Birds of a Feather Flock Together: The Congruence of Personality Types within Librarians’ Subject Specialties


  • John Loy AWP Mental Health Trust



personality traits,


A Review of:
Williamson, J.M., A.E. Pemberton, and J.W. Lounsbury. “Personality Traits of Individuals in Different Specialties of Librarianship.” Journal of Documentation 64.2 (2008): 273-86.

Objectives – To investigate the personality traits of a range of librarians and information professionals using the Personal Style Inventory (PSI), and to investigate whether the personality traits of those in person-orientated library specialties differ from those in technique-orientated specialties.

Design – Self-selecting survey.

Setting – Solicitations to complete the survey were sent out via 10 e-mail discussion lists, and paper copies were made available at the annual American Library Association conference in 2002.

Subjects – 2,075 librarians and information science professionals.

Methods – Participants completed the survey either in print format, as an e-mail attachment or a Web form. The survey format was an adaptation of the PSI scale using 13 of the accepted 16 scales, namely:

• adaptability
• assertiveness
• autonomy
• conscientiousness
• customer service orientation
• emotional resilience
• extraversion
• openness
• optimism
• teamwork
• tough-mindedness
• visionary-operational work style
• work drive

Responses were analysed using a two-step cluster analysis technique, and participants were grouped into seven clusters.

Main Results – The largest group of respondents was cataloguers at 23.7%, followed by other (health or law) 19.1%, academic reference librarians 13.2%, special librarians 12.3% with all other groups in single figures. Respondents were divided up into the following seven clusters.

• Cluster 1, the “unadaptive” group -- so labelled because several unadaptive traits such as low emotional resilience, low optimism, low teamwork, and low work drive are included.
• Cluster 2, “adaptive academic reference librarians” -- high on customer service orientation, extraversion and teamwork, and low on tough-mindedness.
• Cluster 3, “adaptive cataloguers” -- low on customer service orientation and possessing a more operational work style.
• Cluster 4, “adaptive special librarians” -- high on autonomy, customer service orientation and extraversion.
• Cluster 5, “adaptive distance education librarians, public librarians, records managers, and school librarians” -- possessing a visionary work style and scoring high on adaptability, assertiveness, customer service orientation, emotional resilience, high extraversion, openness, optimism, and teamwork; scoring low on tough-mindedness.
• Cluster 6, “adaptive other information professionals” -- also possessing a visionary work style and with high scores on adaptability, assertiveness, autonomy, customer service orientation, emotional resilience, extraversion, openness, optimism, teamwork, and work drive.
• Cluster 7, “adaptive archivists and systems librarians” scoring high on assertiveness, openness, and tough-mindedness.

Most clusters were comprised of a single occupational group, with only Clusters 1 and 5 made up of individuals from more than one group.

Conclusion – The results indicate that different librarianship subspecialties can be differentiated by personality traits, and that individuals are likely to be drawn to either person-orientated or technique-orientated library specialties depending on their personality traits.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

John Loy, AWP Mental Health Trust

Learning Resources Manager AWP Mental Health Trust Woodside Library Callington Road Hospital Marmalade Lane Bristol BS4 5BJ




How to Cite

Loy, J. (2008). Birds of a Feather Flock Together: The Congruence of Personality Types within Librarians’ Subject Specialties. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 3(4), 57–60.



Evidence Summaries