Sunday, May 10, 2015

How to Become a Rockstar Librarian in 10 Simple Steps

So, I guess for all my admonitions to "just be cool", it turns out I can be pretty caustic and pretty cynical myself. By way of proof, I offer up the list, "How to Become a Rockstar Librarian in 10 Simple Steps".

See, the term (and archetype) Rockstar Librarian has become a sort of short-hand in our profession for those thought leaders, innovators, and agents of change who manage to become well-known in the profession. These Rockstar Librarians typically pen columns, present at conferences, write influential blogs, end up on various "best and brightest" lists, and deliver keynote addresses. The truth is, many Rockstar Librarians are lovely people. They sincerely want the profession to grow, to flourish and to remain relevant. They want libraries to improve and they want the lives of library users to improve as well.

That said, there are a number of pretty unflattering behaviors associated with the Rockstar Librarian type. These include an inflated sense of self-importance, a conviction that they and they alone know what's right for the profession and a rigorously pedantic approach to addressing the issues facing libraries. It was with those Rockstar Librarians in mind that I wrote this list. (I should also mention that there's something a bit unnerving in the hierarchical aspect of the Rockstar Librarian. We are, after all, a profession that values both diversity of thought and the process of examining issues from all points of view. By elevating the beliefs of individuals who may have no more experiences than the rest of us to the level of experts seems to undermine those principles).

Keen observers will note that the "steps" I prescribe amount to a classic strawman fallacy laid out in the form of a listicle. I've created an impossibly awful Rockstar Librarian (a caricature if you will) and proffered it up for mockery and attack. Keen observers will also note that I'm actually engaging in some of the exact behaviors that I ridicule (i.e. picking fights, mocking stereotypes, arguing from personal experience, etc.). To that I say, "Guilty, guilty and guilty". Realistically though, if I waited around for some flawless and blameless version of myself to materialize and publish this, it would never get posted. In the end I suppose I'm willing to answer charges of hypocrisy and sour grapes for the sake of a few laughs and maybe a larger conversation.

At the end of the day, I really do want us to "just be cool". This is a big profession after all. We're a diverse group and we serve an even more diverse public. We have a lot to teach each other, and a lot to learn from one another. I'd like to think we can do that in a way that's respectful and considered. I'd also like to think that we can encourage one another to make a difference regardless of which path we choose and what work we do. In that sense, I'll join the thebossladywrites and hope that perhaps we'll soon see the end of the Rockstar Librarian.

Until then, and if you still insist on becoming one yourself, I present:

How to Become a Rockstar Librarian in 10 Simple Steps

1. Refute Conventional Wisdom. Always. No matter what. Even if conventional wisdom is actually right, refute it. You'll look all the more visionary!

2. Develop a Set of Perfectly True yet Somehow Vague and Unactionable Pronouncements. "We need to invent the future of libraries", "We are in a partnership with our users", "Our task is to align our outcomes with our community's needs".

3. Mock Library Stereotypes. Do this relentlessly. Remember, the more condescending and mean-spirited your mockery is, the more more knowing you'll appear.

4. Pick Fights on Twitter.

5. Engage in Relentless Self-Promotion. Remember, you can't create a library based on your personal preferences unless you put yourself, your opinions and your worldview at the center of it. Build a strong personal brand and promote it without shame. Others will follow.

6. Accessorize and Individualize. A fashion forward image is critical. No Rockstar Librarian ever showed up to work in a brown suit or off the rack career separates.

7. Pick more Fights on Twitter. This time with strangers. (Pro Tip: Make people feel bad for caring about things that don't matter to you).

8. Declare the Death of Things. Consider these, "Print is dead",  "Physical formats are dead", "Reference is dead", "The catalog is dead", and even "The library is dead".

9. Embrace Solipsism. Know that your Rockstar Librarian credentials come from personal experience, not empirical data. As such, make sure you relate to others in a way that focuses attention on you. The following are some great sentence starters, "At my library...", "When I was in charge...", "It is my belief...", "In my experience...", "What I did was...". Can you think of more?

10. Practice Effective Time Management: If you find yourself spending more time serving others than promoting your agenda, you're doing it wrong.



  1. Excatly! Cataloging is dead. Keywords and user generated tags are all we'll need in the future!