Kreig Kitts, Reference Librarian at Crowell & Moring LLP (firstname.lastname@example.org)
How often does this happen: Checking your email in the morning, you see that a colleague has endorsed you on LinkedIn. With great excitement – level of excitement may vary, depending whether you’ve had breakfast and coffee yet – you open the email, and your excitement dies down. Once again, you’ve been endorsed for your most mundane skills – your ability to use a product. Interlibrary loan? Copy cataloging? PACER? Is this what you’re known for? Is this what you want to be known for? If you answered “no” to that last question, then why are you advertising it on your profile?
Librarians everywhere have been going through a self-image crisis lately. A few years ago, the Special Libraries Association had a members’ referendum on changing the name to take out the word “Library”. This year in Seattle, the theme for the American Association of Law Libraries annual meeting and conference was “Reconsider Your Value” (a double-edged sword of a theme if ever there was one). Especially in the private sector, many librarians have had their titles changed, sometimes at their own request, to “competitive analyst”, “information specialist”, and other variations to try to shake up the perception that they’re clerical workers. Professional credentials work their way into email signatures, because when in doubt “Chris J. Doe, M.L.S., J.D., M.B.A., C.K.M.” is sure to impress.
So back to LinkedIn, the platform on which we list our professional skills. Due to my frustration at getting endorsed over and over for my ability to use a resource, and I don’t mean something kind of cool like using a Bloomberg terminal or really cool like a Taco Copter, I took action. With a bit of housekeeping out went Lexis, Westlaw, Pacer, Interlibrary Loan, and pretty much anything else that was on an exam during my first year of library school. In went Company Profiling, Competitor Intelligence, and many other valuable things I do and for which I prefer to be known.
LinkedIn makes it easy to edit your skills at http://www.linkedin.com/skills. You can even find skills with certain keywords, and better yet, related skills. For reference librarians, you probably perform in-depth company research, either for competitive purposes, due diligence, or litigation. If you don’t already analyze the information, you might start and then add it to your LinkedIn skills. For technical services and acquisitions librarians, look at your involvement in budgeting or user experience design. Look at yourself, your work, and your value, and look at how you can best showcase it.
Moreover, LinkedIn is not just for job networking. Have you connected with people at your firm? With professional colleagues who are involved in programming? Professors from library school or law school who might be looking for guest speakers? You don’t need to be “on the market” to benefit from putting your best professional face forward.
And once you start changing how you describe yourself in one area, you might start doing it elsewhere. When people learn you’re a librarian and say “so you organize the books” or “you do research”, maybe you’ll reply “I also perform corporate research and analysis”.
I already hear the objections as I type this. “We do this already. We need to educate our users about what librarians do.” If you’re altruistic, then consider this part of the education. If you’re not altruistic, then consider this a way to educate people about what you do.
This isn’t just about jazzing up a profile so everybody will think you’re amazing. Going past the general buzzwords takes some reflection, not only about the kind of professional you are, but the kind of professional you want to be. If you haven’t given that much thought, now might be the time to think about it. Plot a course of action, and determine where you are now and where you want to ultimately be. What do you do? What do you do well? What do you do really well? What are you known for? And most importantly, what do you want to be known for?