The Librarian Within Ourselves

The Librarian Within Ourselves

Have you ever wondered what sort of people works in libraries? Does it take a specific type of personality to want to do that job? The stereotypical librarian is a quiet, cardigan-wearing, cat-loving literature enthusiast who enjoys reading as many books as humanly possible. As accurate as this may or may not be, why does this stereotype exist? Are libraries catnip to a particular set of personality types? According to an article by Jeanine M. Williamson in the Journal of Library Administration, “We found that librarians are more apprehensive, cautious, flexible, focused, imaginative, open-minded, respectful, self-reliant, serious, tender-minded, and trusting as well as higher on general reasoning skills.” This article isn’t the only thing to have explored the personality types of librarians, though.

There are several sites where you can take an assessment to gain perspective from results that help guide you toward a potential career path. One particular site, called CareerExplorer, used Holland Codes to determine which traits most librarians have. According to the site, which surveyed 2,497 librarians, there are five main personality traits that most librarians share:

  • Social Responsibility

    • Social responsibility measures a person’s desire to see fair outcomes and their general concern for the welfare of others.

  • Openness

    • A desire for variety, high curiosity, and an active imagination. Also, a tendency to seek out in-depth conversations and sharing of ideas.

  • Agreeableness

    • This is the trait of wanting everyone to get along. The pursuit of this ideal can often lead to self-sacrificial behavior.

  • Extraversion

    • A high extroversion level means that an individual need external stimulus to be happy; this can mean surrounding themselves with others or trying new experiences.

  • Conscientiousness

    • One’s ability to master impulses and act on a schedule. Individuals with a high conscientiousness score will find it easier to ignore urges and plan; this also means they may have difficulty with spontaneity or unexpected situations.

Another, perhaps somewhat unlikely source that broke down librarian personality types by the Myers-Briggs definitions is Referencing several standard library jobs, they correlated those with specific personalities. “Here are the Library Specialties each MBTI type will likely be found in based on interviews taken straight out of the MBTI Manual”:

ISTJ – Cataloguer


  • Deciding exact subject heading and classification of new works.

  • Orderliness of the position.

  • Working uninterruptedly in a quiet space.

  • There’s an informative YouTube video about this personality type, also.

ISFJ – Assistant Public Services Manager


  • Planning and organizing events with the unofficial title of “project Queen.”

  • Coordinating staffing needs and organizing training programs to meet those needs.

  • Putting out a calendar of events.

  • Bringing both heart and detail to their work.

  • This video helps explain this type of personality

INFJ – Reference Librarian


  • Coming up with creative ways to meet customers’ needs “I can think of 50 ways to approach their needs. I’ll make what I have here relate to their topic and show them how it does.”

  • Seeing the patrons happy.

  • Quiet activities such as paperwork tracking Library statistics.

  • This video helps explain this type of personality

INTJ – Collections and Acquisitions Head


  • Developing and working with policies and procedures and identifying the need for new ones.

  • Reviewing curriculum changes and their impact on the library.

  • Monitoring the budget and moving money around to meet needs through paying attention to the big picture.

  • This video helps explain this personality type

ISTP – Automation Specialist


  • Keeping up with the latest equipment and Computer Applications.

  • Using technology in their work.

  • Teaching short courses on Computer Applications.

  • This video helps explain this personality type

ISFP – Archivist


  • Surrounding themselves with rare books and special documentation.

  • Finding just what the patrons need to make them happy.

  • Camaraderie with other staff.

  • This video helps explain this personality type

INFP – Small Branch Library Manager


  • Forming personal relationships with customers and enjoying their idiosyncrasies.

  • Being part of the community and touching people’s lives.

  • Building collaborations: “I see my library as not having any walls, both literally and figuratively.”

  • This video helps explain this personality type

INTP – Acquisitions Specialist


  • Analyzing what is needed in the library collection.

  • Building high-quality collection through critiquing materials.

  • Constantly searching for new knowledge.

  • Having a quiet space in which to concentrate deeply.

  • This video helps explain this personality type

ESTP – Technology Specialist


  • Trying out and adapting technologies to the library’s needs (as a “techno guinea pig”).

  • Preparing and updating web pages.

  • Teaching others how to use the technologies they have learned.

  • Being away from their desk.

  • This video helps explain this personality type.

ESFP – Law Librarian


  • Their colleagues and the friendships and teamwork they’ve developed.

  • Variety of requests they get; “no two days are alike” and even the “law changes weekly.”

  • Satisfaction of helping those lawyers find the information they need, although “at times no answer exists and it’s hard to figure out when to stop!”

  • This video helps explain this personality type.

ENFP – Children’s Librarian


  • Having a variety of duties and loving them all.

  • Having freedom to move from area to area and learning something from each.

  • Being creative such as developing Storytime kits for daycare providers.

  • This video helps explain this personality type.

ENTP – Inter-Library loan Department Head


  • Fielding whatever comes to them and seeing what people are wondering about.

  • Determining what piece of the “library puzzle” fits a patrons needs.

  • Having a variety of activities.

  • Being on The “cutting edge” to better help customers.

  • This video helps explain this personality type

ESTJ – Library Services Coordinator


  • Planning how to provide services, thinking through various approaches and the consequences of decisions.

  • Taking responsibility and efficiently following through.

  • Keeping their technical skills and knowledge up-to-date so they can check the facts quickly.

ESFJ – Distance Learning Librarian


  • Traveling on-site to teach others basic library skills includes searching special indexes, evaluating the information they find, and showing them how to order materials independently.

  • Helping students find needed resources using a personal touch.

  • Providing whatever support faculty and students need.

  • This video helps explain this personality type.

ENFJ – Large Branch Library Manager


  • Play roles such as “hostess, mother, social worker, promoter…”

  • Encouraging the process of intellectual development in their patrons.

  • Contributing to their staff’s own personal and professional development includes letting them make mistakes.

  • This video helps explain this personality type.

ENTJ – Library Director


  • Their job’s information and systems aspects: “Library work can be conceptualized as a flow, which can be done poorly or well, efficiently or inefficiently. It’s a series of events to be organized.

  • Making decisions, especially about their work.

  • Staying on task, they are most bothered by personnel issues.

  • No video was available, but this article helps explain this personality type.

It should be noted that each type brings something unique to the library world, and with those contributions, the libraries retain relevancy. My grandpa Hatt used to say, “it takes all kinds,” which is no less accurate in the library industry than anywhere else. These 16 personalities make librarians more able to succeed in their unique roles than in others in which they may not be as naturally adept. The catalogers I’ve met are very different people from the directors, and likewise, they are different from the archivists. Each role is essential and necessary for the library’s success.

Which personality type are you? I’m an ISFJ. If you aren’t sure, you can take the Myers-Briggs test here.