Evolution unleashed: Charting your expertise growth as an information literacy librarian

As we grow in our professional lives, it’s important to recognize our evolution, from novice to expert. This isn’t always easy. While that growth is often seen as positive experience, could that evolution over time fundamentally change me as a librarian?

A Promised Land

Recently I reactivated my Ottawa Public Library library account and the first audiobook I delved into was President Barack Obama’s “A Promised Land,” which explores the intricacies of his early political experiences and his first presidential term. I must confess, my admiration for Barack Obama is significant; his prose carries both sincerity and sophistication. This stands in sharp contrast to President Donald Trump, whose public remarks often struck me as disorganized, lacking in substance, and in most cases, downright disgusting.

The image shows a display dedicated to President Obama's visit to Hiroshima. The central focus is on two origami paper cranes placed in a display case, one pink and one orange, with accompanying text indicating that President Obama handed these cranes to children during his visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Above this, a larger text panel and photo show President Obama signing a message. The message is displayed below the photo and reads, "We have known the agony of war. Let us now find the courage, together, to spread peace and pursue a world without nuclear weapons." The text is in both English and Japanese, reflecting the bilingual nature of the exhibit and its international significance. The display is a poignant reminder of President Obama's historic visit to Hiroshima and his call for peace and disarmament. Like my own evolution, the U.S. too, evolves to a changing political landscape.
Display in the Hiroshima Peace Museum, Hiroshima, Japan from our trip in 2018/19

Early in Obama’s memoir, he reflects on a trip he took to Iraq as part of a small congressional delegation, approximately three years following the initiation of the U.S.-led invasion. This moment of reflection occurs towards the end of the third chapter, here Obama offers insights into the thoughts that emerged from that visit (emphasis was added by me):

Flying back to the United States, I couldn’t shake the thought of those kids paying the price for the arrogance of men like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, who’d rushed us into war based on faulty information and refused, still, to fully consider the consequences. The fact that more than half of my Democratic colleagues had approved this fiasco filled me with an altogether different kind of worry. I questioned what might happen to me the longer I stayed in Washington, the more embedded and comfortable I became. I saw now how it could happen—how the incrementalism and decorum, the endless positioning for the next election, and the groupthink of cable news panels all conspired to chip away at your best instincts and wear down your independence, until whatever you once believed was utterly lost.

(Obama, 2020, chapter 3)

His experiences lead me to question my own experience: Would time chip away at my best instincts and wear down my independence?

Sure that might be dramatic, considering Obama’s tenure as the President of the United States certainly encapsulates a level of power and responsibility far beyond mine as a librarian. Nevertheless, his reflections in “A Promised Land” resonated with me, prompting a consideration of my own professional journey and question if time will wear me down and erode the fundamental principles that I would argue make me a good librarian?

Is it possible that my core principles and ethos might evolve with time? I believe so; indeed, constant reflection and growth are essential. Yet, at the heart of it all lies my fundamental conviction: our purpose is to support and uplift others, be they students, faculty, or colleagues. My mission is to equip individuals with the skills to discern and engage with information thoughtfully. My aspiration remains steadfast, hoping that the passage of time will not alter this guiding objective.

My evolution as a librarian: When am I an expert?

I’ve been in a librarian role for more than a year now. Despite my success, I frequently experience imposter syndrome, though I can’t pinpoint exactly why. My work is consistently of high quality, and colleagues regularly seek my advice on a range of professional matters.

Celebrating my first year as a Communication and Journalism Librarian has been a quiet journey of growth and learning. It’s fascinating how quickly the time has flown by, filled with tasks, challenges, and achievements. At times, it feels like it all happened in the blink of an eye, leaving me to wonder, “Where did the time go?” While the question of where the time has gone lingers whimsically in the air, it’s rhetorical at its core—I’m well aware of where the time as gone.

When I asked ChatGPT to draw the evolution of librarianship, this is what it gave me. The image is a creative illustration depicting the evolution of a librarian in a manner akin to the iconic "March of Progress" evolutionary diagram. It starts on the left with an ape-like figure and progresses through stages of hominid evolution. The figures gradually stand more upright and evolve into human forms, paralleling the stages of human evolution with the evolving role of librarians. The human figures transition from carrying books to holding laptops and eventually evolve into futuristic librarians equipped with advanced technology such as augmented reality glasses and holographic interfaces. This visual metaphor cleverly conveys the development of librarianship from its traditional roots to a technologically advanced future.
A ChatGPT depiction of a librarian’s evolution

As librarians, we are expected to produce an annual report in April. As I prepare that report I dug into my statistics for the past year.

The statistics from my year

This year has been a whirlwind of achievements and learning experiences. I’ve led 29 library instructional sessions and engaged in 259 consultations (and growing) with students, faculty, and community members. My involvement in the library profession has extended to two conferences, where I presented three times, with another presentation accepted for the American Library Association annual conference in June.

Additionally, I received an invitation to contribute to InsideOCULA and delivered six instructional presentations to my colleagues on topics such as ChatGPT, escape rooms, and Trello. A personal milestone was completing a 12-page reflection on my teaching philosophy, a project I’ve intended to complete for over three years. My blog has grown substantially this past year featuring over 15 new reflective posts, sharing insights and experiences from my journey. Lastly, I had the honor of assembling a nomination package for a professional librarianship award for one of my colleagues.

As I reflect on these numbers, I’m reminded of the journey that has brought me here. With nearly five years of library instruction under my belt (with only one of those in an actual librarian role), this year’s experiences not only add to my professional evolution but also to the rich tapestry of learning and engagement I’ve had the privilege to weave with students across disciplines.

A simple change, which underlines my evolution

It’s early in my career but I’m quickly coming to the conclusion that I am already an expert in my field. Do not confuse expertise with the notion of always having an answer. No one will have an answer to everything. We should never become complacent that we have nothing to learn.

Defining oneself as an expert in the intricate fields of information science and librarianship requires introspection and growth. This year, I undertook a subtle yet significant change that symbolizes this journey: I updated this blog’s tagline from “Adventures of a newly minted librarian” to “Adventures of an instructional librarian.” Though it may seem like a minor edit, this decision was made with considerable thought and represents a pivotal moment in my career.

This change is more than just a new label; it’s a testament to my ongoing transformation, commitment and evolution toward excellence in librarianship. As I navigate the complexities of my role and strive towards expertise, this evolution is important for my identity as a librarian.

Conclusion: Evolution from novice to expert

After significant reflection, I’m starting to realize that I am currently transitioning from novice to expert. In that transition, I hope that time and experience doesn’t chip away at my best instincts and wear down my independence. I consider myself a good librarian. I try new things and push the envelope. But will that change over time? Will time force me to change? Obama was concerned with what would happen to him the longer he stayed in Washington, the more embedded and comfortable he became. This has become my new worry.

Header image by ChatGPT.

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