Quiet: The power of the library, but not that way.

Kid shushing in library

Susan Cain’s book left me feeling vindicated for all of the things that I have been feeling about group work and the way that extroversion is valued in our culture. My Myers Briggs personality is INTJ, and I value getting time to recharge and work alone. I also dread group work and various social gathering. According to Cain, I am not alone in these feeling. That is because many introverts are highly reactive. This trait along with others that are common in introverts can have pretty big impacts on how they function at work and the ways they behave. Taking Cain’s ideas into account in the hyperlinked library could have positive effects that would not only help the introverts that make up the majority of library workers, but also extroverts as well.

George Soete (2000) stated that in personality studies he conducted on library staff around 66% were introverts, which is in contrast to overall population of the US which Cain states is between 33 – 50% introverts. Being able to work in a team is something that is valued in America, but Cain believes that it is being overemphasized because of the extrovert ideal. From my experience working in the library field there seems to be an overemphasis on teamwork in job descriptions and here in the iSchool. Also, rather than trying to mold the people to the job, it might be preferable to mold the job to the people who are likely to work there. Quiet seems to suggest that the emphasis should be shifted from 100% “working as a team” to a mix where people are free to work on their own and really express their creativity and then use the team to make sure that nothing has been missed.

The library of the future will have a much flatter management structure where leaders will be tasked with bringing out the best in their employees rather than keeping them in line. Cain points out another interesting study that shows that groups of introverts perform better when they have an extrovert leading them. Extroverts were also shown to perform better when they were led by an introvert. Given the highly introverted nature of library workers it would make sense to try and hire extroverts for management.

Casey (2011) points out the ability of libraries to include their users in what he calls participatory service. Taking the ideas presented in Quiet into account the library may want to have two different categories of participatory services; high stimulation services and low stimulation services. High stimulation services would be great for extroverts and might include group meetups at the library for a night of activities and engaging users to get their opinions. Low stimulation services would either be online in format or be more lowkey and about having conversations with individual users. One idea that struck me was that of user reviews of books. Instead of just having library staff promoting books why not have the user write reviews. Kenney (2014) writes that the library catalog is not living up to the expectations of users because they want to see cover art, get reviews, and suggestions for what to read. The online reviews and suggested reads could be one such low stimulation form of participatory service. Libraries could also host review parties where the public gets to choose a book to review and place on a face out shelf for a high stimulation form of this service.

Susan Cain states that both introverts and extroverts are necessary for our species to succeed, but the extrovert ideal has taken a commanding role in American culture. Quiet does a great job of showing how introverts not only add value to any enterprise they are part of but that they are necessary to counterbalance some of the behaviors of extroverts. As an introvert, I found this book to be very interesting and it was easy to relate many of the ideas in it back to our class.


Cain, S. (2013). Quiet: The power of introverts in world that can’t stop talking. Random House. New York, NY.

Casey, M. (2011). Revisiting participatory service in trying times. Retrieved from http://tametheweb.com/2011/10/20/revisiting-participatory-service-in-trying-times-a-ttw-guest-post-by-michael-casey/

Kenney, B. (2014). The user is (still) not broken. Retrieved from https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/libraries/article/60780-the-user-is-still-not-broken.html

Soete, G.S. (2000). The Library meeting survival guide. Tulane Street Publications. San Diego, CA.

3 thoughts on “Quiet: The power of the library, but not that way.”

  1. I really like the idea of molding the job to the people and not the other way around. There is such an emphasis on creating the best worker for the job that the worker can get lost. I think that if we could harness natural passions in the field and give workers the space or workspace they need that the combination could lead to more innovation in the field.

  2. The idea of readers reviewing is live at the San Francisco Public Library. It works on the Bibliocommons platform.

    Link here:

    I appreciate your explanations of introverted and extroverted individuals and found it interesting that libraries have a relatively high proportion of introverts on staff.

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