Ironically, three days after I wrote my last post–Librarian X-factor?–I found myself sitting in a room with my coworkers discovering just what that x-factor may very well be, at least in part.

My System office has been undergoing a culture change initiative. We have been working with a consultant on team building exercises and exploring other issues in order to change the culture of our workplace. Our System Administrator has given his blessing for me to write this post, and for that I am grateful. He is a great leader, and I appreciate his openness and his trust.

As part of this culture change initiative, we completed an online, partial DISC assessment. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this assessment, DISC is a personality assessment that asks questions in order to determine personality type based upon responses. The personality “types” include D for dominance; I for influence; S for supportiveness; and C for conscientiousness. According to the handout from our consultant, Rhonda Campbell, the DISC personal profile system was published in 1972 by Inscape Publishing using The work of Dr. William Moulton Marston published in 1928 and entitled Emotions of Normal People. Rhonda relied on the publication I’m Stuck, You’re Stuck, by Tom Ritchie with Alan Axelrod, for some of the statistics that I will be outlining below.

According to the statistics, an average group taking the profile scores something like this:

D: 22%
I: 28%
S: 23%
C: 27%

Our library System staff scored as follows:

D: 11%
I: 26%
S: 37%
C: 63%

First, let me point out that, of course, these percentages do not add up to 100. That is because 6 of us had multiple letters assigned to us. But even taking that into consideration one can see that we are heavily weighted with “Cs.”

So, what does it mean to be a “C”? These are the hallmarks of a “C” culture-

  • Accuracy
  • Completeness
  • Attention to detail
  • On-time performance
  • Dependability

The advantages of a “C” culture include:

  • Calculates risks thoroughly
  • Delivers exceptional quality control
  • Makes decisions logically
  • Ensures accuracy
  • Clarifies policies & expectations
  • Emphasizes reliability and precision
  • Respects people’s rights
  • Provides well-defined goals

The disadvantages of a “C” culture include:

  • Overanalyzes
  • Misses opportunities due to excess caution
  • Lacks outward excitement & energy
  • Stifles informal communication
  • Fails to foster a strong sense of community
  • Ignores people’s feelings
  • Feels critical, cold, or cynical to some
  • Closes itself off to outsiders

Is anyone surprised that a group of librarians and library staff scored a collective high C? Probably not. So what does this mean?

While I am not one to completely buy into “labeling” people based upon assessments like this (I think there’s a lot more to a person than what can be captured in a few answers to tricky questions), I do think it is perhaps indicative of a weakness in the profession. Anytime you have a culture where there is a predominant worldview, you are going to have a culture that lacks perspective and maybe ends up doing what has always been done just because it is safe and known and comfortable. And maybe that same culture ends up hiring the same type of people because they are safe and known and comfortable, too.

Is there anything inherently wrong with that? Well, no. I can say with certainly that we have a staff of competent, dedicated, passionate professionals who do the best job they can every day.

But there is a reason why we are trying to change our work culture. And I think an argument can be made as to why it would be beneficial to have more Ds (Decides and moves quickly) and Is (Persuades others) and Ss (Relates warmly to others) in the library world.

We are smothering ourselves with “likeness.” One could argue that this profession simply does not attract other, more adventurous, personalities. Or, one could argue, that when these other, “different” personalities appear at our doors, we turn them away because they do not “fit.”

And that is a damn shame.

I am posting this as an example. I don’t know what it means, if anything. But I sense that it is important. And as someone who scored a three-way tie–DSC–I can finally put into perspective my long-held belief that I am an outsider in the field. But like many other outsiders in the field, I bring a different, unique perspective that is just as important as the traditional views.

The reason for this post is not to judge or admonish but rather to illustrate. Libraries have survived for decades and maybe the very reason for that is our collective, cautious nature. But I think we need to ask ourselves if this profession can survive another decade or two without opening our ranks to the unknown–to those who make us slightly uncomfortable.

I’m excited about the potential for the future of my organization. I think we are making important advances in understanding what we do and why we do it and how we could do it differently. Change for the sake of change is a waste of time and resources. But change for the sake of advancement is change worth realizing.

Is there a librarian x-factor? I don’t know. But I do know this: our strength as a profession lies in our differences not in our sameness. I think when we recognize that simple fact we will be ready to tackle any challenge and overcome any obstacle.