Inspiration, Citation, and Collaboration: Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

I’ve been thinking about a sort of sticky topic this week. It all started when I was exploring my library’s new Bibliocommons catalog (that I am absolutely in love with). I was clicking away and saw some lists created by a major library (lists! of books! I love booklists!) and it include a link to a post on their blog. The post featured a flowchart that I instantly recognized.

Because I’d made it in October of 2012.

The librarian who posted it had altered a little bit of the image, and added/substituted a couple of books. But it wasn’t just “inspired” by my chart. It was my original design with a few minor changes. There was no mention of me or my library in the post, or that they had “borrowed” or “remixed” my work.

It made me feel sick to my stomach.

Now, I’m ALL ABOUT sharing resources with other librarians. It’s WHY I BLOG. I’ve gotten so many fantastic ideas from other librarians. I’ve actually emailed pdfs of that particular flowchart to librarians and teachers all over the English speaking world, from New Zealand to Canada and everywhere in between. If librarians print it off and offer it to patrons in the library, I could care less if the patron knew who made it.

But it’s so easy to give a link back online, and there’s no excuse for not doing it.

Why did I find it upsetting?

I spent hours working on it. It’s still very early in my library career, and recognition for work could give me an edge if I ever have to look for a new job. It’s nice to be credited for work you did. It feels good. I’m not making bank in the library world, and I spent countless hours outside of my regular job advocating for libraries and contributing to the profession. The intangible payoff of a pat on the back from a colleague and fellow professional is one of the things that makes it worthwhile.

But I also felt gross that I cared. That I was somehow narcissistic for wanting credit. That in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t really a big deal.

Some awesome and supportive fellow librarians on twitter helped me see that it was.

We’re professionals. And we’re professionals that value intellectual property. We teach people how to cite their sources.

I was very glad that I wasn’t the only one thinking about this topic this week. A conversation about “how not to be an asshole” going on in the youth librarian community gave me a lot of perspective and food for thought.

See this post at Storytime Underground by Amy Koester about citing your inspiration and sources for your programs. There’s a response from Marge Loch-Wouters on her blog, about cultivating a culture of “we”. Amy contributed some more insight to the conversation by explaining how using “we” can have detrimental effects. Marge doesn’t disagree, but offers additional perspective.

I think we can promote a collaborative culture by giving credit where credit is due. It’s a matter of professional courtesy, but also professional integrity.

It’s sometimes hard to trace the source of an idea. Use due diligence. Librarians are good at finding information. We should be good about the manner in which we share it, too.

Related to the issue of giving credit is taking credit. Self-promotion can feel like bragging, which is something that myself (and a lot of people, especially women) have been conditioned against.

But it’s not bragging. It’s sharing.

In the spirit of “we” and giving credit for other people’s ideas, I’m going to get better about sharing the experience we’re having at my library and spotlighting some awesome librarians who are doing great things in our community and the library world, but because they don’t blog themselves, aren’t always being shared. And of course, I’ll be giving them credit.


3 thoughts on “Inspiration, Citation, and Collaboration: Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

  1. I’m so sorry to hear that this happened to you. I would feel exactly the same way. It takes five seconds to add a link to your blog or give you credit, and that’s what they should have done, especially after you spent so much time on that flowchart. Great post! It definitely brings up some issues that should be discussed.

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