Librarians Are Knowledge Managers
Elaine Skopelja MALS, AHIP
I have been thinking a lot lately about knowledge management (KM), perhaps because I have been on so many committees lately at the Indiana University School of Medicine (Faculty Development, Community Relations, the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CTSI) Hub Team, etc.). Although they are quite diverse, they all have one thing in common – a varied membership of professions across the medical, bioresearch and IT fields. I can’t tell you how much information that I have gained over the last few years just by listening to these folks and kind of quietly analyzing their information resources and needs.
Serving on committees and working with departments was just as valuable while I was employed in hospital libraries. There is just NO substitute for hearing what people in the field have to say about their jobs, how they approach information-gathering and what they use for resources. Using the opportunity to ask them questions and perhaps gain an invaluable contact is another plus. Librarians generally work with many different institutional areas and specialties and are in a position to hear about information solutions in one department that might work in another. We often have a head start on acquiring that “institutional memory” which is a big part of knowledge management. This familiarity with users also helps considerably with performing better and more efficient searches.
We should not be afraid to start using the KM concept, even if we still (proudly) call ourselves librarians. Maybe organizing internal reports or assisting/consulting with departments in tagging (aka indexing or cataloging) their own documentation is a way in which we can contribute. How about working with the organizational intranet? How about recommending and/or helping faculty, researchers and administrators to change their file cabinets of papers into electronic libraries by using EndNote or other bibliographic software? There are many ways to apply KM principles to the job that we already perform. Perhaps just referring to these types of projects “knowledge management” will give this work the cachet that you seem to need nowadays to become cool (or cooler as the case may be!).
Exactly how to use this information to create, organize and distribute useful content AND promote your library and its services comes immediately to mind. Nowadays there are a lot of technical formats to promote the library, so many that it can be extremely confusing. But we need to carefully pick a few formats to become comfortable with, and then do our old-fashioned job of selecting and/or creating, organizing and distributing external and internal knowledge to use with new technologies and formats. On her blog Lorri Zipperer offers several excellent classes in knowledge management in the past and has some unique ideas on the roles of libraries and librarians. I have been to several great sessions on digital repositories myself in the past few years.
Attending meetings such as Midwest Chapter MLA meeting in Madison this September, MLA in Washington this May, or your state meetings will provide you with numerous opportunities to learn about some new technologies, gather ideas from other librarians and talk to software creators and providers. As a member you have access to the Midwest Chapter/MLA Listserv to communicate with the many expert librarians in our group. Use it to ask questions, share information and network with colleagues.
A few weeks ago the Midwest Chapter Executive Board tried out our DimDim meeting software and it worked pretty well, with no more than the usual amount of small technical glitches. It will be in full use for our next board meeting in March thereby allowing several librarians who would otherwise be unable to attend to meet with us, saving money for both individuals and their organizations. As information-sharing and organizations become more complex, we need to use KM principles to create, organize and distribute knowledge in a timely, efficient and cost-effective manner. As librarians, we are well-placed by training and experience to do just this! So let’s outdo the IT guys by defining ourselves and creating our own “truthiness” – librarians are also KNOWLEDGE MANAGERS!!!
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IN THIS ISSUE OF MIDLINE:
- Midwest MLA Call of Papers and Posters - Things of interest to a medical librarian. - Krafty Librarian on Midwest Chapter Announces New Research Award!
- President’s Message | MIDLINE on Dominican University GSLIS Career Day
- President’s Message | MIDLINE on Interview with President-Elect Jane Blumenthal
- President’s Message | MIDLINE on MLA ’11 Returns to Midwest Chapter Territory
- Midwest State Associations Report | MIDLINE on Librarians Converge on the Square
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