I’ve wanted to read Quiet by Susan Cain for a long time now and this class gave me a perfect opportunity to finally sit down and read it. But, before we delve into the text, here’s a brief quiz from the novel to help you find out if you’re more introverted or extroverted? Just click the link below.
Did your results surprise you? I also took this quiz, which occurs at the beginning of Quiet, and wasn’t surprised to find out that I’m introverted. Growing up I was an extremely shy child, which Cain (2012) points out doesn’t mean introverted but being afraid of social exclusion. Yet, when I was growing up shy was the descriptor I heard most often. For most of my life, I’ve yearned to be more extroverted like my brother. My brother is one of those people who loves to be the center of attention and can make anyone laugh. He always had a large group of friends around wherever he went, while I was holed up in my room reading or writing about whatever my obsession was at the time. Yet, as I’ve gotten older I appreciate my introverted nature much more and how being introverted shapes my thoughts and ideas.
The Science of Quiet
Cain (2012) spends much of the beginning of Quiet talking about the differences between introverted and extroverted peoples’ brain chemistry. The biggest difference between the two temperaments is based in the amygdala, the brain’s emotional switchboard. The more reactive a person’s amygdala the more likely that person is to be introverted. The video below by ASAP Science presents a great and understandable overview of the science of Quiet.
The Extrovert Ideal
One of the things I heard most often growing up was that I needed to be more assertive and speak up. Yet, I had a very hard time talking to people I didn’t know. As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned when and how to push myself and be more “extroverted,” yet, it usually comes with some sweaty palms and a bit of general anxiety. Cain (2012) states that many introverted people can pretend to be extroverted for events and situations they consider important. This is known as Free Trait Theory, a theory espoused by Professor Brian Little.
Living in a world where the “Extrovert Ideal” reigns supreme, especially in the United States, many introverts have to enact their own style of Free Trait Theory to be taken seriously. Cain (2012) notes that it’s not always the people with the best ideas that are followed but the people who are the loudest.
The Power of Quiet and the Library
According to Cooper and Ladd (2015), a 1995 study of librarians showed that 63% of the librarians studied were introverts based on the Myers-Brigg Type Indicator. While that study was conducted years ago, many librarians would probably still identify as introverts, myself included. However, instead of trying to force the extrovert ideal on a profession that is introvert driven, why not harness the power of quiet.
According to Cain (2012), introverts can make great leaders, in some cases even better than extroverts. Introverts are often creative and innovative, in large part because they have, in what my grandma would say, stick-to-it-ive-ness. Why not harness this dedication for some creative programming and passionate staff? That’s not to say we don’t need extroverts, it’s just to say let the introverts take the lead as well for a more balanced picture.
Mathews (2012) notes that our jobs are shifting and we need to be on the lookout for innovation and to learn from failures. Introverts are a perfect fit to not only be innovators, but with their persistence and dedication, put the research in to learn from others’ failures.
But the power of quiet is not only limited to staff. What are libraries without the communities they serve? Casey (2007) calls for everyone who has a stake in the library to be involved in any changes. And that involvement is essential to providing a better balance in library spaces. For example, public libraries could take a page out of academic libraries’ repertoires and create quiet spaces for those seeking to study, while also maintaining spaces for community activity and socialization.
In programming, libraries can balance both active and quiet programs hosting slam poetry, as well as, yoga in the library. Going further than a balance of programming, use patron passions and expertise and host a human how to in your library. Give people a space to get to know each other and learn something new, for this is how innovation occurs.
For more Quiet, here is Susan Cain’s TED Talk, which provides a wonderful look at her work in a nutshell.
AsapScience. (2016, October 20). Introverts vs extroverts. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfjN15zsPyQ
Cain, S. (2012). Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking. New York: Random House.
Cain, S. (2012, February). The power of introverts. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts
Casey, M. E., & Savastinuk, L. C. (2007). Library 2.0: A guide to participatory library service. London: Facet Publishing.
Cooper, T. and Ladd, D. (2015, June 16). Quiet in the library: Working with introverted personalities. Retrieved from http://publiclibrariesonline.org/2015/06/quiet-in-the-library-working-with-introverted-personalities/
Mathews, B. (2012, April). Think like a startup. Retrieved from https://vtechworks.lib.vt.edu/bitstream/handle/10919/18649/Think%20like%20a%20STARTUP.pdf?sequence=1