On the surface, Knowledge Management (KM) and library science/information management may not seem like natural partners. And while I might be biased — I come to KM from this perspective — I think the linkages between the two areas are clear.
Library/information science is about connecting people with the information they need. While knowledge management tends to be a bit less clear-cut since one challenge with KM is turning knowledge in people’s heads into something explicit, organized, and retrievable, the focus is on linking people with ideas, expertise, information, data, and knowledge.
1. It’s about asking the right questions.
One of the main elements of librarianship is learning how to ask questions and then interpreting answers to determine exactly what someone is looking for and why. What’s the end goal? What do you want to do with that information? How do you plan to use it — is it a one-time question or something that has long-term applications? Re-use? Long-term storage needs? All of these questions need to be considered and their answers interpreted in order to best connect someone with the information or knowledge he/she is trying to obtain.
2. Information management is applicable to all fields — even the most technical, specialized areas.
Most subject-matter experts (SMEs) know a single field in depth. Information management practitioners fit this framework, but our skill set applies to any and all subjects. We know how to find, collect, organize, disseminate, curate, and preserve data, information, and knowledge — regardless of subject matter.
Curation — the art of collecting, organizing, showcasing, and preserving artifacts — has been a staple of the profession since the Library of Alexandria. But in today’s swampland of digital information, it’s more important than ever to have processes in place to highlight key new knowledge, new findings, announcements, news that’s important to your organization. Helping individuals make sense of the mountain of knowledge surrounding them is critically important, yet it is an often-overlooked responsibility within the workplace. Realistically, if your organization’s approach is that “we are all digital curators,” the reality is that no one is filling this need in a consistent, systematic way. Curation work is closely aligned with the work librarians and archivists have been performing for centuries.
4. Technology should facilitate Knowledge Management activities, but not serve as its driving force.
While technology is often a component to facilitate knowledge management, I strongly believe it shouldn’t be the driving force behind shaping a KM strategy or how KM approaches are implemented. Rather, the emphasis should be on people. What’s the best way to connect people to the knowledge they need? Moreover, many of the most fruitful approaches to KM such as knowledge cafes don’t even involve technology. Looking at KM through the blinders of technology will limit its value for your organization. KM needs a holistic approach in order to be successful.