Building Your Library Community to Deal With Imposter Syndrome

By Jamie Kurumaji

I have enjoyed the recent topic on imposter syndrome on the NMRT Connect online discussion feed. When it comes to imposter syndrome, it can easily feel that you are alone with those feelings so reading over those that shared their thoughts and experiences was a good reminder that you aren’t alone. I’m not sure if those anxious feelings of self-doubt, questions about yourself, and questions of belonging ever go away. I think they can easily arise at any moment in one’s personal and professional career, from library school to library workers with over 20 years of experience.

This conversation made me reflect upon my experiences with imposter syndrome. I’ve been a librarian for five years now, all in public libraries. I’m currently even a supervisor and overseeing five branches.  I’ve sat on my share of committees and have had several opportunities to be involved in some fantastic things. But the thoughts still cross my mind that I don’t belong here.  I’ve asked myself if I was qualified to do this job, doubted my knowledge because others had been doing it longer, and just overall was unsure of the kind of job I was doing. With each year in this field, I’ve grown and remind myself that this is, unapologetically, exactly where I belong. 

One of the larger contributions to this change in my mindset has been on building up my library family and library network. I know it is a privilege to become members of the numerous library organizations and round tables, so after library school, I was very intentional about the organizations that I became a member of. I joined both the New Members Round Table and the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association. It wasn’t until I became more active by volunteering on a committee that I saw how important and valuable networking with other library staff and librarians could be. I got so much more out of the committee than the experience of being on it. While volunteering on NMRT or other library groups is important to your experience, the connections you have the chance to make is something that should be taken advantage of. 

For moments where you have felt your place isn’t valid or you feel inadequate, having that library family for support is immeasurable. Just recently I was invited to participate in a panel discussion, as well as moderate a few small group discussions. What came about immediately?  The usual questions of self-doubt: I don’t have enough experience, why would I be any good at this, does my opinion really matter?  I asked my library family their opinions on my participation and just as I have always been there for them, I received that same encouragement. 

If committee work or even if joining any of the library-related organizations just isn’t for you right now, I would definitely encourage saying yes to being mentored by another. I’ve had informal mentors in my own library organization and have taken part in mentorship programs. NMRT, along with many other groups, have mentoring programs that can provide great insights in whatever stage of your career or graduate school life you may currently be in. They can help build a network and introduce to you other like-minded individuals. I have been so fortunate to connect with the individuals that I know through a mentorship program and in committee work.  While the feelings of imposter syndrome can be difficult at times, knowing that you’re not alone can make the world of a difference. 

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