Librarians Sophie Brookover, Liz Burns, and Kelly Jensen were rooming together at the American Library Association (ALA) midwinter meeting in Seattle a few months ago when they began discussing a troublesome issue: the fact that librarians are not always adept at promoting their achievements, despite a widespread feeling that the field needs more recognition.
Among librarians, “self promotion can feel like a dirty word, because the purpose of librarianship is a call to service,” says Brookover, program coordinator and social media manager for LibraryLinkNJ, the New Jersey library cooperative. There’s a “feeling that you can’t do both.”
The three women, all bloggers themselves (Sophie at Sophiebiblio; Liz at SLJ’s A Chair, a Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy, and Kelly at Stacked), kept talking. “We said, ‘let’s turn this idea on its head, and give our colleagues a venue to show what they’ve been doing. We know you’ve been doing great things.’”
The result has been Show Me the Awesome: 30 Days of Self-Promotion, a month-long online event and opportunity for librarians in different specialties to highlight their many accomplishments. Each day in May, a different librarian has been posting in a topic of their choice, sharing his or her innovations and offering tips not only for librarians in their specialties, but for others in the field.
After posting calls for ideas—on Twitter, Facebook, and their blogs—”the response exceeded our wildest expectations,” says Brookover.
People have a lot to share. For instance, in the inaugural May 1 entry, “Reporting,” librarian Rachel Keeler offers valuable advice about how to write quality quarterly reports—not the most glamorous aspect of the job, she admits, but a crucial one nonetheless. Wendy Stephens’s May 6 entry, “Serving Teen Parents—It’s Awesome,” discusses her experience working with this population, “one of the biggest issues I’ve encountered as a teen librarian,” she writes.
Children’s librarian Katie Salo’s five-part entry, “How I Grew Storytime attendance by 61 Percent,” explains how she managed to pull off this impressive feat. “She has a clear specialty, but her insight and advice can be applicable elsewhere,” Brookover points out.
“We have participants from every corner of the English speaking world,” notes Brookover, pointing to the entry “Immersive Play in the 21st Century Library” (May 16) by library consultant Matthew Finch, in which he shares some of the strategies he uses in Auckland, New Zealand, libraries.
Jensen, a teen services librarian based in Wisconsin, and Burns, a librarian based in New Jersey, also linked their blogs to the project, as have contributors.
The response to Show Me the Awesome has been so awesome that there is talk of doing a follow-up. If so, Brookover says she hopes that the high-profile nature of the first iteration “would lead to a greater diversity of contributors and more international contributions.”
She adds, “we can all benefit from seeing what’s going on. The diversity of opinions and experience has been remarkable.”
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