Libraries and KM: Can't We All Just Get Along??

This week has seen a great string of blog posts that discuss the relationship between Librarians and Knowledge Management professionals. I'm going to give you a reading list below (read them throughly, there will be a test!). As I read through these posts, a slightly morphed quote from Will Rogers kept popping into my head... "I'm not part of any organized profession. I am a Law Librarian." Let's face it, the term "Librarian" can bring up a range of legitimate categories that others place us in...  from "book shelvers" to "catalogers" to "researchers" to "collection development'ers'" along with a dozen or more other categories. As Mary Abraham states, "Consider that 25 years ago, an information professional was a librarian and during the last 15 years, knowledge managers have become the information professionals du jour."

The title of "Information Professional" or "Knowledge Worker" is no longer owned by the library, and I think this frustrates a lot of librarians (myself included) whose talents for managing information bleeds over into the area of what is perceived now as Knowledge Management. The area that Nick Milton's graph identifies as the "Explicit Knowledge" (that information that is created and organized within the firm) is where the battle seems to be taking place. But, I agree whole-heartedly with Nick and Nina Platt that KM and Libraries either stand together with a common goal and take advantage of the talents we each bring to the table, or we all get marginalized.

KM and Librarians are all under the pressure of "taking the human out of the process." The biggest strengths for both of us is the human analysis we bring to what we do. Many of the powers-that-be think that they can slap a Google Search Engine on some huge internal database and magically organize all the data that flows in and out of the firm. Both KM and Librarians are walking on the edge of a very sharp sword where we have to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of how we organize and manage information (external and internal), while at the same time being asked to look for ways that automation basically reduces the number of people we need to do our jobs. That's a tough job to do when you're working together... fighting over that sliver of turf in the middle makes it that much harder.

Reading List:
  • Reflection on KM and Libraries in Law Firms
    When the library is under the KM folks, the library tends to be marginalized.
  • Librarians vs Knowledge Managers?
    How much [library marginalization] was due to difficult personalities or bad management?
    Is there something in the law firm “caste system” that makes it challenging for lawyers and non-lawyers to work together?
    Do librarians respond differently than knowledge managers? If so, is this due to personality type or training?
  • KM and Content Management, The Turf War
    Either [KM & Libraries] sit in one team...or we have two teams but with a common framework and aligned strategies. We don't fight each other, as this puts both content management and KM equally at risk.
  • Content Catalysts
    [I]n an effort to shift the conversation, I’d propose to expand the roles available for information professionals.   What if we were to add a new category:  Content Catalysts?
  • Musings on the Librarian’s Role in Knowledge Management in Law Firms
    I have always said that librarians will be employed in law firms for a long time to come and have never been too concerned with those who have been painting a darker picture.  Lately, I’ve been doubting my stand on this topic and have been become more and more concerned with our future.
  • Catalog Content Not People
    At the end of the day, it’s critical to know what work needs to be done and then assign the right people to the task based on their talent, experience, temperament and inclination.  That is a far better approach than to match people to tasks on the basis of labels or stereotypes.
  • Knowledge Managers, Librarians, Practice Support, and Business Analysis
    My guess is that in a decade, BigLaw will have more clearly defined business process experts and analysts and a range of practice support professionals. Some of the them will do KM and library work; some will be KM professionals or librarians.

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VMaryAbraham said...

Thanks for this round-up, Greg. It's great to see how the conversation has developed over the course of the week.

Both you and Nina point to some of the pressures placed on librarians and their traditional scope of work. It sounds like this is an important period of transition. Hope you'll write more about it.

- Mary

Nina Platt said...

Hi Greg,

Further to your message about librarians and search engines, I wrote a blog post a couple years ago that addressed the issue. See Five Reasons Librarians are Better than Search Engines at http://strategiclibrarian.com/2008/02/08/86/. Search engines have evolved in the last 2 years but I think the reasons I list are still valid.


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