Using MS Project 2010 & new to resource pools and sharer plans. If I have a sharer plan open, and make changes to tasks/assigments -- is the resource pool file updated somehow, even if it's not open in Project at the same time?

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Open the Resource pool first and close it last

When you open a sharer file that shares resources from a pool, you should have seen a dialog like this: Open resource pool

In any case, if you didn't have the pool file open, that project would have used own resources when making assignments (nothing else is available). I am afraid you will have to fix this manually.

For future reference, you should open the Resource pool first and close it last.

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