Career suicide: Let’s be frank

Read this article and more in Weve

Have you ever felt restricted from engaging in frank and open discussions about the library profession?

Have you ever felt if you publicly voice your opinion on professional matters you are at risk of compromising your job or future prospects?

We have and we know we are not alone.

In a profession that claims to value freedom of expression we don’t always feel safe raising issues for fear of committing career suicide.

It can be difficult to have honest conversations about how we, as library and information professionals, should address privacy, surveillance, the changing nature of technology, education and so many other issues faced by our communities and ourselves when the pervasive culture of the profession seems to be one of sticking our head in the sand expecting someone else to propose an alternative and then either responding with silence or publicly tearing their suggestion to shreds. Both of which ensure they and many observers, never say anything again.

However we don’t think it is intentional.

Most people have very little opportunity to have discussions or raise issues, so when someone asks or gives them an opportunity, they let it all out whether it’s relevant or not. This, in our view, is why most meetings tend to run over time and include so many unexpected discussions. We’ve been saving ourselves for that meeting.

Our traditional forms of professional communication don’t really help either. List-servs do not allow for anonymity (as far as we know) and as a result tend towards announcements rather than discussions.

If you are not a member of a professional association such as SLANZALIANZA or Te Rōpū Whakahau, you do not have the opportunity to raise issues in a regional, perhaps more collegial and supportive environment.

Yet the majority of people working in the industry do not belong to any professional association.

Who speaks for them?

Who asks them to contribute to the discussion?

How can their voice be heard?  
Heroes Mingle wants to make it easier for everyone in libraries to have their say in a safe anonymous environment. But we don’t know how best to go about it.

Ideally we’d love the library list-servs to allow for anonymous contributions so that we don’t need to sign-up or visit yet another page. But we don’t know if this is possible. We also think it would be cool to have a type of discussion forum so conversations are captured as threads and can be referred back to and commented on, rather than via clumsy email threads. But once again our experience is limited.

Perhaps you’re also interested in reducing the risk of career suicide and improving the profession at the same time.

If you are, get in touch with either Megan or Sally via

Together we can work towards a solution.

One Comment

  1. Anton says:

    I’m not sure anonymity on its own is the answer. I think the problem is multi-faceted, and includes influences from (and these each could be expanded into an essay of their own);

    – Culture – NZer’s are really reticent to speak up in groups

    – Gender – as a majority of the profession are women, there are gender oppression issues in our society generally that result in behaviours that repress expression

    – Format – email is a really difficult way to express yourself freely. To short and you’re misunderstood, too long and no-one will read it. The web isn’t that much better

    – Friction and Momentum – We do things because that’s the way we do them, and the friction of changing can be Just Too Much, along with having to get on with business as usual

    – Fragmentation – we work in smallish groups, and make geographic and organisational wholes – rather than look to our colleagues vertically across the profession

    – under-professionalisation – when the whole thing becomes just a job, rather than living a set of shared values.

    I don’t feel qualified to talk about Racial issues, but I’m sure they play a part too.

    That’s just a start. These are not reasons to do nothing, quite the opposite. We as a community are aware of all these, and are acting to ameliorate them, but that doesn’t mean they are ‘fixed’.

    Maybe a librarian version of the Pasquino would be useful, but I think vigorously speaking up to the issues above would have a longer lasting effect.

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