Almost Famous

posted in: Librarianship, Responses | 0

The best part of Roy Tennant’s new post on Library Journal, How to Become (and Stay) Famous?

This comment:

Do we actually have professional colleagues who think strategically about the steps they will take to become “famous”? If so, I’m not sure what to make of it. If you work hard, publish (have a voice and ideas that resonate with others) and take the right risks, you can emerge as someone with ideas that might influence others and gain some attention in the profession. But I guess my feeling is that if it happens, it happens. If you are taking steps and plotting a course to make it happen – that just strikes me as a bit – I don’t know. Off putting. Creepy. Narcissistic. Maybe I’m wrong. Perhaps it’s better to make it known that you want to be famous. I guess I’m from the old school where it goes something like – you don’t need to tell people you’re good, if you’re are they’ll know it. At least that’s the advice I gave my kids. Maybe it doesn’t work that way anymore and you have to more aggressive about seeking fame.

Some of the points Tennant makes are good ones, especially #4 about consistently providing value. But I agree even more with commenter stevenb that libraryland “fame” should come secondary, as a positive consequence of providing value, not providing value for fame. This is also true of #5, making connections. No one librarians in a vacuum, we are social creatures and we collaborate, but putting it under the guise of ‘Guidelines for Fame’ seems to suggest making connections with the intent of using them to propel you to your desired outcome, not to share ideas, foster discourse, and/or develop actual relationships with your fellows. I’m sure none of the points in the post were meant in such a callous way but each of the suggestions, taken under the title of using them to reach the goal of fame, seems cheap and goes against what feels to me to be a strongly ingrained value in our profession.

I don’t have anything against self promotion, especially when you have a strong and salient point to make. But it’s more and more fluff in the name of fame, which makes us no better than those social media gurus who trawl Twitter and have an inexplicable number of followers and yet provide no meaningful content. Stevenb makes the point in his comment that if you’re actually good you won’t have to tell anyone, they’ll know. In my last post I made a similar argument about coolness and how libraries (and librarians) try too hard to prove they are and in doing so succeed only in dispelling any potential cool they might have had. Fame, whether it be in library land or not, is most often a product of not just talent or skill or luck, but a combination of that and hard work. But even so librarianship is not pop music, there is no star factory with a tested formula for making hits, and for some librarians “fame” is never going to come. But that doesn’t mean the ones who really care and want to better the profession through their knowledge will stop blogging or contributing to the conversation.

Self promotion is important and useful, but when you’re pushing your own content over and over and shrieking for the sake of popularity and followers it points very tellingly to one of Tennant’s introductory reasons for seeking fame: ego.

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