Famous ≠ Important

Sometimes a subject will embed itself in the world of librarianship like a splinter in our collective finger and we just can’t let it go, like when we’re told that we aren’t a stressful profession or Seth Godin gazes into his crystal ball to let us know our future. The current logjam swirling around is about “famous” librarians, kicked into high gear by Julie Jurgens’s now-infamous post (though Stephen Abram wrote about “the Rock Star Dilemma” back in November 2012 and there has been hoopla in the past over the criteria used by Library Journal to choose Movers & Shakers, most recently by Valerie Forrestal). Andromeda Yelton and Bobbi Newman wrote follow-up posts on how to make yourself more marketable as a keynote speaker, and while their advice is sound, it seems to be a misreading of Julie’s core idea. Meredith Farkas’s follow-up is on the nose at getting to Julie’s point, which is more about decrying the current idea of “library rock stars” than wanting to become one of them. It’s about your work being viewed as important, not about being famous (I agree in theory with what Lynda Kellam recently wrote about how she defines library fame; I just don’t agree that that work should be labeled as “fame”. Anna Mickelsen and Kristin LaLonde also wrote responses worth reading).

As someone who hosts a podcast that holds up librarians as paragons, isn’t this a strange, hypocritical thing for me to be complaining about? Well, I’ve talked about the issue twice on the show: once with Jessamyn West, when I jokingly asked what it was like to be an international rock star librarian living in rural Vermont, and again with Andy Woodworth, where we decided that with the possible exception of Nancy Pearl, there are no “famous” librarians.

What it comes down to for me is that I’m not interested in having people on the show just because they’re famous and cool and come up with catchy slogans. I invite people to be on the show because I think what they’re doing is important and should be shared for other to learn from and be inspired by. If in doing that important work, they are also coming up with hipper-than-thou hashtags, then so be it.

I’m not interested in being famous. I’m not even particularly interested in being important myself. I am, however, interested in emphasizing and sharing what I think is important in our profession and will continue to promote other librarians who do the same.

I hope you’ll join me in circulating the ideas that matter.

3 responses to “Famous ≠ Important

  1. lyndamk January 31, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    I agree that work duties shouldn’t be labeled as fame, but I think we underestimate ourselves and our initiatives in our communities. My colleagues may not be known in the profession but they are extremely well-known by the UNCG community (above and beyond the people who are required to know them), and I think that is awesome. That’s what makes our library the heart of our campus. Does that make sense? Or maybe it is the jet lag talking.

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