I am so tired of arguing about Rockstar Librarians.
— Erin Leach (@erinaleach) September 6, 2014
Rachel wrote this great post a couple of weeks ago about how using shorthand is both lazy and dangerous. In it, Rachel suggests that we should "take the time and energy to be clear about who we mean when we're speaking."
So, here goes:
I think that Rockstar Librarian is shorthand for someone who has become someone that we, as a profession, have put in a position of influence. Often, when used as a pejorative phrase, we mean that we think that the person didn't really do anything to earn that influence.
Librarians spend a lot of time worrying about how other people see us. And we have opinions about every article written by the mainstream media about the future of our profession. Remember this 2007 article from the New York Times that called us hipsters? Or how about this 2011 blog post from Seth Godin about the future of libraries? Or this recent piece in the Wall Street Journal calling librarianship a "shrinking profession" that was in danger of having a shortage of workers? I would bet that for each of these articles, you could find dozens of indignant blog post rebuttals.
I think part of the reason we spend so much time arguing about who gets put in positions of influence in librarianship is related to this desire to refute every argument about how libraries are becoming an outdated, unnecessary relic of an analog age.
Here's what I believe: arguments about Rockstar Librarians and who should be given influence in librarianship distract us from our real work: serving the people in our communities who use our collections and services.
We, as a profession, should acknowledge people for doing the work to transform librarianship. I think we should continue to have programs that prepare people with leadership potential for service in the profession. And I think we should give awards to people who have done extraordinary work.
But I also think we should look critically at why we have elevated our peers to positions of relative power. I think that we should ask ourselves at the end of every Libraryland award season: have we given influence to people who have shown they deserve it through their words and actions?
Look, I know it's not easy to reframe the discussion when you feel like your Libraryland Affinity Group is overlooked when the accolades are being distributed. I'm as guilty of throwing around Rockstar Librarian as anyone reading this blog post. I know how easy it is to be snarky as you lash out when you feel overlooked or left behind. But let's do the hard work of nominating our heroes for awards--even if it means submitting a nomination for many years--instead of the easy work of tearing down our colleagues who win awards for doing things we don't necessarily consider noteworthy.
I challenge all of us to agree to stop arguing about who deserves to be called a Rockstar Librarian and, instead, focus on the people who deserve accolades for demanding that we be our better selves.