I think most of us in this profession are familiar with the term “peer review” as it relates to academic publications. A peer-reviewed journal article is one that has been evaluated by one’s peers. Peer is defined by Merriam-Webster as “one that is of equal standing with another.” 

In a small or medium-sized (maybe even a large one) library or library-related organization, who are your peers? Are your peers everyone with the same level of education? Everyone on the same level in your organization’s hierarchy? Everyone you go to for advice and guidance? Or just plain everyone? And does it matter?

In a flat organization, one goal is to “promote employee involvement through a decentralized decision-making process by elevating the level of responsibility of baseline employees and eliminating layers of middle management.” In this type of organization, it stands to reason that all employees are peers. However, my experience has shown me that very few library organizations are flat. Most have hierarchies firmly in place.

And that often presents a problem because there are so many MLS (or the equivalent) librarians working in staff-level positions. They have the credentials, but they do not have the titles. Therefore, are their peers other MLS librarians, fellow staff, or both? And what about non-MLS staff working in management positions? There are those, too. Who are their peers? And what about non-MLS, non-managerial staff? Do they have no standing as peers with anyone other than coworkers with the same level of education?

It’s a small distinction but it could be an important one depending upon how your organization defines “peer” as well as the type of culture your organization seeks to achieve. For me, personally, I believe that a group of people working together toward a common goal of moving an organization forward is clearly a group of peers regardless of position, degree, hierarchy, or status. They may have differing levels of responsibility as defined by their job descriptions; however, when it comes to collaborating and advancing the mission, they are peers in that process. Calling them anything else would simply undermine the value of individual contributions to the overreaching goals of the group.

Do you think it’s important to define who your peers are within your organization? If so, why? If not, why not?