Birds of a Feather Flock Together: The Congruence of Personality Types within Librarians’ Subject Specialties

John Loy


A Review of:
Williamson, J.M., A.E. Pemberton, and J.W. Lounsbury. “Personality Traits of Individuals in Different Specialties of Librarianship.” Journal of Documentation 64.2 (2008): 273-86.

Objectives – To investigate the personality traits of a range of librarians and information professionals using the Personal Style Inventory (PSI), and to investigate whether the personality traits of those in person-orientated library specialties differ from those in technique-orientated specialties.

Design – Self-selecting survey.

Setting – Solicitations to complete the survey were sent out via 10 e-mail discussion lists, and paper copies were made available at the annual American Library Association conference in 2002.

Subjects – 2,075 librarians and information science professionals.

Methods – Participants completed the survey either in print format, as an e-mail attachment or a Web form. The survey format was an adaptation of the PSI scale using 13 of the accepted 16 scales, namely:

• adaptability
• assertiveness
• autonomy
• conscientiousness
• customer service orientation
• emotional resilience
• extraversion
• openness
• optimism
• teamwork
• tough-mindedness
• visionary-operational work style
• work drive

Responses were analysed using a two-step cluster analysis technique, and participants were grouped into seven clusters.

Main Results – The largest group of respondents was cataloguers at 23.7%, followed by other (health or law) 19.1%, academic reference librarians 13.2%, special librarians 12.3% with all other groups in single figures. Respondents were divided up into the following seven clusters.

• Cluster 1, the “unadaptive” group -- so labelled because several unadaptive traits such as low emotional resilience, low optimism, low teamwork, and low work drive are included.
• Cluster 2, “adaptive academic reference librarians” -- high on customer service orientation, extraversion and teamwork, and low on tough-mindedness.
• Cluster 3, “adaptive cataloguers” -- low on customer service orientation and possessing a more operational work style.
• Cluster 4, “adaptive special librarians” -- high on autonomy, customer service orientation and extraversion.
• Cluster 5, “adaptive distance education librarians, public librarians, records managers, and school librarians” -- possessing a visionary work style and scoring high on adaptability, assertiveness, customer service orientation, emotional resilience, high extraversion, openness, optimism, and teamwork; scoring low on tough-mindedness.
• Cluster 6, “adaptive other information professionals” -- also possessing a visionary work style and with high scores on adaptability, assertiveness, autonomy, customer service orientation, emotional resilience, extraversion, openness, optimism, teamwork, and work drive.
• Cluster 7, “adaptive archivists and systems librarians” scoring high on assertiveness, openness, and tough-mindedness.

Most clusters were comprised of a single occupational group, with only Clusters 1 and 5 made up of individuals from more than one group.

Conclusion – The results indicate that different librarianship subspecialties can be differentiated by personality traits, and that individuals are likely to be drawn to either person-orientated or technique-orientated library specialties depending on their personality traits.


personality traits;

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