During this month, the New Members Round Table listserv has had an online discussion about personal/professional branding. The discussion was generated around Personal Branding for Librarians by Karen G. Schneider for American Libraries. Schneider says that librarians have long been “notoriously preoccupied” with our image, to one another and to the public. The post mentions an ALA Midwinter program (panel review by Andromeda Yelton) on the topic moderated by Bohyun Kim, indicating it’s still an issue, particularly for new librarians.
The discussion was started by Laura Scott who says she is currently in Drexel University’s MLIS program and works in the publishing industry. Later on in the month she posted another article, this from Forbes by Glen Llopis: Personal Branding is a Leadership Requirement, Not a Self-Promotion Campaign. After reading this, I chimed in to the conversation:
Llopis says “what is the total experience of having a relationship with you like?” and I have no idea how to answer that…As a new librarian, I’m not yet certain who I am as a “total experience.” I’m also not sure how to find out.
Really helpful insight for others, right? I thought as an artist, I’d have no problem becoming a walking, talking “total experience.” A few days ago, Jo Alcock chimed in with a link to her post in 23 Things for Professional Development – Thing 3: Consider Your Personal Brand. Jo talks about online branding and creating a visual identity. This is when I began to understand.
Branding is good design. Dieter Rams knows good design and he narrowed it to ten principles of practice. Innovative, useful, understandable, honest, thorough. I’d like to be known for those things.
Robin Williams’ books are perfect for non-designers; she wrote the book, The Non-Designer’s Design Book! In it, she lists four essential principles of good design: contrast, repetition, alignment (“this creates a clean, sophisticated fresh look”), and proximity. Consider the similarities to what I want people to take away from the “total experience” of me: unique, consistent, approachable, available/prepared.
In the online conversation, Emily Weak of Hiring Librarians targeted what I was feeling when she wrote, “I can’t get past the idea that [branding] turns people into products.” Yet we know we need some kind of branding, as ugly as that term is. At a very basic level, the principles of good design apply to personal/professional branding.
Librarianship, as a service-oriented profession, may value from this. Good design is good because it’s reliable and helps us complete whatever task is at hand by doing so better and with little effort. As a newbie librarian, focusing on good design will make that “total experience” of ArtistLibrarian worth having over and over again. Now won’t that boost my reference statistics!