Librarians amaze me. More than expert cataloguers, these wise people can navigate caverns of collected knowledge with a human touch that even Siri can’t imitate. The New York Public Library hosted Title Quest in 2018, a contest for librarians to demonstrate their prowess for locating books using only a few details from the vague recollections of readers eager to find books whose titles eluded them.
For two hours, a group of librarians pored over clues submitted by library patrons from across the city and beyond. “A novel with a horse named Ophelia,” read one submission. The librarian sleuths identified it as Unbroken by Jessie Haas. Another requested a book “about a school with a dangerous contest.” They deciphered this as the plot to Panic by Lauren Oliver.
Are you impressed? You’ll learn the difficulty of their feats by typing the clues into a search engine. It doesn’t work so well. The task required the delicate perceptions of well-versed minds. As if that weren’t enough, today’s librarians are just as adept at navigating the internet. They can lead someone directly to the most reputable websites for a particular inquiry while steering them clear of dubious sources. In effect, they’re prepared for nearly any question, whether it’s how to host a dinner party or where to turn when faced with addiction.
More by Mark Murphy
What dentists can learn from librarians
Business owners stand to benefit greatly by taking a page out of the librarian playbook. My financial advisory business is no exception. Clients know me for my near photographic memory when it comes to retrieving obscure but pertinent information. Unfortunately for me, while that competitive advantage served me well for some 30 years, it’s become all but irrelevant with the advent of the internet.
So, why do my clients still count on my business if they have access to the same information I do? Simple—they stick with me for the same reason we need librarians. I navigate the infinite sea of data better than my clients can by themselves, and I do it better and more reliably than the competition. In other words, I’m paid not simply for information, but for my discerning wisdom.
In many ways, the information age has leveled the playing field. But I don’t want a level playing field; I want an advantage, and so should you! “Take the job that no one else wants” is an axiom in the corporate world on how to get ahead. The prime openings have long lines of hopefuls. Good luck landing such a choice role even with years of experience. The real trick? Look for the slew of leadership positions available in sectors nobody wants to touch. That’s where the gold is, and the line to nab it is practically nonexistent.
How to ensure the upper hand
As a dentist in private practice, you’ve eschewed the ranks of the corporate world. But make no mistake; the same rules apply, particularly if you want a downhill advantage, a definitive edge that makes it easier for you to win the race. What are the two characteristics that ensure an upper hand? Accessibility and receptivity.