Thank You: On Awards and Being Recognized in Library Land

Just yesterday, Valerie (@vforrestal) posted an article on the culture in library land of achievements and recognition. To summarize, my takeaway from it is that our focus as librarians should not be winning awards and getting into the “in” crowd, but to do our work well and that we should strive for recognition from colleagues recognizing our everyday contributions as our achievements. Being a fairly new librarian, reading the article was a great reminder that getting awards and proposals accepted is not as important as we might make it out to be.

The Reactions

So, if I agree, why am I writing? Because the responses I’ve read are thought provoking. Most of the responses were positive as you can tell if you do a search for the article link on twitter. However, there have been a couple of negative responses too. One example, while not specifically pointing to Valerie’s post, I was told that this tweet is in response to her article:

While I don’t think the tweet was attacking Valerie’s article, but likely more a rhetorical question, this and other tweets that I have seen (some which do directly refer to the article and were definitely not rhetorical) seem to completely miss the point of the article. Why is sharing a bad experience where organizations or people are named seen as hostility towards or badmouthing of peers? Dismissing the article as simply a rant of some sort against an organization or a group of people seems to only further Valerie’s point that we sometimes focus on the wrong thing.

Why It Was Encouraging

Okay, I’m done with the slight ranting on my own part, but I think the reason I’m writing this post right now is because of how much her original article hit home for me. I have read a lot of touching articles on a more personal level, but this one really got to the heart of one of the things I’ve been struggling with professionally. Despite being a relatively new librarian, seeing my colleagues be picked for awards, keynotes, or even just to present, made me feel inadequate at times.

What is wrong with me that I don’t get chosen to present at conferences?

The answer is nothing. However, somewhere between entering the library world and now, I got it into my head that getting awards and in on conferences is how we are recognized. Reading Valerie’s article reminded me that: no, that’s not true. I started remembering this recently, but her article finally nailed it down for me. I don’t need to get accepted into conferences or win awards or do a super innovative project that everyone talks about, I should just keep doing what I like doing, what I’m passionate about, what I’m good at (fixing bad library websites!).

The best feeling in the world is being told you’re awesome by your colleagues, especially those you respect.

On a side note, of course, this is probably why I continue to love being on the reference desk and teaching. Beyond imparting knowledge, you are (sometimes) appreciated for the small things you do. (Yay, ego booster!)

Thank You

So here’s a big thank you to all the people who do awesome work every day by contributing to the community, but don’t necessary get recognized, and further appreciation for those who have told me that I’m awesome. In no particular order:

  • @tararobertson
  • @shlew
  • @maryakem
  • @msuicat
  • @mjsuhonos
  • @copystar
  • @yo_bj
  • @adr
  • @djfiander

And non-twitter folks too, of course:

  • Shelley Gullikson (whom I’ve never even met, but sent me a wonderful email)
  • Paul Joseph
  • Susie Stephenson
  • Pat Gibson

(I’m sorry if I missed you. My mind is a bit muddled having just come out of a copyright session.)

Thank you, you’re a big reason I enjoy and keep doing what I do.

6 thoughts on “Thank You: On Awards and Being Recognized in Library Land

  1. Thank you for writing this. I am a little surprised by the nature of some of the comments, because I really didn’t think I was being dismissive of awards or people who have won them. I only meant to point out that they are just one small piece of what can be deemed a successful career, and I want to encourage new librarians to not be so hard on themselves when faced with rejection or being passed over for this or that recognition. I also want new librarians to understand that if they put the work in and do their jobs well, that people DO take notice, and it WILL serve them well in their careers, even if they feel like no one is paying attention. Having a solid professional reputation is a worthy goal that is not accomplished with awards alone.

    1. I think that’s probably the reason I was rather aggravated in seeing the negative comments, because I felt like they were the ones being dismissive. At least, it got people thinking and talking. Thanks again for writing it.

  2. I found this a great, thoughtful and timely post. I’ve been thinking about the same things lately. I’m back in academic libraries after a stint in government, and in my last incarnation as an academic librarian I did present at conferences and even won an award. So I’m feeling huge (entirely internal) pressure to do those things again. But I’m working in a different area now (web instead of IL) and part of me just wants to put my head down and work — to focus on being locally awesome. This post is a really nice reminder that being locally awesome is totally okay. (though the whole tenure and promotion issue can sometimes complicate things) Oh, and thanks for the shout-out; that was ridiculously kind of you!

    1. You’re welcome. It was well deserved as the email you sent me took me completely by surprise (in a good way). And I honestly would not have applied to the job if you hadn’t done it!

  3. So I’ve been thinking about your post, Valarie’s post, and the one that started this thread, by Julie. And I think they are very well said.

    But I don’t think this uncomfortable situation is inherent to just librarianship. It would not surprise me if other service professions – especially those of education and health – have a similar dynamic where great work that is either long-term, unglamorous, team-based or unquantifiable is not as recognized as strongly as novel, individual and measurable short-term ventures.

    Speaking at a conference has more status than organizing a conference, but the former would simply not happen without the latter.

    And having a proposed talk be rejected from a conference will always hurt (well, at least it does for me ;)

    But that’s only if you take a short-term view of things. I recently read two things recently that really inspired me to feel more optimistic about the “long view” of work. One was the Atul Gawande’s article “Slow Ideas” http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013/07/29/130729fa_fact_gawande and Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, which is a very readable summary of the evidence based research on success in the workplace.

    I don’t know whether we need more awards, but I do think that we definitely don’t say ‘thank you’ enough in our profession.

    And so with that, I would like thank you for your lovely post where you took bad feelings, turn them into good ones and then set them out to others who – like me – appreciated it.

    Thank you for all the other writing you do here, and your commitment to share what you’ve learned. Thank you for all the work behind all the hospitality you gave at code4libnorth. Thank you for hacking code and making web sites better and more accessible.

    And thank you for letting me borrow your stress-ball-like stuffed-animals when I am stressed at conferences ;)

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