Chris Zammarelli

The Sounds of Library Science

My Personal Brand Is Destruction

This is a picture of me when I was a kid. More specifically, it was when I worked on a temporary contract as a library assistant at NASA’s Ames Research Center back in February 1997.

For a long time, I used that picture as my head shot whenever I was posing as an information professional. I’ve had a few head shots over the years, just as I have had a few information profession talking head outlets over the years.

I’ve read a lot about personal branding and stuff like that with a sense that I’ve done myself a disservice over the years by constantly blowing up the stuff I do: starting and stopping blogs, creating and deleting Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, and things like that. Why, I could have been a respected voice in the library and information science profession like Jessamyn West, with her revered website and her thousands of Twitter followers and phone calls from the White House, if I hadn’t destroyed everything I’ve ever done!

The thing is, as you can probably guess if you’ve ever talked to me, I can talk a big game in the moment, but when it comes time to put pen to paper, I can’t help but think I am just a massive fraud.

This does not make me a special snowflake. The fact that The Kids In the Hall can mine laughs from that feeling is an indication of its universality. But in those moments of extreme self-loathing, it’s hard for me to escape from my thoughts: “What am I doing? No one wants to read this! No one cares what I think! DELETE IT ALL! TEAR IT DOWN!”

When I come to my senses, I try and rebuild the dike (to the amusement of people who thought they were already following me on Twitter), but the damage is of course done. Because let’s be honest, who wants to take seriously the blog of someone who is probably just going to delete what he wrote in six months?

But the fact is, part of my problem is my mentality about writing. I have been thinking about how whether or not people are going to listen to what I say and take it seriously or think of me as legit. What I should be thinking about is how to write about what I know, what is true to my work environment, and what is working and what isn’t working in that environment.

Which is a verbose way of saying that I should write what I know and who cares what other people think so long as I am true to myself. Or to put it another way, I’ll just quote a Sondheim lyric:

Stop worrying if your vision is new.
Let others make that decision; they usually do.
You keep moving on.

So here is a picture of me circa now (…well circa February 2015). I am trying one more time to contribute to the profession, trying one more time to say stuff that is important to me, and trying for the first time to not worry if anyone else thinks it’s important. Can I promise I won’t blow up my Twitter account again? No. Can I promise I won’t give up writing a blog about library and information science in three months? No. Can I promise I’m going to try to keep those promises anyway? Yes.

Let’s see how it goes.


  1. I get what you’re saying about worrying about how your writing will be received, as it’s something I’ve been struggling with the last few years as I’ve been trying to master UX research and design. At least once a week, I’ll get an idea about something I should blog about, and then later in that day, it will seem trite or half-baked. I wonder if blogging was easier a while ago when there were more of us doing it (i.e., more of us doing the same kind of thinking-aloud writing). Now that there seem to be fewer voices in the blogosphere, I feel like whatever I write is going to stand out more, gain more scrutiny, and possibly be more regrettable for me.

    Before the days of Twitter, I felt OK writing short posts every few days. Now, that kind of work is easier (and more accepted) on Twitter (or Slack or on some FriendFeed clone). Those little blog posts kept me going though, kept me committed to my blog and to keeping my momentum up. Although impostor syndrome is probably a part of why I haven’t been blogging as much lately, there are social and technological reasons as well.

    All of this is my typically egocentric way of saying to you, don’t beat yourself up too much, don’t spend too much time looking in the rear view mirror, and don’t give a fuck if you can help it, because any writing you do here is valued. There’s always going to be an audience somewhere that’ll appreciate your blogging efforts.

  2. You can dooo eeet!

    Seriously, though. The writing itself is useful in that it helps you clarify ideas, reflect, and some place to look things up later.

    I’m trying to get back into blogging, too, but it’s slow going. What I have swirling around in my head doesn’t come out my fingers the same way.

    • Chris

      12 February 2016 at 20:26

      Oh man, I know that feeling. I am constantly thinking of better ways to say what I want to say after I say it…

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