Personality Types and Librarians (Part 2)

Letters on the door of the Sagrada Familia
Another look at type: the door of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain.

Using the 1994 Scherdin study of 1,600 librarians and MBTI®, and a national representative sample of MBTI® types from 1998, we can get a sense of how a group of librarians might be different from the general population. For instance, you read in the earlier post, Personality Types and Librarians (Part 1), that 16.5% of Scherdin’s librarians were ISTJs and 11.5% of the librarians were INTJs. It turns out that 11.6% of the general population is ISTJ and only 2.1% of the general population is INTJ. Since so many ISTJs are in the general population, the large percentage within librarianship doesn’t seem so unusual. Not many INTJs are in the general population, though, so the strength of their numbers within librarianship points to something about that type being drawn to librarianship. At least, according to the data in the Scherdin study.

We can use something called a “self-selection ratio” or SSR to highlight all the types which flock to librarianship in disproportionate numbers, and which ones stay away. The SSR is simply the percentage of librarians divided by the percentage in the general population. A SSR number of 1 suggests that the MBTI® type is just as common in librarianship as in the general population. A SSR greater than 1 suggests that the type is found in librarianship more so than in the general population.  A number less than 1 suggests that the type is found in librarianship less so than in the general population.

Here’s a bar graph of the SSR’s for Scherdin’s librarians. I sorted it in the same order as in the earlier post about percentages (i.e. the largest percentage of librarians were ISTJ and the smallest percentage of librarians were ESFP) to illustrate how the SSR number is different from the simple percentages:

Looking at the data this way makes it obvious that INTJs, ENTJs, and INFJs are in the world of librarianship at a higher rate than in the general population. They aren’t the most common types found in librarianship, but for some reason they self select themselves into the librarian group. Note that the N (Intuition) and J (Judging) dichotomies show up in all three of the types highlighted by SSR.

If you are considering your own career options–and debating librarianship as an option–you may care about the SSR for each of these types within librarianship.  Intuitive types in work situations like solving new problems in unusual ways. Judging types enjoy planning their work and like to make–and keep to–decisions.  Other common work preferences of all the MBTI® types disproportionately attracted to librarianship are having a variety of tasks, clear structure and the ability to work independently. ENTJs, additionally, enjoy teamwork.  These preferences are, of course, generalizations but they are supported by research reported in the MBTI Manual (p. 287-290). If you see yourself described by those generalizations, librarianship could be a good match for your type.

Here are a few resources to help you learn more about using psychological type to help you select your own career. Links take you to the Amazon detail page for the book. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases and I welcome your support!

If you would like to learn more about your own type, seek out a certified MBTI® professional to complete the instrument and discuss your results.

And here’s what I cited in this article if you’d like an academic discussion 

Myers, Isabel Briggs (1998) MBTI manual: A guide to the development and use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. 3rd ed. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press. (This is also an Amazon Affiliate link.)

Scherdin, Mary Jane (2002) How well do we fit? Librarians and faculty in the academic setting. Portal: Libraries & the Academy 2 (2): 237–253.

Scherdin, Mary Jane (1994) Vive la différence: Exploring librarian personality types using the MBTI. In Discovering Librarians: Profiles of a Profession, 125–156. Chicago, IL: Association of College and Research Libraries, American Library Association.


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