Friday, September 19, 2008

Librarian Brand Management: Not Just for Lawyers

CBA National editor-in-chief Jordan Furlong really struck a chord among lawyers and legal industry types with his recent Law21 post, “We are all solos”. A more detailed paper on these issues is in the works...

His basic message to lawyers is this: you can’t rely on your firm or anyone else to care about and tend to your personal professional reputation. Adopting the hardworking, fend-for-yourself attitude of a sole practitioner is the only way of ensuring your personal brand and reputation have integrity and staying power.

What makes this worth mentioning to those of us who support the legal industry is that the advice goes for all of us. Jordan’s post and the follow up discussion dovetail nicely with the topic of self-promotion for librarians, and especially for law librarians. We'd all do well to keep it in mind.

Here's a simple question: are credibility and authority less important to a librarians as they are to lawyers? Sure, we’re not in the public eye in the same way. And we don't necessarily need to develop business (ok, well I do... but you get the drift) in the same ways as lawyers do. But at the end of the day, don’t we all want to be known for being good at our jobs? for being trustworthy and knowledgeable colleagues?

SLA president Stephen Abram cuts right to the chase in his “Info Tech” column in August’s issue of Information Outlook. He says, “Librarians cannot afford to be anonymous and generic… We need to state that we’re pretty good more often…. How can we expect to raise our professional profile if we don’t remove the cloak and shyness and head out into the big world of professional services?”

He’s absolutely right. There has never been a riper time for information pros to get out there, take charge of, and promote their own reputations.

Not everyone needs to be well-known, and not everyone aspires to be published or quoted or regarded as a leader. That's not what I'm talking about. But personal reputation does matter. When you’re thinking about a change of jobs, or asking for a raise, or trying for a promotion. And as long as the internet keeps increasing its role in our lives, at the very least, we should be aware of what our online reputations say about us. This should be a priority; at the collective, professional level, and at the individual, personal level.

As I've said before, Librarians were early adopters and opened some big roads through blogging. But blogging, though effective, isn’t for everyone: it takes a certain amount of time and commitment. I get that. But there are plenty of other places and ways to engage the web. And Library professionals need to recognize they have a responsibility to make sure their personal identity is 1) well-maintained and 2) accurate.

Your future employer is going to search your name. Do you know what they're going to find? what that says about you? You should. And yes, if they find nothing, that says something too!

So here's the take away: Plenty of our colleagues have found that they’re very comfortable (and even having fun!) on Twitter, charting their personal network on LinkedIn, or contributing to group blogs (e.g., VALL Blog and ELLA Blog). Are you social bookmarking? And if so, are you using the networking feature to establish connections with your colleagues? There's a law library social network over at Ning. Did you know that? Every one of these tools can pay dividends, and each in a slightly different way.

Abram points out that there was a time when it was controversial for a firm librarian to have a business card. Now, as he asserts, that’s the bare minimum; and that “Our reputation will play out in the social web space as much as anywhere else. We need to get good at this.”

Yes we do. The simple fact is: librarians need to create & engage the online world in some capacity. Especially if you're under 50 (maybe under 60, for that matter). The benefits are good for the profession, and for individuals.

I can't help but feel that those that don't, are going to pay a price.


Blogger Wendy Reynolds said...

Thank you for this post, Steve. It passionately articulates concerns I've had for a little while now. I agree that not everyone needs to be "branded" out in the Web 2.0 world, but there are many lessons from these tools which can be adapted and used inside our organisations.

Sharepoint 2007 includes a blog webpart - why not use this inside your organisation to create a library newsletter? I'm messing about with Delicious to see if I can add social bookmarks to the way we deliver current awareness. And while I'm still unconvinced that Twitter has a practical use in my worklife, I'm willing to be open-minded.

Anonymity, as you say, is a luxury we can ill afford. It's also arguably impossible. The concept of personal privacy is changing, and we need to be aware of the traces we leave behind.

Better to deliberately communicate a well-planned message, than leave behind a mess.

5:43 AM  
Blogger Steve Matthews said...

All good points, Wendy. Delicious btw, could be an awesome group content exchange project. Get multiple like-minded parties to contribute, mix the bookmark feeds... maybe we should coin the 'User Generated Current Awareness' phrase now? ;)

And Twitter is simply a tool, which can relay information of varying quality. Want to use it be informative, or for corporate purposes, then do it! Never see the tool as it's currently being used. The key is to go beyond the status quo and use it your way. creatively.

8:51 AM  

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