CaseyAnn Salanova is a graduate student at Kent State University studying Knowledge Management and Library and Information Science. She currently heads the Interlibrary Loan department and serves as the Core Team Leader at Schmidt Library at York College of Pennsylvania.


Libraries, unfortunately, are all too often viewed as antiquated as your grandmother’s chintz curtains.

The public perception of the total value of a library is often veiled by their large budgets and seemingly little return. The reality is though, libraries have dealt with cuts for years now with budgets decreasing even as prices on databases, materials, and technology increase. Even within the library world, a common topic of conversation and conference theme is its own relevancy. Many graduate Library Science programs, like Kent State, ask applicants to write an essay on the relevancy of libraries. Such a requirement is already setting up a professional perception of its own irrelevancy.

Toronto Public Library.JPG(Martin Prosperity Institute, Page 1, 2013)

But, libraries are in fact useful and economically advantageous. The Free Library of Philadelphia pinpointed four major economic areas that libraries contribute to: literacy, workforce development, business development, and increased home and neighborhood values (Fels Research & Consulting, Diamond, Gillen, Litman, & Thornburgh, 2010). The Toronto Public Library estimates it has created over $1 billion in total economic impact (Martin Prosperity Institute, 2013). The bottom line is they provide a low cost education and cultural platform for society (Z. Zhou, personal communication, November 10, 2015).

What is true though, libraries are at a crossroads and in need of a revolution—“one that remakes the institution’s technology, goals and training (Lozada, 2015).” Knowledge management can be a part of it, if not a catalyst. It is an approach to the management and effective use of intellectual capital.  ​

The key to knowledge management is approaching it with the creativity of design and the pragmatics of a business. There is not a one size fits all approach nor is there only one approach that leads to successful knowledge management (Becerra-Fernandez & Sabherwal, 2015). Really, it is holistic. But, not in the granola eating, tree hugging, meditating mentality (even though that is perfectly fine, too). Rather, knowledge management is an interconnected process that requires internal and external analysis, participation organization wide, a willingness to adapt, and a commitment to sustainability. So, why do it in a library?

Libraries are at a moment in time that is ripe for opportunity. They provide an ideal stomping ground for knowledge management through a collection of people from varied backgrounds which differs from the typical KM business case. Their commodity is that of knowledge and it is ever increasing in breadth, format, and structure. They already have a strong technical infrastructure, workflows system, and a long tradition of documentation and onsite training. And just as IKEA’s founder, Ingvar Kamprad changed his business practices to the Ikea we know and love today (Liedtka, 2011), libraries have been adapting for years from papyrus to calfskins, printed books, microforms, and electronic resources. It is just now, some consider Google as “America’s reference librarian and Starbucks its ISP (Internet Service Provider)” (Lozada, 2015). Technology is changing at a rapid pace and libraries need to adapt quicker.

Knowledge management can help change the internal and external perception of a library as well as provide the necessary knowledge to compete and thrive. Through the process of developing a strong KM Solution, hard questions will be asked including the contingency factors that affect the overall process (Becerra-Fernandez & Sabherwal, 2015). But, ultimately a better understanding of the context, innovation and knowledge sharing, succession management, employee orientation, learning, and development, and the identification, documentation and dissemination of processes, practices, and expertise of the organization will arise which will lead to the development of a successful knowledge management plan (NCHRP, 2014).  But, what many libraries are lacking in is the motivator.

It does not matter where within the library an individual stands—anyone can become the motivator. Knowledge management can begin as an organically grown movement, but key individuals need to get on board—within a library it is typically the director and upper level administrators. Without the support of the organization’s leader, it is unlikely KM will succeed (Becerra-Fernandez & Sabherwal, 2015). A common occurrence though within the knowledge management sector is for a CLO (Chief Learning Officer), CIO (Chief Information Officer), or CKO (Chief Knowledge Officer) to be hired on a temporary basis and then it is assumed knowledge management will be integrated into company/organization practice (Becerra-Fernandez & Sabherwal 2015).

Let us not assume, but sustain. Knowledge management processes can be customized and adapted to current and future needs. They can be designed to meet budgetary needs with many knowledge management solutions functioning at virtually no or low cost.   So, be the motivator and embrace knowledge management in the library. It can help propel the library into the future while still sustaining the knowledge cultivated from tradition.


Works Referenced
Becerra-Fernandez, I., and Sabherwal, R. (2015). Knowledge Management Systems and Processes. New York, NY. RoutledgeTaylor & Francis Group.
Fels Research & Consulting, Diamond, D., Gillen, K.C., Litman, M., Thornburgh, D. (2010). The Economic Value of The Free Library In Philadelphia. Retrieved from http://www.freelibrary.org/about/Fels_Report.pdf
Liedtka, J. (2011). Why Design? In Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Tool Kit for Managers (3-20). New York: Columbia University Press.
Lozada, C. (2015). Do we still need Libraries? Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/do-we-still-need-libraries/2015/04/23/c2105778-e92e-11e4-aae1-d642717d8afa_story.html
Martin Prosperity Institute. (2013). So Much More: The Economic Impact of the Toronto Public Library on the City of Toronto. Retrieved from http://martinprosperity.org/media/TPL%20Economic%20Impact_Dec2013_LR_FINAL.pdf
NCHRP. (2014) Scan 12-04 Advances in Transportation Agency Knowledge Management. Retrieved from http://www.domesticscan.org/wp-content/uploads/NCHRP20-68A_12-04.pdf

Edwin K. Morris ​

Pioneer Knowledge Services

Contact@pioneer-ks.org

Knowledge management is a contemporary business practice and organizational capacity builder that is recognized Army Def.pngand used by governments, military systems, industries, corporations, foundations, and academia.

The World Health Organization considers "KM to be the dual challenge of, first, managing information and processes and, second, managing people and their environment so that knowledge is created, shared and applied more systematically and effectively." (World Health Organization, 2005, p. 8)

Effective knowledge management economizes and creates opportunities for learning across at an enterprise level. This effort enables better and faster decision-making and reduces resource mismanagement by creating a learning and knowing culture. A culture that shares and provides the opportunity for reflection then learning becomes foundational in the organizational culture. The result is an organization that gains strength and agility as the system continually builds and leverages the deliberately designed institutional wisdom. The ingredients in this KM Recipe is People, Processes, Tools equate and include in the equation the Organization.

As KM, has evolved so has the meaning and definition of knowledge management. To this end in 2015 Girard & Girard authored a research paper to distill and find the essence of the various definitions of knowledge management. From 100 definitions, they analyzed the words and distilled the essence of them to state KM is, "Knowledge Management is the process of creating, sharing, using and managing the knowledge and information of an organization." (Girard & Girard, 2015, p. 14) They concluded the following describing the trek of KM and its definition.

From a humble beginning about three decades ago, knowledge management has developed from a premature concept into a mainstream organizational necessity. Over the course of time the exact nature of the term has evolved. In the past decade the responsibility for establishing a precise applied meaning of the domain has passed from academics to practitioners. The latter have massaged the early academic definitions to meet the wants and needs of their particular constituents. This project is an early attempt to record the applied definitions that have progressed to ensure they are available to academics and practitioners alike. (Girard & Girard, 2015)

Just as knowledge management is used in business and industry as a key ingredient for innovation, sustainment, and growth, it can serve the same purpose for regions, communities and society.

For example, the World Bank produced a Knowledge Economy Index that represents a country's overall preparedness to compete in a knowledge economy. In a knowledge economy, "…knowledge assets are deliberately accorded more importance than capital and labor assets, and where the quantity and sophistication pervading economic and societal activities reaches very high levels." (Institute, 2007, p. 13) In the World Bank's 2012 index, the U.S. ranked in 12th place. This was a drop by 8 since the year 2000. Sweden is in first place and regarded as the most advanced knowledge economy. The relevance and importance of developing knowledge resources is highlighted further below:

…whatever their level of development, countries should consider embarking on a knowledge- and innovation-based development process. In these times of accelerated globalization, "grey matter" is a country's main durable resource. Its exploitation for economic and social well-being is increasingly at the center of development strategies. (Institute, 2007, p. xiii)While the vision promoted by The World Bank is much larger in scope and depth than what this pilot could possibly aim to accomplish, we can point to incremental steps under way in our state government that are necessary to enable the prioritization and development of a true knowledge economy. For example, Denise Bedford reflects that, "The nature of the shift from an industrial to a knowledge economy – in organizational culture, in collaboration, in technologies and simple operations – is a radical transformation." (Bedford, 2012)

An indication of knowledge importance in society is exampled by searching the New York State Assembly Bill Search. Searching the keyword "data" produces 125 bills. A search of the keyword "database" results in 38 and the term "knowledge" produces 13 bills. (State, 2016)

Given the magnitude of activity at the public policy level, we suggest also that paying attention to the data policy agenda must also be a priority.

Consider the realm of leadership and how it effects the organization culture. APQC in 2013 conducted a survey that produced the below infographic. They polled 547 respondents from various industries. They were asked about leadership in their organizations. Listed as the top leadership deficiencies knowledge sharing is number three. (APQC, n.d.)

So where are we know? KM as an organizational asset continues to grow in every domain of business. In my judgement the need for 21st century digital skills in people is the same in what is expected in organizations. How well they adapt and adopt addresses the question to how successful the culture integrates into the knowledge ecosystem. The Knowledge Management era will innovate how work gets done.

References

APQC. (n.d.). The Leadership Deficit: Survey Results Report. Retrieved Feb 9, 2016, from APQC: https://www.apqc.org/knowledge-base/documents/leadership-deficit-survey-results-report

Bedford, D. (2012, December). The Role Of Knowledge Management In Creating Transformational Organizations And Transformational Leaders. Journal of Knowledge Management Practice, Vol. 13, none. Retrieved Feb 2016, from http://www.tlainc.com/articl320.htm

Girard, J., & Girard, J. (2015). Defining knowledge management: Toward an applied compendium . Online Journal of Applied Knowledge Management, 3(1), 15. Retrieved Feb 8, 2016, from http://www.iiakm.org/ojakm/articles/2015/volume3_1/OJAKM_Volume3_1pp1-20.pdf

Institute, T. W. (2007). Building Knowledge Economies: Advanced Strategies for Development. Washington: The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Retrieved Feb 2016, from http://siteresources.worldbank.org/KFDLP/Resources/461197-1199907090464/BuildingKEbook.pdf

Sabherwal, R., & Becerra-Fernandez, I. (2015). Knowledge management : systems and processes . New York: Routledge.

State, N. Y. (2016, Feb 8). New York State Bill Search. Retrieved from The New York State Assembly: http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?

World Health Organization. (2005). Knowledge Management Strategy. Geneva: World Health Organization.