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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
Winter 2006


Why Not Market Yourself?

Barbara MacAlpine
Science Librarian and Assistant Professor
Coates Library
Trinity University
San Antonio, Texas

We spend a lot of time and effort marketing our library products and services. Why not spend some time marketing yourself? Let me suggest some possibilities (and market myself in the process).

If you're an academic librarian, one of the more obvious ways to gain visibility is to serve on campus committees. Maybe you've tried the usual ones: departmental library advisory groups, the bookstore beat -- something connected with the professional part of your job. Or you've been elected to serve on a governance group, where it's a known fact that you have more time to give than the teaching faculty, so of course your organizational talents are recognized and appreciated. (I'm completing my third year on the Trinity University Faculty Senate and served as the Vice Chair last spring, so I can make snide comments at my own expense.) But how about volunteering for something a little off the wall: the Athletic Advisory Council, the Parking Patrol, or the Campus Chorus? The advantages are that you'll learn more about your institution, you'll probably meet people who have different perspectives, and in the process you'll enhance your own visibility as an individual, not just part of the library staff.

Here's another idea: plan or bring to campus an unusual program and be the point person for it. This could be something connected with the library (a display or exhibit, a speaker, a film, etc.), but it might also have a much wider appeal. Several years ago I spearheaded the effort to bring ALA's traveling exhibition on Frankenstein to the Trinity campus. While there were connections to a first year seminar for which I provided library instruction, it seemed appropriate for many departments, classes, and individual interests. During the three weeks that Frankie took over the library, I coordinated a costume party/opening reception, three public lectures, a panel discussion on the ethics of cloning, student exhibits of projects with a Frankenstein link (Frankenfood, robots, electricity), a film festival, and a blood drive. A year later people were still asking me what extravaganza we were going to sponsor the next time. This past fall I returned as the Bride of Frankenstein (complete with a wedding dress from eBay and the Bride's trademark wig) to lead a discussion on her film in a first year seminar. Give yourself a role, and play it with gusto.

Identify a problem on campus that interests you. Find like-minded people who will work with you to improve the situation. In the process you could gain a reputation for having leadership qualities, and you'll develop new or different relationships with your cohorts. For example, I would challenge any sci/tech academic librarian -- especially those of the female gender -- to get involved with "women in science" organizations on your campus. Attend their meetings, offer to help bring in speakers, provide space for programs or meetings if possible, purchase relevant library materials and publicize them to the group, help with PR by using the connections you have on campus, encourage students in classes you teach to attend their meetings or programs, etc. If there isn't such a group, consider helping to form one -- not as a librarian, but as someone who works with the scientific community on campus. If we consider nurturing current and future scientists to be part of our professional responsibility, it only makes sense to give some extra effort to women, who are still more difficult to attract and retain in many of the scientific disciplines. As a co-founder of TWIST (Trinity Women In Science & Technology), I've seen increasing respect and cooperation from my teaching colleagues, both female and male. Students also see me in a different light; I'm not just the science librarian anymore.

Continue with all those great efforts to market the library, but also give your campus community the opportunity to know you in different roles, including some that have no relationship with your job. You don't have to be flamboyant (though it's definitely fun occasionally), but you can gain visibility and respect by functioning outside your normal box. Just don't do it too quietly.

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