Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Article Note: On librarians and personality traits

Citation for the article:

Williamson, J.M., A.E. Pemberton, and J.W. Lounsbury. "Personality Traits of Individuals in Different Library Specialties in Librarianship." Journal of Documentation 64.2 (2008): 273-286.

Read via Interlibrary Loan.

At the end of the day, this article helps to confirm what most of us already know: that librarians pretty much gravitate to their area of librarianship based on their personalities. In other words, to an extent, the old adage/rule that catalogers are less socially inclined than public services folks hols true. It's just based on their personalities. Mind you, this is not perfect, but fairly close. The article draws on Holland's theories on vocational choice. Keep in mind also that Holland's work has been questioned at times.


  • The sample: "The participants for this study consisted of a non-random sample of 2,075 librarians and information science professionals who responded to print or e-mail solicitations during 2002 to fill out the personality inventory, which was available in print, as an e-mail attachment, or as a web form" (276). Do note that any participants not actually working in a library or info science job were dropped from the sample (276).
  • "Taken as a whole, the results of our study clearly demonstrate that different librarianship subspecialties can be differentiated by broad and narrow personality traits which carry important implications for theorizing and future research in this area" (282).
  • And this is where the adage part comes in: "Similarly, we found that high extraversion, low tough-mindedness, and high teamwork (among other variables for the various clusters) characterized person-oriented academic reference librarians, special librarians, public librarians, school librarians, distance education librarians and records managers. For the technique-oriented specialties, operational work style and low customer service orientation characterized catalogers, and high assertiveness and high tough-mindedness characterized the archivists and systems librarians" (282-283). If nothing else, it may explain a few things about some people I have worked with over time. No, I am not revealing any names.
  • The authors propose the following implications: For recruitment purposes, you could use the personality tool for advising and guidance. Also useful for librarians wishing to change their track or line of work as they could see how their traits match a line of work.
  • The catch of the implications: "Of course, it must be acknowledged that trait change is not a simple process, and there are ethical issues surrounding selecting individuals for jobs based on their personality traits" (283).


The.Effing.Librarian said...

it's kinda sad, huh? you hope for a surprise.. but maybe the full title of the Journal of Documentation includes "documenting what we already know."

Angel, librarian and educator said...

It is kind of sad. Actually, there are a lot of articles I skip precisely because the moment I see the abstract, I know the stuff is what I already know.

Best, and keep on blogging.