Sunday, April 16, 2006


It's All About...?

Another thread in this whole "movers and shakers" flap highlights a seeming aversion to anything that smacks of "self promotion." This might be funny, if we didn't tend to be so bad at it. We spend so much energy and time promoting our institutions -- our services, our programs, our collections -- that we don't usually have much left over for promoting ourselves: the very people who create and run those services, those programs, and those collections.

We somehow seem to equate self promotion with crass commercialism or ME ME MEism. A broader and gentler definition, though, sees professional activities as inherently self promoting. Of course they are! People know Jenny (and Walt and Dorothea and...) because they are out there DOING. Whether you create online resources or participate on ALA Council or speak at conferences or write for professional publication, any given professional activity to which your name is attached reflects on you. (Hopefully, it reflects positively on you!)

It doesn't matter if you create or write or speak out of a wish to give back to the community (or to be compensated, or to have a voice in your association). If you participate in enough venues, for long enough, you are going to build a name for yourself. This is OK. People are more likely to listen to what you have to say if you have some kind of track record. If you have something to say, it's better if people pay attention, in whatever small way. If people know your name, this translates into more opportunities to create and write and speak, which is a nice self-perpetuating cycle.

I was surprised the first time someone came up to me at a conference and said "I know you -- you're the LISjobs person!" I didn't create the LISjobs site to promote myself; it grew out of a library school assignment 10 years ago. My classmates wanted copies of a list of library job sites I'd put together as a one-page "here's how to practice HTML" document, so I figured I'd go ahead and put it online. (It's grown somewhat since.) I don't keep it up primarily to promote myself, but as my way of giving back to the library community. I don't have the financial backing or political savvy to serve on ALA Council or committees or what have you, but I can put resources out there to help people find jobs and develop professionally and write for publication.

On the other hand, though, now that people do know about and use the site, I'd be foolish not to put information on there about my books, or not to put my resume on there so people can see what I've written or contact me about speaking engagements. Sure, that's self promotion. There's a difference between: "Hey, if you like this site, you might like my books, and here's a link to read more about the person who created it" and a contextless: "READ MY BOOK IT IS SO COOL ME ME ME" over and over on mailing lists.

Library folks are pretty savvy, and can figure out the difference between blatant and contentless advertising and self promotion in the context of professional activity and providing useful content. It would be a shame if Walt Crawford decided to give up producing Cites & Insights for fear people found it self promoting. It's professional, it has useful content, and, if people know his name because of it, more power to him! "Keeping on keeping on" is self promotional in itself -- where else does name recognition come from?

Our professional contributions and activities make this a profession, rather than a field in which we all happen to work. I, for one, am happy to give credit to people's individual contributions.

I agree entirely with you about self promotion. It is not a dirty word. I have been accused of it in the past with the work I have done on wireless technology in libraries and earlier work I did on internet resources in agriculture. I am proud of what Ihave done and feel no shame in laying claim to good work.

Many librarians out there need to be less humble and need to come forward and let others know what they are doing. What you are doing will inspire others to do more.
I once inherited a library project where the rather generous grant funding for the previous year had stated in its narrative that no funding for publicity was required as everyone already knew about the service. Naturally, that was far from the case, but the grant tied my hands from doing any real advocacy.
I quite agree, Rachel.

There's a "Shameless Self Promotion" topic at WebJunction ( that hardly anyone posts in.

Which is a shame in itself.
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I'm sorry, was that self promotion?
There are self-promoters and ambitious poster children in every profession. In general, they don't truly effect the profession or its true professionals.

Library Journal, aside from its book reviews, is basically the People Magazine or Men's Health of the profession. Occasionally, I'll find something of real value there. More often than not, however, it's more about entertainment. Nothing wrong with that, so long as you know what you're reading.
and i almost forgot--but how could i--that your site is pretty much the definition of shameless self promotion. may not have started out that way, but that's certainly how it is.
Regarding the last post of anonymous, who claims that is self promotion: it this were truly about shameless self promotion, it would have BIG picture of Rachel and lots more pointers to Rachel herself.

Sure, Rachel's resume and services can be found but I would not consider this a shameless self promotion website at all.
well, dennie, you're absolutely wrong. sorry.

but don't get me wrong; i'm not saying there is anything wrong with shameless self promotion. but let's just admit it freely and not beat around some semantic bush of bullshit.
and one other thing: i am a professional librarian because i have the education, training, job description and the pay necessary to make me a professional librarian. it has nothing to do with how many conferences i've attended or how many articles or books i've gotten published. not everybody has the time or inclination for publishing or networking; therefore, it is not an accurate measure of who--or what--is or is not professional.
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