This week the librarian tribe descended upon unsuspecting Anaheim, California, home to Disneyland and a convention center, among other things. I saw several tweets from librarians going to California to join “the tribe” and those tweets reminded me of something that someone in this profession said to me a few months back-
“Librarians look at the world differently than everyone else. It’s a matter of training and disposition, and they are not comfortable with alternative world views. It’s a very normative profession. I call it a tribal. When you stray from tribal norms, you raise eyebrows”
I have to say, without a doubt, this is a lesson I’ve learned time and time again. And it makes me wonder whether librarians are equally (more?) concerned about maintaining the integrity of the tribe as they are about advancing the profession and the cause of libraries.
There has been a lot of talk this past week on certain blogs about librarian education and credentials and being a “better” librarian. One common theme that seemed to rise to the top, either explicitly or implicitly, was that the standards are too low for the profession. What standards are we talking about?
Intelligence, competency, and credentials only go so far. Skills can be learned on the job. Experience can (and should) be acquired on the job. But the intangible things cannot necessarily be learned or acquired; they simply are. Things like personality, disposition, world view, demeanor, behavior, ability to engage, express, and perceive.
When we look to hire into this tribe, are we focusing on the wrong things? Do we simply hire the candidates most like ourselves–all other things being equal–and is that a good thing? And even if things are not quite equal, rather than going with the safer bet, should we instead be choosing the candidate that makes us a bit uncomfortable?
There are so many issues facing libraries today. How can we hope to get our houses in order if we do not take a good, long look in the mirror at ourselves? We have been good stewards of libraries. We care. We are thorough. We are organized. We are methodical. But how well do we understand the nuances of people and personalities and how we can best connect to them?
Shouldn’t we be hiring librarians who think and behave differently? Who see the world differently? Won’t that necessarily make for better libraries? I sometimes feel that librarianship is a closed society and that only those with a “very particular set of skills,” as Liam Neeson so cryptically stated in Taken, are accepted fully into its ranks. And I’m not talking about professional skills. I’m talking about tribal norms. If you’re not part of the tribe, how welcome or valued are you in this profession?
Are we afraid of something? If so, what?