How to Not Be An Asshole: Or, Citing Your Colleagues’ Work
This here is a collaborative profession, y’all, a fact about which we at the Storytime Underground are THRILLED every day. There wouldn’t be a Storytime Underground, or a Guerrilla Storytime movement, without your willingness to talk about your ideas and successes. The stuff you all freely share–on your blogs, on Facebook, on listservs, at conferences–why, it’s inspiring. Sharing is what helps us all keep things fresh, interesting, and as beneficial as possible for the folks we serve at the library.
And yet, sometimes, in the midst of all that feel-good energy that comes from the sharing for the benefit of all, we neglect to do that most responsible of librarian duties: cite our sources.
Consider this post, then, firstly as a reminder that it is important to cite your colleagues. They do great inspiring work, after all, and they absolutely, 100% deserve the credit and recognition for that work. As do you, for the work you do.
You can also consider this post a how-to for doing right by your colleagues. A how-to for giving credit where credit is due and not being as asshole, as it were.
1) When you see something on another blog (or conference presentation, or webinar) that you’d like to try, make sure you note where you got your original idea.
Keep these inspiration links in a Google Doc or on Evernote, because chances are, if you have your own blog, newsletter, etc., you’re going to want to write about your awesome iteration of the idea. Any write-up you do is incomplete–and, frankly, misleading–if you don’t include your inspiration source material. I’m not talking about etymology of a program concept here; there’s no need to trace every single step back to the original idea person. Cite where you got your inspiration, and you’re covered.
2) Your colleagues’ ideas are not your ideas.
That is to say, if you are in a position to be a mouthpiece for the excellent work happening at your library or by your colleagues–be that in a meeting, in a conference presentation, in an online course, on a blog, etc.–don’t just state your colleagues’ ideas like they’re your own. Cite them! Drop their names! Give them mad props for their badass librarian skills. Not only will you be doing the right thing, you’ll also demonstrate that you’re all about supporting the folks doing great work in the profession.
3) When you use program photos and other image content from blogs in your own blog posts or presentation slides, include the blogger’s name and a full link back to their blog.
It’s polite. It’s academically responsible. And it’s also giving your readers/attendees a direct link back to your source material. If it inspired you, it’ll probably inspire them, and you want to make sure they can get to the goods.
You’ve got some straightforward tips for being on the responsible side of citing the colleagues who influence you, but you may be wondering: what happens if you’re on the other side of the equation?
What to do if you realize your work hasn’t been cited by a colleague:
If your intellectual property isn’t being credited to you, you should be all means contact the person failing to give credit. But contact that person in private–face to face if you work directly with them, via email if you don’t. And be respectful. Sometimes a lack of credit is due to a lost link, or a hurried wrap-up to a blog post process. And while none of you fine readers will ever encounter these obstacles in your own need-to-cite-scenarios again, when they do happen, it’s usually neither personal nor intentional.
And if you’ve talked to the person, and they continue to take credit for your ideas (either explicitly or tacitly)? If you work with them, I’d seriously consider talking to your supervisor about how to proceed. It’s not being a tattletale, it’s about YOU getting appropriate credit for YOUR work. If you don’t work with them? Start a blog and write up all your awesomeness as soon as possible. Timestamps don’t lie.