Learning the Ropes of Librarianship as an Introvert and Succeeding

Roselyn C
July 14, 2023

As an introvert and librarian, I've spent years staying closer to the stacks. The calm surroundings felt comforting, almost like a haven from the hustle and bustle outside. I treasured this solitude.

It took me a while, but I realized something was off. My fear of making a fool out of myself in front of strangers, or not being able to communicate my thoughts properly became a real problem, especially since my job required me to communicate with people.

Was my reserved nature holding me back from helping my colleagues, patrons, and the people I met through work? And what about the opportunities I might be missing out on?

I trusted my gut, which kept telling me that I could do more, and decided to do something about it.

The first step I took was to recognize the challenges. I started to make a list of moments where my nature kept me from speaking up or contributing. Then slowly, every time I saw that moment happen again, I acted on my thoughts and did something I wasn't used to.

At first, it felt awkward and foreign, but with practice, it became easier. I started enjoying the way it changed my work as a librarian.

My experience can be a reminder of how introverts like me have important perspectives to share and unique ways to contribute.

Navigating the Challenges

The library environment is not always as serene as one imagines. High-stress situations arise: demanding patrons, library programs, and events, and managing multiple tasks. An introvert like myself might find this overwhelming.

Start by identifying the challenges you face, personally. Your challenges could look like these:

  • Difficulty conversing with a lot of people 
  • Feeling overwhelmed with too many people around
  • Miscommunication
  • Coming off as underconfident or rude

Once you've identified the challenges you're facing, start taking a mental note of what is it you could have done differently. 

Another important thing to remember is how maintaining boundaries preserves energy and well-being. You don't need to go all out on tackling these challenges. Make sure you find ways to recharge your social battery, and progress gradually.

Stepping Out of the Comfort Zone

As the old Indian saying goes - "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

As an introvert, it was quite difficult to step out of my comfort zone. Speaking, and continuously interacting with people used to drain me completely. Although I still start feeling a little tired after communicating all day, it's much less than how it was.

Here's what can help you if you're an introverted librarian. Find out where your comfort zone ends; are you more comfortable working on cataloging and collections all by yourself, but feel challenged when working with your colleagues?

Once you recognize where your comfort zone ends, you can start taking small steps to expand that zone. Every day, do one thing that makes you a little uncomfortable, and that feels a little challenging.

The important thing is to start slowly, do it more often, and see it as a chance to grow. This also teaches you an important skill, which is managing your time, work, and emotions.

For example: start with small, easy conversations with patrons, or presentations in safe places to gain confidence.

Celebrating Introversion in Libraries

Introverts have a special kind of charm that makes libraries even better. They have a natural ability to listen very carefully, research things very thoroughly, and give suggestions very thoughtfully.

This can make all the services at the library better.

We should appreciate and use these qualities to create a place where different kinds of people feel included and comfortable. This will make the library more inclusive, and welcoming.

A library needs to be a good place for all kinds of people, especially the ones who work there. No matter how introverted or outgoing they are, they should have a safe space to be themselves and contribute positively.

We must celebrate, and advocate for the unique value introverts bring: deep listening, thoughtful analysis, and empathetic understanding. These are must-have qualities for a job that involves serving people.

How Introversion Shapes the Work Environment

Introverts bring a quiet depth and subtle richness to library services. While extroverts may be more outwardly energetic and enthusiastic, introverts shine with their attentiveness, thoroughness, and thoughtfulness.

The work environment should accommodate all temperaments, despite stereotypes associating introversion with libraries. Introverts thrive with sufficient quiet, solitude, and preparation time. But when their strengths are recognized and supported, they can make immense contributions through their focused, meticulous, and thoughtful approach.

Challenges Faced by Introverted Librarians

Here are some of the most common challenges introverts face:

Shushing patrons: All day long you're fielding questions from curious customers, yet too much socializing leaves you spent. You long for the quiet stacks.

Networking nightmares: Conferences are crucial, but mingling with your fellow bookworms can be downright draining for the library recluse in you.

Teaching without trembling: Leading story time or computer classes might make you miss the days of hushing noisy students. Public speaking is tough for some of us.

Teamwork takes tenacity: Teamwork absolutely takes tenacity! Working with others can be both rewarding and challenging. While working alone has its benefits, collaborating with others provides an opportunity to learn from others' perspectives and expertise.

Nowhere to hide: Libraries are lovely, but the constant hubbub leaves you hungering for a hushed hideaway where you can recharge your batteries.

Embracing New Experiences

Embracing new experiences, though at times unsettling, is a necessary ingredient for growth. An introverted librarian, like any cautious traveler, would be wise to take the first steps outside one's comfort zone gradually. Small forays into the unknown, handled with humor and grace, can yield great rewards in self-knowledge and joy. 

As the sage says, "Adventure is the spice of life." 

Here are some books I can recommend on growth for introverts:

• Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain 

This book explores the strengths of introverts and how they can thrive in an extrovert-dominated culture. It offers insights and strategies to help introverts harness their talents.

• The Introvert Advantage: How Quiet People Can Thrive in an Extrovert World by Marti Olsen Laney Psy.D.

This book provides practical tips and strategies for introverts to maximize their strengths, overcome challenges, and live successful and fulfilling lives.

• The Introvert's Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World by Sophia Dembling 

This book offers guidance and inspiration for introverts looking to embrace their quieter nature. It discusses how introverts can find meaning, purpose, and joy in their lives.

Navigating Social Interactions

Information exchange is the lifeblood of any library, requiring librarians to skillfully navigate social interactions with patrons and colleagues. Introverts need alone time to recharge their batteries, but with the right amount of social grace, they can power up through human connection.

Listen deeply, ask open questions, and meet others with empathy as taught in "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie. Focus on the quality of exchanges, not quantity; form genuine bonds through thoughtful conversations, not hurried chats.

Hone your communication style through preparation, organization, and finding your authentic voice. Technology tools like email and chat platforms can provide an introvert-friendly medium to share ideas.

Create a welcoming space by ensuring each patron feels seen and valued. Provide quiet nooks, and inclusive programs, and actively solicit feedback to accommodate diverse temperaments. Consider how different personalities experience belonging, so all can find a community within your library's walls.

Exploring New Opportunities

The quiet contemplation and deep thinking that come naturally to introverted librarians are assets transferable to any field. Exploring opportunities beyond the stacks, such as freelance writing, research, or instructional design, may open doors to unexpected vocations and life satisfaction.

Sometimes, personal and professional growth comes not from lofty goals but from humble beginnings. Introverted librarians should remain open to experiences that may at first seem ill-suited to their nature, for it is often in our discomfort that we discover our strengths. 

The willingness to learn anew, adapt, and even be amused at oneself can lead to profound self-discovery and a career journey rich in meaning.

Reflections on Growth

During my time as a librarian, I've come across lots of challenges and successes.

I've learned a lot along the way and gained a new understanding of what it's like to be introverted and work in a library. The most important things I realized are: being alone calms me down, and thinking deeply is better than thinking quickly. So a mix of socializing and quiet work keeps me from getting too tired.

To my fellow introverts and librarians, I say: try new things, leave your comfort zone, and ignore that voice that puts you down. The world of books needs your special talents and ideas.

Parting Thoughts

While extroverts often command attention in libraries, we must appreciate the introverts who contribute in quiet ways. Though soft-spoken, their value is no less significant.

Introverts, silence that inner critic and embrace your gifts. The challenges of introversion can be overcome. With courage and care, introverts can enrich communities through thoughtful, considerate acts - one step at a time. There is room for all types of people to make their mark, however they choose.

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About the Author

This article is part of a collaborative series between GR Techand industry leaders, aimed at bringing new ideas andinsights to our readers.

Roselyn C

project manager

Presently working as a Chief Librarian at Unida Christian Colleges, Roselyn is an experienced iInformation professional with extensive training in the field of Library and Information Science.