Becoming an Expert

Learn by Sidetracked (Flickr user name)

It’s been just over a year since I graduated with an MLIS, and figured it was time for some reflection on what I’ve learned. Now that I have time to breathe. Well, kind of have time to breathe between work, running, hiking, dragon boat racing, poetry writing, and trying not to have my head up my ass when it comes to family, friends, and other acquaintances…

  1. Accept the grey.
  2. As researchers, librarians, and other information professionals, we’re always looking for a nice, neat bucket to throw bits of information into. And then we come across something that doesn’t fit one of those buckets. What to do? Do you immediately act and create a new bucket for it? Or do you sit back and wait to see if a pattern emerges that shows you where to fit this new, shiny thing? There are these huge, grey areas that all of us deal with on a regular basis.

    And its okay.

    Sometimes ideas and new technologies need time to marinate because they don’t fit nicely into our constructed personal ecologies. They need time to grow, and force us to change and reexamine what we thought we knew. What grey are you living with today? Ebooks? A startup? Lack of funding? All grey areas.

  3. Trust your instincts…
  4. BUT

  5. Admit when you’re wrong.
  6. There are times when you ask all the right questions, complete your research, and it all comes back inconclusive (see item #1). So you go with a hunch to see what works. You make it up as you go along because it’s uncharted territory.

    And then sometimes it fails.

    So what do you do? First, you admit that you choose poorly. Then get back to creating something new. Many times people are afraid to fail. It’s good. It’s healthy. It directs your thoughts in another direction and examines details you didn’t notice before. Pick up the pieces and make a mosaic. But you have to admit that you were wrong.

    It’s one thing to be humbled. It’s another thing all together to be arrogant and to never acknowledge imperfection.

  7. Get back to basics.
  8. In a rut? Stuck? Strip it down to the fundamentals. Sometimes people get so caught up in improvements that they don’t notice the foundation cannot support the load. Concentrating on the basics makes sure there’s a good base, then add the walls, the roof, windows, and design.

There’s so much more that I’ve learned, but it doesn’t fit into nice buckets. I’m quite happy that I didn’t take a job in a library that may be slow to change and innovation (not all are!). I get apply my skills in unexplored areas. I have to analyze, think, research, create, and then start the process all over again to validate what I’m doing or tweak it to make it better. I’ll end with a quote from Zappos’s CEO (not because he’s my boss, but because it’s the truth), and I also wanted to link you to a TEDx video featuring the same subject, but I can’t seem to locate it!

“It may seem sometimes like we don’t know what we’re doing. And it’s true: we don’t. That’s a bit scary, but you can take comfort in knowing that nobody else knows how to do what we’re doing either. So there are no experts in what we’re doing. Except for us: we are becoming experts as we do this.”
~ Tony Hseish, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose

Photo: Learn by Alex Yule and used under a Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.

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Sara Written by:

I'm an Information Architect and Taxonomist in the greater Philadelphia, PA area. Mad about metadata. Incessant organizer. Knowledge monger. Information seeker. Wisdom chaser. Curiosity has yet to kill this cat!