Sucking at Something and Perceived Inadequacy: a coda for DH students

Our last class for the Digital Humanities course wraps up Tuesday night.  We will discuss the future of DH, job prospects for DH librarians and complete the course evaluations.  I am inclined to offer advice on what would be the next step for my students although each student has different interests. Consequently, I am left with giving some general advice on how to approach any future work in librarianship, DH or otherwise.

My first piece of advice is from Jake the Dog:

Begin. Begin anywhere.  Try something. Try and fail. Try again.  My students know that I am not an ‘expert’ in DH–hell, I told them!–and that we would explore DH together in the course.  Some lectures, projects and assignments worked better than others yet we all learned something.

Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian talks about first steps, building new things and his experiences with building Reddit.

Sucking at Something is the First Step to Being Sorta Good for Something

Last, a piece of scholarly work came across my desk last week.  “Perceived Inadequacy: a Study of the Imposter Phenomenon Among College and University Librarians.”  This article studies the psychological state of librarians who take on new responsibilities.  What is interesting about this article is that it reinforces what I have experienced professionally and what I have been teaching students in my Humanities Information course these past few years.  There is a time as a new librarian or when you take on new subject responsibilities, that you feel completely overwhelmed by the duties that have fallen to you and that you feel like a fake or an imposter.  As subject librarians, we are given research, collection development and instruction duties outside our areas of expertise yet we are tasked with making competent decisions.  What I have noticed is that in the first two or three years in a new position, there is a steep learning curve but that once confidence is developed, the anxiety gradually dissipates.  I see a similar paradigm taking hold in digital humanities for librarians.

Understand that your feelings of inadequacy are not an impediment to learning new things and improving your knowledge and skill sets.

So, in the end, be brave, strike forth, let your passions and interests be your guide.