Librarian or Imposter

Underneath My Confident Librarian Mask

Every time I begin an article for Knowledge Quest or another publication, I ask myself, “What qualifies me to write about this topic?” I have concerns about writing for a predominately public school librarian audience when I work at an independent school. More doubts creep in about being in an incredibly rural area when many of the readers are from large metropolitan areas. These ruminations leave me wondering what I can offer school librarians who are far more accomplished than myself. And often, I think that there is nothing innovative or cutting edge that I can bring to the table so far removed from the advantages of the larger cities and schools.


When all of these thoughts come to my mind, I must regroup and realize that I may be experiencing something called imposter syndrome. A 2014 study titled “Perceived Inadequacy: A Study of the Imposter Phenomenon among College and Research Librarians” addresses the phenomenon in the daily work of an academic librarian. “The tasks of a modern librarian within an organization are fluid and often an amalgamation of vastly different roles such as educator, social worker, IT professional, and printer troubleshooter. Striving to be seen as an authoritative figure can lead to internal conflict when the librarian does not feel he or she is knowledgeable or experienced with the subject at hand” (Clark, Vardeman, and Barba 2014).

If a university librarian can have these doubts, think about how many different tasks a school librarian must tackle. The best advice for school librarians is not what some articles might suggest; that is “fake it till you make it.” We should instead have confidence in our library training and credentials. Besides industry-specific skills, librarians also have transferable skills. One skill is the ability to find information. Knowing where to find everything–rather than knowing everything–does not make us imposters. Think of each new task in the daily work and in career growth as opportunities, not roadblocks.

Range to “Dance across the Disciplines”

If this confidence is something we need to learn as librarians, it is also something we need to teach to our students. We must model trying new things and applying skills to different disciplines. How many times have we shown research in language arts only to find that students do not transfer any of this knowledge to science or history? Of course, there are discipline-specific techniques, but many skills transfer. Sports psychology author David Epstein reports something we often see in the library in his book Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World. “Almost none of the students in any major showed a consistent understanding of how to apply methods of evaluating truth they had learned in their own discipline to other areas.” He further writes, “everyone needs habits of mind that allow them to dance across disciplines” (Epstein 2019).

From Imposter to Genuine Article

We might know how to teach our students to be confident despite the task, but how do we motivate ourselves? Here are some articles about combatting imposter syndrome.

What are your tips for overcoming professional doubts? Please share in the comments. Or better yet write a blog post or make a presentation to colleagues. You can do it!

Works Cited”

Clark, Melanie, Kimberly Vardeman, and Shelley Barba. 2014. “Perceived Inadequacy: A Study of the Imposter Phenomenon among College and Research Librarians.” College & Research Libraries 75 (3): 255-271.

Epstein, David J. 2019. Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World. New York: Riverhead Books.



Author: Hannah Byrd Little

I’m a dedicated Library Director at The Webb School of Bell Buckle, leveraging my background in higher education libraries to guide students through the crucial transition from school to college and beyond.

I am honored to have served as the AASL Chair for the Independent School Section in 2023 and am excited to begin my upcoming role as Director-At-Large for the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) later this year, following my previous experience as a Member Guide in the AASL Emerging Leaders program. These appointments reflect my commitment to advancing library education and professional development on a national scale.

With experience in state-level leadership through the Tennessee Association of School Librarians (TASL), including serving as TASL President in 2012, I bring a wealth of knowledge to my role. My educational background includes certifications as a Library Information Specialist for PreK-12th grade, a Bachelor of Science in Communications (Advertising & Public Relations), a Bachelor of Science in Liberal Studies (Education & Information Systems), and a Master’s in Library and Information Science.

Categories: Advocacy/Leadership, Blog Topics, Professional Development

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3 replies

  1. Great article! Budget cuts are looming in my district, and I am faced once again in my career with not being validated for the skills I bring to the table. Each one of us as a school librarian (library media specialist) has so much to offer! We must keep believing in ourselves and the value and skills we bring to the table.

  2. I believe true confidence is in one’s ability to say, “I’m not exactly sure how to do this, but I’m confident I can do it or I will figure it out.” We need to believe in effort as the best course of action.

  3. Confidence is the key to success. I truly believe confidence comes with time only after attaining a good knowledge about the related subject. Hannah, you have rightly differentiated between the true confident librarian and an imposter.

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