Note from Michael: I am thrilled to have Leah writing here for TTW. Way back in 2006 when I started at Dom, I taught my very first LIS701 class. There was Leah, smiling on the front row every Monday evening. Watching her study, graduate and do incredible work has been incredibly rewarding to me as an LIS educator. Thanks, Leah!
What do you think of when you hear the word extrovert? Loud, chatty, pushy? Yeah. Me too. It’s funny – the first time I ever took the Myers Briggs was in grad school. I remember my professor asking if anyone in the class was an E. Of course, I shoved my hand up into the air and realized I was the only person with my hand up. At the time, I felt special, and man, that felt awesome. As some may now, us E’s really love feeling special. Years later, the time of the introvert is at hand. Good examples might be the publication of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking and of course, other things kicking around the internet…(stares directly at Tumblr).
So after years of being incredibly proud of my extrovertism, I recently re-took the Myers Briggs, and for the first time, I silently crossed my fingers and toes that my score would be a little closer to the middle of the extrovert/introvert divide. But every single time I take it – and yes, I have now taken it multiple times – I end up with over 80% extrovert. Depending on the day, I generally find out I’m an ENFP and occasionally, an ENFJ.
I quickly realized after that class in graduate school that librarians tend to be introverted. Of course, there are other E’s, but on a day to day basis, I tend to interact, be managed by, and work on committees with all you wonderful I’s out there. Here are a few things I have picked up along the way that may help other extroverts swimming the introverted waters of librarianship.
Eventually, after my third time taking the test, I came to terms with it. I like being an E! But what does this mean in regards to being a Librarian?
It’s all about communication
Make an effort to figure out people’s preferred method of contact. As an extrovert, I tend to be the person who bursts into your office with an idea and wants to talk it out. Bouncing ideas off of people is, hands down, my preferred method for working through an idea. However, that doesn’t always work for people, especially some of my introverted co-workers. While I still do this – seriously, just ask my boss – I try to take into consideration how busy the person might be or pick up on any social cues that perhaps they aren’t in the mood for a passionate discussion about makerspaces. When that happens, I look to the internet for my brainstorming needs. (Seriously, Twitter, what would I do without you?)
Find your tribe but keep an open mind
Finding other extroverts in the workplace has always been important to me. It’s great to have someone who feeds off of the same energy that I do. But I also have found that some of my best collaborations are with a mix of all sorts of personality types. Perhaps I’m the one talking during a meeting but it is vital to have the logistical person involved – the one who thinks through the process of actually accomplishing these ideas. The best meetings and committees are a mix of various strengths and weaknesses. That’s how you accomplish all those wonderful and innovative ideas!
Learning to listen and be patient
Honestly, I still struggle with this. While it is a stereotype, we extroverts generally love to do two things: talk and take action. I totally own up to that. The longer I work in libraries, the more I try to be an active listener. Also I have learned the value of giving people time to process ideas and projects. Sometimes when you’re proposing a major change, it’s good to give people the time and space to mull things over and go through the information in their own way. I try to write out proposals for new ideas, which gives people more space to absorb the project and helps me formulate my ideas in a concrete way. A little silence, a little space, and the written word can go a long way in libraries.
All things considered, I love being an extrovert. After all, it’s what makes me, me! But working with a variety of personality types has taught me so much about collaboration. I can’t imagine I would accomplish much if I only surrounded myself with other E’s. And that, in itself, is what makes being a librarian so very awesome. Look at how much we accomplish. It’s pretty amazing.
Leah White is a Reader Services Librarian at the Northbrook Public Library and a 2012 Library Journal Mover and Shaker. She is a member of the Adult Reading Round Table Steering Committee and the co-chair of the Reference Librarians Association Continuing Education planning committee. Leah graduated from Dominican University with her Master of Library and Information Science in 2008. You can find her on Twitter: @leahlibrarian or check out her website: leahwhite.weebly.com
(Photo credit Karina Guico)