Thursday, October 02, 2014

The stratosphere in the library profession & a call for a change

Galaxies 'Coming of Age' in Cosmic Blobs (NASA, Chandra, 6/24/09)Since May of this year, there has been a conversation about how members of our profession conduct themselves at conferences.  The conversation has swirled, coalesced, and then swirled again...and its not yet done.  Rather than point you towards the conversation, which might give a splintered point of view, I want to put forth a call for a change in how the stratosphere - those held in super high regard - in our profession is created and what their obligations are.

First, who is in the library profession's stratosphere?  This is an ill defined group and likely we won't agree on who is in it.  However, to me, it includes:
  • Movers and Shakers
  • Emerging Leaders
  • Those that regularly give keynotes at large library conference
  • Those in library and library association leadership positions
  • Those to whom much has been given (e.g., phenomenal institution or community support)
  • Anyone else who has been put on a pedestal

Yes, it is a big group. Potentially some don't stay in the stratosphere forever.

Second, while this is what I deem the stratosphere to be in our profession, how should the stratosphere really be created? It needs to be less about a small group moving others into the stratosphere...and less about people self-nominating themselves...and more building consensus about who really is doing phenomenal work.  I know...this is not and would not be easy, but it should allow us to acknowledge the real movers and shakers in our industry.

Finally, no matter how it is created, I think those in the stratosphere need to live up to a higher calling.  As the saying goes:
To those whom much is given, much is expected. - John F. Kennedy
 If you are in the stratosphere, here are my expectations of you:
  • You didn't rise into the stratosphere on your own.  You had help.  Now turn around and help someone else in the profession.  That help could be in providing introductions, in including that person in conversations, in helping that person get a job or a conference gig, or something else.
  • When you look to "lift others up" into the stratosphere, don't just help those that look like you, who went to the same university as you, or who work with you.   We are a diverse profession, yet the stratosphere isn't as diverse as it should be.  Help to change that.
  • Listen more than you talk.  Yes, we want to hear what you have to say, but we also want you to hear what we have to say.  As a member of the stratosphere, you are in a position to create change, and we have information and opinions that you need to hear...that we want you to hear.
  • Abide by the codes of conduct that are being adopted by associations and conferences.  Even if the association you're in or the conference you're attending doesn't have a code of conduct, abide by those codes that others are adopting.  The codes are there to protect everyone, including you.  And if for no other reason, do this because it will help you to continue to set a good example.
  • Recognize that you represent all of us, not only to members of our profession, but also to those unfamiliar with our profession.  If people begin to talk about your actions more than about what you say, you are hurting the profession.
  • If you hear yourself saying that you don't care what other people think about you - and you say it a lot - stop and listen. You're ignoring feedback that you need to hear and likely act on.  
I'll stop there, although I'm sure there is more that I could say.  I do know that more will be said by others, because this is a topic that is not going away soon.


Paul Signorelli said...

Repeating my comment from your Facebook posting: Great checklist and set of reminders for all of us regardless of the position(s) we hold. Thanks for writing it, Jill.

Kate McCaffrey said...

This is a remarkable piece, and one that reflects some of my own thinking, and opinions I've heard expressed by colleagues lately - thank you, Jill!

Unknown said...

Beautifully said. :)

Anonymous said...

Well said. Applies broadly to information professionals (not just librarians, but archivists and records managers, as well). I know a few exemplary leaders among information professionals who can be considered to be in the stratosphere yet who model the behaviors on your checklist of expectations. On April 1, 2009, you published a blog post about "Identity, Reputation, Authenticity, and Community." It looked at perceptions across platforms and how a community builds (and can take away) reputations based on those perceptions. What we do online leaves electronic footprints. We don't know who is observing them, studying our record. Not only do we represent ourselves and our professions, we are creating impressions that are viewed by LIS students, job seekers, potential employers, and stakeholders. That is not to say all perceptions are fair or warranted. Misunderstandings occur at times. But what we do and how we do it matters on so many levels! In present and for the future. We are stewards! Thanks for reminding us of that.

Maarja Krusten