The Library in Lego Form (aka the absolute last post I will write about Lego librarians)

Lego public library

Lego public library

It’s the summer of Lego Librarians! When I created my own Lego Librarian personalities, I didn’t quite imagine the wave it would create. People love Lego blocks. People love librarians. When you combine the two, you get an irresistible cultural mash-up.

The original post generated over 36,000 views and appeared on sites such as The Huffington Post, Flavorwire, Neatorama, Book RiotMyModernMet, Trendhunter, and Nerd Approved. Evidently it also took the country of Hungary by storm, as I had several thousand views from this one site alone.

After I acquired the official Lego librarian (I got it for cheap on eBay, rather than guessing among the unmarked packages at the Lego store), I decided that the Lego librarian needed a library!

Now I had a few of my own Lego pieces, but I had to ask for donations from co-workers. I also eBayed a few cheap building blocks…and voilà. I started building the Lego library. Just like the real library, there’s something for everyone: books, periodicals, technology, events. All walks of life are represented: young and old, well to do and not-so-much, people making a transition, and people on the edges of society. Here’s the local public library in Lego form…hope you enjoy it!

…and here’s a short movie created with the Lego Movie app:

Librarian Personality Types, sans Legos: A Look at Real Colors and StrengthsQuest

My satirical look at librarian stereotypes and personalities using Legos got me thinking about the real thing.

Last week, the division I work in at the university (Information Services: library, academic technology, management information systems, infrastructure & networking, user support, and web services–some 50+ employees) held a staff retreat. Normally, I’m not big on staff retreats. If there are roleplaying games, “trust” falls, or kumbaya songs, I immediately tune out. You’ll see why in a bit.

To get us thinking about our work environment, strengths, and how we interact with co-workers, a facilitator was brought in to administer the Real Colors personality assessment. Real Colors takes the 16 personality types from the Myers-Briggs test and boils it down to four temperaments. Each is assigned a color: gold, blue, green, and orange.

What’s Your Color?

In finding your color, you first examine a series of pictures assigned to each color. After that, you read textual descriptions of the colors, and wrap-up by answering 10 multiple choice questions. You receive a score for each color, ranging from the low teens to mid-40s. The higher the number, the more dominant you are in that color. This is a copyrighted test, so I can’t provide all of the details, but here are some takeaways:

What do the colors mean and how are they applicable to librarians?

Gold: practical, well-organized, punctual, rules, authority, uncomfortable with change. To me, this screams cataloger or circulation worker: where rules and authority are key.

Blue: insightful, caring, compassionate, patient, loves to talk, avoids conflict. I could see many children’s librarians and some instruction librarians filling this category.

Green: curious/asks questions, independent, research-oriented, logical, questions authority, avoids discussing feelings. Reference librarian, anyone?

Orange: competitive, performer, enthusiastic, rule breaker, bored easily. Typified by entrepreneurs. So maybe some forward-thinking library directors belong to this category? It tends to be a small group for our field.

Many of my co-workers scored 40+ in one particular color and teens for their lowest color. A few of us, like me, didn’t have such a wide spread. I came out to:

Green 38 / Blue 32 / Gold 27 / Orange 23 – I’m choosing to read this as an adaptable person who can work well with people of all color types.

After scoring, we were then placed into groups according to our color and examined the meanings more closely. Here’s where I realized that a green personality like myself dislikes group work and staff retreats: greens are independent! (although I do consider myself a team player).

The facilitator asked our groups questions like, “How do you organize your sock drawer?” Many of the gold personalities (being organized) arranged socks by color or type (sounds like a cataloger!), while some orange personalities (rule breakers) didn’t even have a sock drawer at all–or did not care.

In another example, the facilitator asked: “If a friend asked you for advice in buying a camera, what would you say?” The green group (reference librarians!) basically treated it as a reference interview: What kinds of things do you want to do with your camera? How much are you looking to spend? Have you seen the Consumer Reports? – all hallmarks of a green personality.

Approach with Caution

Because this test boils down personality types to just four colors, it’s important to remember that although you may be dominant in one category, everyone possesses qualities of each category. Case in point, the facilitator asked me: “What would you do if you won the Powerball or MegaMillions lottery?”

My response:

I would quit my job on the spot!

Now I like my job and my place of work, but a typical green personality response would be to look at all of your options and to invest the money wisely. Evidently, a little of my orange personality seeped into my response: life is too short, do the things you want to do if you have the money to do it! Being Mr. Library Dude is good, but being Mr. Lottery Winner sounds better. :)

Discussion wrapped up with how we can communicate better with people of different personality types. This is key. It’s not “bad” to be a certain color: we all have strengths and weaknesses. Everyone has something to bring to the table. Understanding how people think and feel is important.

Focusing on Your Strengths

I think a lot of people can be turned off by personality tests because of negative qualities that might be assigned to their personality type. There’s also the risk of being pigeon-holed as a particular type of person. One test that goes in the opposite direction is StrengthsQuest/StrengthsFinder, from Gallup.

After taking a series a multiple choice questions, this survey instrument identifies your top five strengths from among 30+ categories. I did this test with my department colleagues to see how our skills complement each other. Here’s a look at my top five categories as an example:

  • Adaptability: go with the flow attitude
  • Input: likes to collect and archive information (sounds like a librarian to me!)
  • Empathy: is able to sense the feelings of others
  • Individualization: can figure out how people who are different can work together productively
  • Consistency: keen sense of treating everyone the same

What’s nice about StrengthsQuest or StrengthsFinder is that it also generates an “action plan” that highlights how you stand out, plus questions that you might want to ask yourself to help maximize your strengths. This test is great to do in large departments. If you work in an academic library, this might be a tool to use with your student employees to highlight their strengths and to help them develop their skills.

So if you’re thinking of doing a personality test for your library, give Real Colors or StrengthsQuest/StrengthsFinder a try. Of course, being a green personality type: I researched the issue and gave you a couple options to try. That’s the reference librarian in me.

Why are all your Lego librarians white? Diversity in the Library Profession

Several readers have commented and emailed me in earnest asking:

Why are all of your Lego librarians white?

Well, my first reaction to this question is that they’re not white. They’re Lego yellow, devoid of ethnicity.

Lily white or Lego yellow? [screen shot from Lego website]

Lily white or Lego yellow? [screen shot from Lego website]

Quoted by Gizmodo in 2010, Lego’s Brand Relations Manager Michael McNally stated:

The yellow-headed minifigure was a conscious choice. Because of their ethnically neutral skin color, Lego people can be any people—in any story, at any time.

Lego does produce non-yellow minifigures, but these are only part of special licensed sets (such as Harry Potter, Star Wars, DC and Marvel superheroes, etc.) in which skin color is matched to the actor’s appearance. This began in the early 2000s, when Lego produced an NBA series featuring star basketball players, many of whom were African-American. The decision was made to produce the Lego minifigures in the athletes’ likeness. Makes sense.

Reflecting on Our Profession

This brings me back to the original question. We project our own notions onto these Lego people. Does a sea of yellow Lego librarians really read “white”? Is it because of our own lack of ethnic diversity in our profession?

It’s an interesting question. Why isn’t the library profession more ethnically diverse? The latest data I could find on the ethnic make-up of librarians was from 2009-2010 and posted on ALA’s Office for Diversity website: the Diversity Counts 2009-2010 report. Here’s a snapshot:

  • 118,666 credentialed librarians
  • White: 88%
  • Black: 5%
  • Asian: 3%
  • Native American: < 1%
  • Two or more races: < 1%
  • Latino: 3%

These statistics mirror more recent data collected on ALA members: remember NOT all librarians belong to ALA.

So what is it about librarianship that fails to attract minorities? Is it a lack of promotion about librarianship as a career? A lack of mentors? Barriers to the MLS? Or are we failing to retain minorities that enter the profession?

Michael Kelly writing in Library Journal addressed some of these issues earlier this year (The MLS and the Race Line and Diversity Never Happens), while Hui-Fen Chang examines the issue from an academic library perspective.

There are a good number of scholarships, grants, and leadership programs in place by professional organizations and academic institutions to recruit and attract a diverse workforce. Detractors will argue that we shouldn’t be “privileging” one group of people over another. But that’s not what diversity is about. It’s about bring people who haven’t had a seat at the table TO the table. It’s about taking steps to meet the needs of our increasingly diverse and multiethnic clientele.

So see, Lego librarians aren’t just cute and fun…they can also lead us into debate on serious and timely issues, too.