weekend), but it isn’t totally phony either. You can be genuine without TMI.

  17. Randal Powell says:

    I agree that professionals who speak out openly might turn off potential employers, but one has to consider whether that is always a bad thing. If someone comments on something that they care about and a potential employer decides not to hire them because the potential employer disagrees with the comment, then the position is probably a bad fit anyway. By being honest, you can screen out places where you would not be happy or successful working. Perhaps the environment is anti-intellectual and stifling. All anyone needs is 1 full-time job at a time.

    There is a larger issue here also. If people are scared to say what they think openly, then how can meaningful change ever take place? And what does it say about librarianship that people are afraid?

  18. NoblesseOblige says:

    AL, it seems like you’re conflating the genuine TMI in twopointopia (“Hire me, I have an ‘Information Wants To Be Free!’ tramp stamp!”) with the unpleasant but important profession-related criticism. I agree with you that the former is self-involved and inane and should be stopped, but I stand behind the latter. As Randal pointed out, being honest about one’s thoughts on profession-related issues can help potential employers by showing them who will genuinely be a good fit in their organization, and it can help job applicants by conveying their true professional self–and that’s an important distinction–to potential employers.

  19. I agree absolutely. Will is completely wrong. There are 2 worlds, the real and the virtual. It’s accepted to have an online persona by everyone. So be very careful how that persona leaks over into the real world. If you really need to same something that you think will get you into trouble, use a fake identity. You won’t get the same satisfaction knowing that the opinion won’t be credited to you, but you’ll cover your ass just in case that opinion is reviled by others who can influence your future. COVER YOUR ASS, should be your #1 rule. …Literally. Or do some squats because gravity is not kind.

  20. Bill Manson says:

    I’m posting here under my real name. I do the same on Will Manley’s blog. Frankly, I think that’s an obligation when I’m talking in Libraryland. In some of my other net appearances — The Straight Dope or the Jeopardy! list, for example — I have a nom-d’net. Those are pure hobby and pure fun.

    But if I’m taking a stand on library stuff, standing behind what I say is a matter of integrity, not privacy. Do some of the people that I work with read here? Possibly. How about Will’s blog? Almost certainly. That keeps me honest when I’m talking about approaches to management, for example. There’s nothing like knowing that you can have your blog-speak quoted back at you in the real world to insure that you post honestly. (It’s also a great motivator to help you manage the way that you say that you should.) How about the people that I work for? Well, I’ve alerted my board to Will’s blog as a means to hear what other people in the business think about the issues great and small that we’re all facing. And some of them have taken me up on it. (One even commented on Will’s obsession with sex surveys.)

    Facebook? I’m glad that there were no camera’s around in the days that library conferences were better to party at than they are now. The mix of public and professional audiences there is sometimes problematic to be sure, especially when I’m talking about capital – P politically sensitive stuff. But, again, honesty and attempted integrity drives me to try to keep my messages consistent. I don’t accept the premise that personae that are not consistent are something that I want to be attached to.

  21. Once or twice, I’ve made a respectful comment on a news site and used my real name. I haven’t done that in years because you never know. Truth is Will can say what he wants using his real name because he is retired, and not moving up in his career. I will not stay where I’m at forever. My future employer might not like something that I wrote no matter how respectfully phrased, and which has nothing to do with the job but could still come to bite me. So, I choose this name because I like the name, and use my real name when writing professionally. I completely agree with Effinglibrarian, and don’t even use my real name for Facebook.

  22. Kim, I am amused at your point about me being retired. It is true that retirement affords a level of freedom, but the fact is I started writing very controversial articles in a monthly column for Wilson Library Bulletin in 1980 when my career was still in its early stages. I continued to write those same sorts of articles under my own name for the past 30 years.

  23. TwitterIsSilly says:

    Randall says: “There is a larger issue here also. If people are scared to say what they think openly, then how can meaningful change ever take place? And what does it say about librarianship that people are afraid?”

    Just look at the vitriol against conservatives in 2 recent letters to the editor in the ALA library journal…why would I assign my real name to opinions (or in onlnine groups I belong to) when so many librarians are so very, very intolerant of those with certain political/religious beliefs? [Intellecutal Freedom evidently only exists for those who believe one way.]

  24. Will was VERY lucky in his career with his employer. He can speak from hims viewpoint, but most people did not have the level of openness and support which he did for 30 years. It’s like a rich Congressman not understanding why universal healthcare is such a big deal.

  25. Dear Techserving you,
    I offer a different viewpoint to counter your assertion, “At a blog like this one, posting under a pseudonym, as most of us do, is the online equivalent of venting when your boss and your coworkers aren’t around.”
    Public venting, even under a pseudonym, is quite different from privately venting to a group of trusted friends, colleagues or one’s partner. One’s friends understand that the tirade or snippiness is a reaction to some event, and just one small part of who you are – and also subject to change very quickly as circumstances change or understanding deepens. They accept the venting, help you work through it, and know it does not define you. Trusted friends do not expose those comments to others. Public online venting, on the other hand, has the potential to damage others (if not oneself), even if done with a pseudonym, whether by casting aspersions or making pronouncements that are not entirely honest or responsible. Writing under one’s own name, especially in professional matters, encourages ethical, thoughtful writing based on reason.

  26. Joneser…I totally agree with you. I was fortunate in my career to work for library directors and library board members who believed in intellectual freedom in theory AND in practice. I also agree with you that not every librarian has the same opportunity as I did. In fact the library profession tends not to practice what it preaches when it comes to intellectual freedom. I have nothing against the use of a pen name. In fact, as long as someone doesn’t use a pen name for the purpose of personal attacks, anonymity can be a very good thing if it allows commentators to get outside of professional norms on important issues with impunity. That’s why I follow AL’s blog. She’s the master at questioning those norms. What I am against is criticizing librarians who use their own names in blogs and social network media by calling it self promotion. And, come to think of it, what is wrong with self promotion? This is America. Everyone has a certain career path in mind. If self promotion moves you along on that career path so be it. My guess is one of the problems with the library profession is that it doesn’t self promote nearly enough. I also see where AL is coming from by saying maybe the newbies reveal too much in their self promotions. But, hey, as a senior citizen all I can say is that every generation is different. Live and let live.

  27. Techserving You says:

    Randal Powell – you actually make a good point, about it possibly being good to turn off employers who disagree with your opinion. Of course, most people are just desperate for any old job and they’ll deal with potential problems down the line. But I’ve gotten to the point where I look for any red flag that might suggest a job would not be a good fit for me. I recently resigned from an “on paper” great job because of how uncomfortable the situation was, with a difference between my opinions, and those of most other people at work. (Most of the others were past traditional retirement age and had worked in the same building, same office, same position for over 30 years, and it was a very oddly repressed environment, in an “elite” institution founded in the 1700s.) I don’t do much in the way of expressing controversial personal opinions at work – I don’t like bringing politics into the workplace, etc., but apparently merely expressing any opinion at all, when you’re “only” 33 was shocking. (“Children” should be seen, not heard.) It probably would have been a good thing if these people had known that I actually like to speak, and hadn’t hired me in the first place.

  28. Randal Powell says:

    Techserving You:

    It amazes me how many library work environments are “repressed”. You would think that people going into librarianship would like books and the ideas that they represent. I’ve met librarians who are so rigid and closed-minded that I wonder if they read anything worthwhile at all.

    I also suspect that some young librarians who take jobs in these repressed environments end up with sabotaged careers.

  29. This is a debate that’s been going on for a long time and both sides have valid points.

    At my workplace, I might not have been hired if they had known that my viewpoints were quite different that what is common in my community. I prefer keeping my viewpoints to myself at work, with the exception of sharing with one person in another department who has become a close friend. Doesn’t mean it’s not a good place to work. It’s been a great first job. Do I want my boss reading my thoughts, including that I don’t plan to stay? No!

    I’ve been on hiring committees where the competition was so stiff that the person who was deemed the best “fit” for the job was hired. The person having that best “fit” has never been the one who put his/her personal views online.

    My guess, Will, is that when you wrote over the years you did get in trouble at times if you were posting controversial opinions, but it sounds like your environment wasn’t such that posting those views could lead to a job loss. Thirty years ago, I’d be surprised to hear that the environment was just as hyper competitive as it is now. No one Googled your name and decided that they didn’t like what he had to say, therefore not hired you in a close race between two candidates. That happens now — I’ve seen it.

    I prefer erring on the safe side, still being easy to find because of all the information I’ve made sure is easily found, i.e., articles es I’ve written, presentations and projects. I also have a password protected website to be shared only with those I wish to share with. To me that’s still self promotion, but in a way that I’m comfortable with.

    Also, some people are more private in nature. They want to enter a conversation on a controversial topic, but are not comfortable that their remarks will float out there in cyberspace through all eternity.

  30. Kim, you are correct. Times have changed drastically. I am now 61 and I entered the library job market when I was 21. Never has the job market been as unbalanced as it is today relative to supply and demand. Everday I count my blessings that I retired 3 years ago before everything cratered. You are also correct in that the landscape of library literature was drastically different pretty much up until ten years ago. In the pre-internet days, there were 3 basic all purpose library magazines – Wilson, LJ, and American Libraries, and then in the early 90s Wilson went under. Opportunities for self promotion were basically limited to serving on ALA committees, running for some state library association offices, winning an award of some kind, or being the “first” to do something (maybe circulate garden tools). Now times couldn’t be more different. Everyone has the opportunity to be a publisher, pr firm, and photography studio right from their laptop. In a terrible job market some folks will use those opportunities to self promote. Is that a bad thing? Not inherently. It shows initiative, technical know-how, and a certain set of social skills that our profession desperately needs. The problem comes with the clash of generations. Some older folks who evolved in a less narcissistic culture aren’t comfortable with it. Should they hire within their comfort zone? I personally say no. I think you should surround yourself with people who are different from you. Not everyone feels that way. So…self promotion on the web is a crap shoot. But as an earlier commenter said…who wants to work with someone who doesn’t respect your skills or viewpoints? In a tough job market maybe that’s a luxury you can’t afford. I say live and let live.

  31. So, do you think that it is necessary for a librarian to create a Blog and self-promote in order to get a job or change jobs in the field of librarianship (especially academic librarianship?

  32. AL gets an A+ for this one. I agree with many of the commenters in this way: it *shouldn’t be this way.* You shouldn’t have to censor yourself in your day-to-day life in order to preserve your ability to get and keep work. Sadly, that’s the reality. Hell, there’s a new term in the Urban Dictionary: “Facebook fired,” to indicate getting fired because of something you posted. Google “Facebook fired” and you’ll run into all sorts of horror stories.

    It wouldn’t be so bad, but this is really nothing new – inside libraries or out. People have been fired based on political affiliation, what they have done in their free time, etc. I’ve even heard of jobs where you have to open up your social networking to your prospective employer just to be considered. (That kills the whole point of having privacy settings, doesn’t it?)

    New article in WSJ today on this very topic:

    Another valuable resource:

  33. SR…if you are directing your question at me, the answer is it depends. If you are going after a job in a library that prides itself in being very tech savvy, getting your name out there in cyberspace can be a big help. Conversely, if you are going for a job in a library that isn’t tech savvy and wants to be, it’s helpful to have established a track record on the internet that shows that you can be an asset to that library. In most cases, however, jobs go to people with excellent interviewing skills, relevant experience, and an up to date set of library skills. Networking is very important for any library job. You cannot network enough. Is networking a form of self promotion? Absolutely. You have to be aggressive in networking in a really bad economy to get the inside track on jobs before they open up. Otherwise, you’ll end up at the University of Baffin Islands in the middle of well, January.

  34. Will, you really can self promote: demonstrate that technical know-how (built two multimedia websites), networking skills (on a number of committees and maintain relationships with others in the field), social skills (responsible for public relations within my community and run three community based outreach programs)… All this can be done without having to put your belief system online. It’s really up to the individual. If you’re comfortable with it fine, but not everyone wants to put their personal lives online. That’s fine too as long as you can demonstrate ease in working in fast paced, computer based world.

    As far as starting a blog is concerned, it depends: not everyone is Will Manley or AL or Effinglibrarian (who is pretty funny if you haven’t read his blog). It’s a cliche, but it’s true that not everyone who writes well has something to say and not everyone who has something to say writes well.

  35. Thanks, Kim. I wasn’t aware of Effing, but I will check out his blog. I’m intrigued.

  36. Sorry, Kim, but it looks to me like Effing has stopped his/her blog.

  37. Too bad. There really aren’t too many good general library blogs out there written about life in the library world. Dancing with Books has one about a dysfunctional workplace at some equally dysfunctional college in the south. I haven’t read it in some time, but it’s good gallows humor. There’s another one by Monster Librarian (still going?) who didn’t find a library job and is running a farm I think. Don’t know if there are others that are general in nature. It’s a lot of work to keep up a blog.

  38. Sorry, wrong name. It’s called Dances with Books.

  39. Thanks, Kim. I will check them out.

  40. Elena1980 says:

    Everything in moderation folks.
    And Elena1980 is not my real name.

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