This is a thought experiment, applying KM principles to a library environment. My interest in this area stems from the work of Bonnie Nardi and Day, although I share their empathy with librarians as unsung backroom heroes, I find the library mindset to be a very limited view of knowledge work. Started by Denham Grey on 05/28/2000.

These thoughts have been overtaken by the library2.0 meme



What would be different?


In many respects the library is a great place to contrast the difference in approaches between a knowledge and information mindset. Why?:


Library folks:


  • Focus on knowledge via the collection, they have an object view and mindset, believe they add value via organization catalogs, classification and effective management, are often protective of privacy to the detriment of relationships
  • Follow an information needs paradigm, they seek to satisfy (amplify & question?) individual information requests and believe implicitly in the value of an intermediary role
  • Their measurements go around books loaned, books lost, books gained; it is all around the objects and the effectivity of the collection, rather than the learning and connections made
  • Ephemeral representations are looked down upon (archives are an exception here), e.g. experience, insights, ideas, conversations, community. Their focus is on formal documentation (newletters, conference notices cfps)

Take this quote as an example [from SIGIA-L 06/19/2001]:

  • A "thing" (presumably data) does not merit the title "information" until it
  • "informs". Therefore in order for someone to be involved in the architecting
  • of an environment/delivery for which someone becomes "informed", there will
  • have to be an understanding of the individual and their environment.

"I believe that I can arrange things for later retrieval (in various ways) without knowing my audience. In libraries, we've been doing this for a long time--100 years ago, people arranged all sorts of information without knowing the slightest thing about us today. Yet, we can find the material (information) they arranged. This is a fact that we see in practice every day." The issue is not can folks retrieve without support, but how much leverage is provided by having a community to help with access, asking questions, questioning assumptions AND understanding meaning??

  • Organization without retrieval is the problem of librarianship.[SIGIA-L 06/21/2001]


KM folks:

  • Have a more holistic (at least I hope they do!) approach that recognizes the importance of ephemeral exchanges (conversations, meetings, e-mail, IM) to knowledge flows.
  • Appreciate the politics and power relationships around knowledge sharing
  • Seek to increment customer, social, intellectual and human capital, supporting knowledge creation in addition to access
  • Have been bolder in applying advanced inferencing and digital techniques (collaborative filters, data mining, automatic profilers, rating schemes)


What happens when letting a KM person loose in the library!


“People and ideas interact in both the real and virtual environments to expand learning and facilitate the creation of new knowledge.” As the world changes, technology emerges, and new knowledge is gained, libraries undergo drastic changes. The new role of libraries in this century has shifted towards a learning and knowledge center for users as well as a holding ground for intellectual commons.

Libraries now have an opportunity to become a learning organization and should provide strong leadership in knowledge management. Libraries need to shift their thinking to have a different orientation and value associated with knowledge management. This shift will be used to obtain a competitive edge. It should be a key focus to expand the access of knowledge for their users. With that said, here are some examples of how libraries can shift for a knowledge management approach.

  • Create Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software/systems that allow
    • Connecting individuals in multiple levels rather than only with objects in the collection (e.g. using Recommender systems, books, series)
    • Notifying clients when new books arrive that match their interest profiles (proactive SDI service)
    • Providing a 'pull' service (i.e., I would like to know of other consenting folks who are interested in this subject area)
    • Reading recommendations based on collaborative filters and automated profile construction, proactive suggestions
    • Using user yellowpages, to encourage connections between people
  • Fostering communities of practice in addition to collection excellence
  • A focus on user ethnography and promotion of relationships, learning and personal networking
  • Greater involvement of users and community in the selection of materials and allocation of resources
  • Building virtual (and physical) spaces for engagement, exchange and dialog
  • Greater use of digital resources e.g. concept level indexing going across books and journals (e.g. http://www.meansbusiness.com )
  • Tracking user dynamics in greater detail (i.e. going beyond mining the lending records to catalog search patterns and second guessing user needs)

What else can they do?

  • Analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information and use that information to solve problems of variable content
  • Merge the gap between cross-generational employees
  • Coordinate mentor activities between pending retirees and individuals who will assume their roles within the library
  • Manage training sessions over pending projects involved in KM aspects
  • Alignment of mission, objectives, and goals within KM projects


Other Resources


These thoughts have been overtaken by the library2.0 meme

Library '06 - a look forward