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Here we go again

Personal branding, the buzzword that won’t go away.

Karen Schneider touts the benefits of personal branding for librarians in this month’s American Libraries. Personal branding, she writes, is valuable, and can help new librarians find jobs and a place in the professional arena. Most of the article focuses on the value toward this group, the newly and unemployed who are selling themselves to employers on a daily basis.

However, this common perception of personal branding as a job search strategy is severely limiting. Librarians need to think about how we can benefit professionally from this concept.

The reality is that all of us have personal brands. The questions are actually whether we know what that brand is and how we use it.

Let’s look at two librarians I know who have strong brands:

1. Ancil, a research and instructional services librarian at my university. Everyone knows Ancil.

Ancil does not have a website; he isn’t pushing his services through social media. But he is popular enough that a reference desk shift can quickly turn into an hour as Ancil’s answering service. Students know him, and students want to meet with him.

2. Miss Jill, a friend who works in the children’s department at the public library. Much like Ancil, Miss Jill is well-loved by her audience. Children ask for her and get excited to see her, both in and outside of the library. Her biggest fans aren’t even old enough to know what a blog is, much less read it.

Both Ancil and Jill are using their personal brands as an outreach strategy. This is part of how they build lasting relationships with library users. It’s nothing more than being awesome at what you do — and being amazing at working and connecting with your users.

That’s not to say a personal brand can’t help with a job search. It can. Job searchers absolutely need to know what potential employers can perceive about them online. And your personal brand might involve social media, a web presence, bookmarks, anything that connects you to your users.

Personal branding can benefit all types of librarians by helping them build and sustain relationships with their users. This is the audience we really need to reach — let’s use our skills to do that.

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