If its data management, GIS, the Digital Humanities, Open Access publishing or OA policy implementation, data-mining or 3d printing you need to get your head around, knowing how to get proficiently informed can help make things happen faster in your library. By getting far better informed in a certain area faster, you or your team member will gain the confidence to take action, talk to researchers, explore new opportunities, start new projects or run new innovative services for your library.
Although what you might read may sound familiar, this is a strategy to help you get informed quickly by methodically following a number of steps to become far more informed rather than dipping in and out of a new topic when the mood takes you.
1. Target your topic and keywords
Identify the tags and a good couple of handfuls of keywords that will help you find what you are looking for. If you speak more than one language, search in non-English resources to uncover further search terms. Wikipedia for example and its corresponding foreign language pages will bring up new useful keywords. Using Google Translate can also help bring up foreign language keywords. It can translate text into English quickly for you.
2. Explore ten great clusters of resources
Numerous persons, analogue and online resources, events, networks and organisations can help you on your quest to become more knowledgeable in a new area.
I list three here. See the June 2014 Proud2Know blog post for the rest.
4) Great books and great articles
5) Great videos and great slides
6) Great discussion lists, great forums, great interest groups and great Facebook pages
7) Great bookmarkers and web publishers
8) Great funding programmes
9) Great good practices and great projects
10) Great education: great conferences / great events / great workshops / great MOOCs / great webinars
Who are the experts in the field? Who have you heard as a keynote speaker, seen at a conference? What people head up a board or advisory group? And who regularly contributes to lists or blogs online? Which experts have recently written a well-received article or book on the topic? Above all, who did you have that great conversation with way back when?
Perhaps you don’t know them yet. Ask your network and search on LinkedIn. Who is well connected in your network? Your colleague can introduce you to someone.
Once you’ve found them, search for what they’ve done be this as a blogger, presenter or author: See below in 2.4-2.10. Then send them a mail telling them that you’re new to the area, refer to something they’ve done that has inspired you and then ask them for guidance.
What networks are focussed on bringing experts and institutions together to solve issues in your area? Check one of the following international library networks for work in that area first. Most of these have working groups or sub-networks focussed on specific areas. These networks contain key experts and produce guidelines, make recommendations, hold workshops and the like. For example, look at the Association of European Research Libraries (LIBER): the American Library Association (ALA), Association of Research and College Libraries (ACRL), Coalition of Networked Information (CNI), or the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), EIFL, Knowledge Exchange, Research Libraries UK (RLUK) or Jisc (UK).
What specific networks, foundations or associations are dedicated to your cause? Think about SPARC Europe for Scholarly Publishing or the International Association for Social Science Information Services & Technology (IASSIST) for research data or the Europeana Professional site for all things cultural heritage.
Look at what your peers are doing and/or the organisations you benchmark yourself against. They may already have experienced many lessons learnt, be running a new project, or have hired a new expert in the area. Make a quick check list of the organisations you benchmark yourself against, your national and international colleagues and run through them.
Who are the brilliant bloggers or podcasters who you get inspiration from? Search for library podcasting sites at Podcast Alley or go straight to the British Library or The Library of Congress’s podcasts for example. Do some of them broadcast exactly on your topic or do you need to search their sites?
Search bloggers for more knowledge on Bloglines. And think about looking at blogs like Stephen’s Lighthouse, OCLC Research, Content Divergent with some great infographics, or Peter Suber’s page on Open Access for example. Search your RSS start page like Netvibes, Protopage or Rebelmouse – a guest blogger may have blogged exactly what you were looking for a while back.
Apart from the experts and the networks and associations you already know with twitter accounts, you could look at other library tweeters in your own language or in others. Look at who your colleagues are following or who your experts follow. Search for your topic by #tag to discover more. And then post your question as a tweet, and engage in conversation; people who respond to you may well be new names with further knowledge.
3. Set goals to measure your speed
At the beginning, getting up to speed will take you some time, but as time goes by, you will know who to follow and to look at regularly.
As a start, perhaps setting yourself some personal targets might help you get where you want to be.
To get you started and to get a sounder knowledge base established, you could aim to identify 4-5 resources from each category 2.1-2.10 as a mini professional development project.
After the initial phase of getting up2date or up-skilling has taken place, set yourself aside time every day or week to work on growing your expertise. This could range from agreeing on a percentage of your working time to just 15/30 minutes at the start of your day, at the end of lunch or at the end of your working day. But try to stick to it as it will become a routine and a great habit.
So set some deadlines, and get dedicated by setting yourself some personal targets. For example:
I, <name> commit to:
spending x amount of time on getting up2date in this area per day / per week
attending x events
reading x articles
signing up for x MOOCs, webinars, etc.
transferring what I learnt to x colleague/s
4. Get listening, watching, reading, talking
Once your plan is in place, methodically go through your checklists and get listening, watching, reading and talking to those who know. Document the best references by recording information in the places that you best like to use at a later date. This can range from a paper notebook to reference software to a mind map or to one of many other software programs or apps to easily share with others at a later date.
For your online resources, bringing things together in one place using a start page like Netvibes, Protopage or Rebelmouse will save you time when following the continuous flow of news feeds. Set this up to bring as much of your dynamic content into one place. You could also create a new info hub service to share with others hosted by the Harvard TagTeam: https://tagteam.harvard.edu/ See the Open Access OATP as a great example.
5. Keep motivated
Share your goals with a colleague to keep motivated. Inform them that you are getting up2date or upskilled in x, y or z and share your progress with them on a regular basis. This will help you keep moving towards your goal and make you more accountable to what you’ve promised yourself.
Tracking your progress along the way will also help you stay motivated. Keep track of the expert/blogging/article/conference targets you achieve along the way. Make a chart or list so that you can easily visualise how far you’ve come.
Reward yourself if it will help you get it done, enjoying something at the end of any stage you set yourself. It could be a good coffee, a snack, some drinks with your colleagues, a run or bike ride, or grabbing that book you’ve been dying to finish that completes that stage. How you reward yourself is up to you.
At the beginning, small payments to yourself will encourage you forward.
Once you’ve gained far more new insights, why not share some of the things you’ve learnt and opportunities you’ve identified for yourself, your colleagues and for the library.
First of all, you can simply add the topic to your CV, LinkedIn, and the like.
Then, a great way to share is in person with your colleagues and the organisation that gives you this new opportunity. Best of all, you share some of what you learnt and created (the information you gathered and managed) with the person who has been following you on your journey, or else with another colleague or group.
You could do this by sharing your Delicious or Reddit bookmark page, or Netvibes or Protopage Tab on the topic. Alternatively, you could make a presentation or even create a 23 Things on X, Y or Z for your library colleagues or clients. You could share some of your new-found info during a quiz during lunch.