This question came up twice at the LIANZA conference last week: once in my workshop and once in the Q&A following my keynote. The interest may have been triggered in part by a comment Stephen Abram made in his earlier address to the conference: that 70% of librarians are introverts while 70% of the general population are extroverts. Stephen made it clear that he wasn’t saying librarians couldn’t relate — just that it was an issue many of us have to deal with. Nonetheless, the idea was planted.
So, what’s my answer? My answer is Yes! — introverts absolutely can succeed as embedded librarians. Here are a few reasons why:
1. There are examples. A very successful embedded librarian I interviewed volunteered that she was an introvert, and added that “introverts can do this!” I also came up as an “I” in the Myers-Briggs system (though see below), and I like to think I had some success in my days as an embedded librarian. There are others I’ve met who are probably “I”s as well who are successful. So there are examples.
2. Introverts can form relationships. We often talk about the importance of establishing strong, trusting working relationships in embedded librarianship. The popular concept of an introvert seems to be a shy, asocial person who can’t form relationships. But as an HR professional and trained M-B facilitator explained it to me, the I/E dichotomy in Myers-Briggs typology is about where you draw energy from: I’s from within; E’s from others. I’s may operate differently, but they can have social and relationship building skills all the same.
3. There are I’s and then there are I’s. As I mentioned above, the first time I did the Myers-Briggs test, I came up as an I. However, a few years later I took it again and had a more thorough analysis of the results. The second time I came up as balanced between I and E. People are different mixes of I and E attributes on the Myers-Briggs, and the I label covers a broad range of variations.
So the bottom line is, if you’re an Introvert librarian, don’t let that label define, deter, or discourage you. You too can be successful as an embedded librarian.
P.S. Extroverts can be successful embedded librarians too!