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Finding a niche? Becoming an expert?

I think it’s human nature to want to find one’s place, whether in the grand scheme of life or just within one’s work environment.

I’ve been at my job for just under three months and in a way that seems both short and long. Now that I’m starting to get a feel for what is expected of me and what my duties are, there’s still more room for self definition. In addition to the regular getting-to-know-everything process, I’ll also be interviewing for a tenure track position. This has gotten me to think about where I belong, what I want to do and how I want to get there.

One thing I want to do is find an area that interests me enough to do research in it; or at least learn and do enough to be able to talk knowledgeably, maybe one day do presentations. My difficulty is figuring out what that area might be.

Ok, so I like to focus on academic libraries and I work in reference. In addition, information literacy and instruction are aspects I think are important to academic librarianship and do actually go well with reference duties. That’s still pretty broad though, so then I can add in this aspect of emerging technologies or digital services or social software. Okay. But it just seems there are tons of librarians out there already looking at, investigating, and sharing thoughts about academic librarianship and technology land they are experts so what can I add to the discussion? Where do I begin? How do I become an ‘expert’ if I don’t choose what I want to focus on?

I know that I do have something to say. I have had librarian friends email/talk to me about different things. My former boss encouraged my exploration and I was proud to help that library start IM reference and their blog (and their website). I just still have a hard time figuring out where to start now, what’s next and where I want to invest my energy. Right now because I have so many areas of interest, I am suffering a little bit from ‘information overload’. So, how did you decide on your area(s) of research/focus/expertise? (And why?) I know for many they ‘fall’ into it because of their work, but that’s not really going to be the case for me.

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About Jen

An instructor, a reader, a dog-owner, and advocate; that's how I define myself and these aspects directly impact my interests and conversations.

Discussion

5 thoughts on “Finding a niche? Becoming an expert?

  1. So many people talking about place today, not sure what that is all about. The best advice I heard had to do with writing, from Pirsig: Try writing about a whole city; it’s too big. Try writing about a whole street; still. A whole house? A wall? A brick … that’s where it begins to work. Best wishes in your new job.

    Posted by John Miedema | 25 Apr 2008, 12:10 PM
  2. So many people talking about place today, not sure what that is all about. The best advice I heard had to do with writing, from Pirsig: Try writing about a whole city; it’s too big. Try writing about a whole street; still. A whole house? A wall? A brick … that’s where it begins to work. Best wishes in your new job.

    Posted by John Miedema | 25 Apr 2008, 12:10 PM
  3. As a Talking Books Librarian, I guess my area of “expertise” would be talking books! 🙂 Each “job” I have had through the years has logically led me to the place I am now. I think life is like that in a lot of ways… each “step” in life is a building block to the next. But you may not see this at the time… but looking back on your life, it is clear how all the pieces fit together to get you where you are now.

    Best,
    -Talking Books Librarian
    http://talkingbookslibrarian.blogspot.com/

    Posted by Talking Books Librarian | 25 Apr 2008, 2:06 PM
  4. I know a little about everything, a lot about nothing. My whole life has been geared towards being “well-rounded” and the end result is that I don’t have the patience or attention span to progress to the level of expert in anything.

    Posted by John Mutford | 30 Apr 2008, 12:31 PM
  5. there are lots of areas to explore…ola had a great session on finding a job for new academic librarians and that is one niche you probably are an expert it…also, what is the academic environment really like: ie. negotiating a salary, applying for a continuing appt. all of that is equally important as the techie widgets…

    Posted by Anonymous | 5 May 2008, 3:30 PM

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