- Quiet Development
Librarianship has long been perceived as a profession of introverts. Most of us are all too familiar with the stereotype of the librarian as meek and bespectacled, committed to maintaining order in a preferably quiet environment. While this image may be exaggerated, the underlying premise is not completely off base. Data indicate that as many as 63 percent of librarians may be introverts, compared with perhaps only one-third of the population as a whole.1
The portfolio of academic library directors typically includes responsibility for fund-raising. In fact, development work can extend to associate administrators, heads of departments and archives, and other library leaders. Given the staid leanings of the profession, it is probably safe to say that many in the library world do not relish this type of engagement. For some, the expectation to cultivate donor relationships can be uncomfortable, if not outright daunting.
As two deans who place solidly in the introvert camp, the question we raise is "why?" Mind you, we both have struggled with the interaction rituals associated with development work,2 though admittedly more in anticipation than in reality. In truth, each of us has successfully engaged with alumnae and library friends, leading to various commitments of their time, talent, and treasure to our respective institutions. Yet despite our solid track records—and our professional grounding in the outward-facing work of public services librarianship—we still do not feel quite comfortable with philanthropy. That disconnect led us to explore the association between introversion and advancement, to try to better understand the interplay.3 What we discovered bolstered our confidence and validated our sense of what we bring to the development equation.
It is not uncommon to misunderstand just what introversion is—and what it is not. The term introvert dates to the mid-seventeenth century. With roots in the Latin intro, meaning to the inside, and vertere, to turn, introversion is characterized by a tendency to [End Page 203] be reserved and introspective.4 As a psychological type, the terms introvert and extravert were first used by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung in the twentieth century.5 Jung's original term extravert (spelled with an a) continues to be used in psychology but has largely morphed into extrovert (with an o) in popular usage. It was through Jung's work that clarity about the effects of social interaction on various personalities emerged: to over-simplify, introverts often feel drained and need to recharge after social stimulation, while extraverts are energized by such experiences. Jung's research formed the basis of popular personality inventories, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.6 Such indexes tend to show that, while there are clear distinctions between introverts and extraverts, the line is not as hard and fast as some might think. It is generally accepted that everyone is an amalgam of both—an ambivert—it is just a matter of where an individual falls on the continuum. This notion of blended tendencies affirms a more holistic view of personality and helps us realize we all have something to bring to the table in our interactions with others, including interchanges with potential benefactors.
What distinguishes an introvert from an extravert goes beyond personality and psychology; there are clear differences, for example, in biology and neurology. Studies have shown that introverts respond to neurotransmitters much differently than extraverts do. In the introvert's brain, processing takes a longer, acetylcholine path, as opposed to a shorter, dopamine route for extraverts.7 The acetylcholine avenue aligns with the parasympathetic, "rest and digest" side of the central nervous system, in which one's tendency is to conserve energy and be contemplative.8
Another important distinction to keep in mind is that being introverted is not the same as being shy. Though the two are often equated, shyness is more extreme, often characterized by anxiety, awkwardness, and nervousness—sometimes to the point of dysfunctionality—regarding social situations and even casual conversation. Also, it is worth noting that neither introversion nor shyness leads to a dislike of people. Most introverts enjoy the company of others. They do, however, tend to eschew small...