Librarian Identity (by TTW Contributor Justin Hoenke)

Early in my career, I made the mistake of mentioning in one of my one of my presentations that I was one of those librarians that didn’t read a lot but somehow got into libraries.  Since then, I don’t think I’ve been able to live that down.  To some, I’ve become “ that teen librarian  who doesn’t read” and to some extent I think that’s hurt me.  I was wrong in saying that I don’t read.  In fact, I read quite a bit:

  • I read the most on my phone (news, gaming, music, sports, RSS feeds)
  • I play video games, all of which either require at least some reading
  • I read two stories to my son every night
  • I currently have one book I am reading on my Kindle

My statement that “I don’t read” was said to grab audience attention.  Maybe it did that at the time, but as I look back at the ramifications of my statement and I wish I hadn’t said that at all.  People now ask me “how can you be an effective teen librarian if you don’t read?”.  The statement that “I don’t read” has also been questioned when it comes to my advocacy for video gaming as literacy.  Saying that “I don’t read” has diluted my message that gaming can be an effective form of literacy.  Why would someone want to listen to someone talk about how much reading is in video games when that someone is also saying “I don’t read” in the same sentence?

This has got me thinking about librarian identity and how we always have to be mindful of what we say and how we present ourselves.  It doesn’t matter if you’ve focused on creating an identity for yourself over a few years because, like the “I don’t read” example above, those little moments can really shape your identity.  Taking the road which shocks someone may get someone’s attention, but is that the kind of attention that you want to remain focused on you?

Recommended reading:
Professionalism Matters in Job Search by Michael Stephens
Piling On on the web by Stephen Abram

Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor

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5 thoughts on “Librarian Identity (by TTW Contributor Justin Hoenke)”

  1. A couple of years ago I did some staff training on how it’s not that teens don’t read, it’s just that they read differently. I read online a TON. So do my teens. News, blogs, memes – they are all different forms of reading. Plus, I think it is okay to accept that some people will never be readers and that is okay. I am never going to like sports or sea food. The important this is being able to read so that you have that skill when you need it. Plus, 21st century libraries are about more than books and we need to find balance. For the record, you are an amazing librarian doing amazing things and your teens are lucky to have you.

  2. I know exactly what you mean, Justin. I used to say, “I don’t read books” but now I follow it up by mentioning everything else I read: blogs, online and print magazines, and news sites. The truth is that I do read books, but it is in the minority of my overall reading.

  3. Justin, this is such a thoughtful reflection. I confess, I was a little bit of a Judgey McJudgeypants about the not-reading issue, because, well, reading is super-important! I appreciate you clarifying the situation, and as always, I’m deeply impressed with your continuing self-education/exploration/development & commitment to librarianship. I’m proud to call you a colleague & friend!

  4. Karen:
    “News, blogs, memes – they are all different forms of reading”
    -Having grown up in an era where reading graphic novels=the comment “you’re reading junk”, I guess I always had it in my head that reading=books. But I have always read stuff…it just took me a lot longer to realize it!

    Andy:
    “The truth is that I do read books, but it is in the minority of my overall reading.”
    -Exactly! That’s the same with me!

    Sophie: Thank you so very much for reading, commenting, and sticking with my through this never ending journey called life! I too am very proud to call you my colleague & friend.

  5. Here in Australia we’re exploring a National Year of Reading in 2012. It has challenged many of us to think about reading in the broadest possible context so that activities and programs could be really inclusive. There is a wonderful post about “What is Reading?” from the Love2Read Twitter reading group members http://love2read2012.wordpress.com/what-is-reading/ Amy, Cathy and Ellen that is certainly worth a look.

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