Knowledge Management

Knowledge management is a term that may be more commonly associated with information technology and business professionals than with librarians. According to IBM, knowledge management, also known as KM, can be defined as “the process of identifying, organizing, storing and disseminating information within an organization.” IBM notes that the process of knowledge management contains knowledge creation, knowledge storage, and knowledge sharing. 

It is easy to see how knowledge management applies to libraries and information science. While technology does some of the knowledge management for librarians, it is still a large part of a librarian’s responsibilities. IBM notes that these knowledge management tools are used in knowledge management, and librarians must be well-versed in all of them:

  • Document Management Systems: These act as central storage systems for digital documents, including word processing files, PDFs, and images. They are easily retrieved
  • Content Management Systems: Also referred to as CMS, these are applications that manage web content, in which end users can edit and publish content. They can support other types of media, such as video and audio, than document management systems can.
  • Intranets: These are private networks existing only within an organization. They enable the sharing of tools and processes, and provide groupware services like internal directories and search, facilitating collaboration.
  • Wikis: These make it easy for anyone to upload and edit information, but also may lead to the spreading of misinformation through incorrect updating by users.
  • Data Warehouses: These collect data from different sources into a single, centralized, consistent data store, to support data analysis, mining, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. 

Today’s librarians are information science professionals and must be highly familiar with knowledge management, its concepts and practices. As they are experts in information searching, selecting, acquiring, organizing, preserving, and disseminating, librarians are, indeed, knowledge managers. 

Professor assisting her student while using laptop in a library for knowledge management

Here, we will look at the concept of knowledge management within libraries and information science, and the careers available within the sub-field of knowledge management. 

Types of Knowledge

First, let’s answer the question: is there a difference between information and knowledge? According to author and professor Daniel Bell, knowledge is “a set of organized statements of facts or ideas, presenting a reasoned judgment or an experimental result, which is transmitted to others through some communication medium in some systematic form.” Tech executive and writer Marc Porat defines information as “data that has been organized and communicated.” 

There are three primary types of knowledge that everyone deals with:

  • Tacit Knowledge: This is personalized knowledge that has been embedded in the human mind through experience. It includes institutions, values and beliefs stemming from years of experience. This type of knowledge is hard to share and transmit.
  • Explicit Knowledge: This type of knowledge has been codified and digitized in documents, books, databases, memos, reports, and can be retrieved and transmitted more easily than tacit knowledge. 
  • Embedded Knowledge: This type of knowledge is found within processes, procedures, products, culture, routines, artifacts, or structures. It has either been formally embedded, to formalize a beneficial routine; or informally embedded, through the use and application of the two other knowledge types. 

How Do Libraries Use Knowledge Management?

Within libraries, resources and strategies must be developed to deal with the growth of human knowledge. These include electronic and digital resources. The needs of library users must be analyzed and libraries must then develop plans to acquire knowledge to meet those needs. This involves maintaining an online public access catalog and printed forms of knowledge. Metadata, data mining, text mining, content management, search engines, natural language searching, and technologies of information visualization are all important in knowledge management in libraries. 

Libraries use knowledge management through the following services:

Knowledge resources management and development of information technology

Knowledge management systems in libraries should strive to use the latest information technology, with the library director serving as the chief knowledge manager. All librarians under the director should be information and knowledge managers who work on behalf of the information processors (technology systems) to keep these systems working and continuously improved. 

Resources sharing and networking

With the popularity of information technology, resource sharing and networking has greatly expanded. The Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) and OhioLINK (Ohio Library and Information Network) are two main consortia used by libraries nationwide to enhance cooperative work and resources sharing. 

User services

The goal of knowledge management in libraries is to provide users a variety of quality services to improve their communication, use and creation of knowledge. These services should be tailored to each user’s interests. Information about users can be gleaned by the library by analyzing records of user registration, surveys, circulation and interlibrary loans. 

Human resources management

Library staff possess much expert knowledge and should be used as resources in knowledge management as well. Libraries should encourage more senior staff to transfer their knowledge to less experienced staff through a mentoring system. Particularly in academic libraries, staff expertise is abundant and organized. 

Certification for Knowledge Management

Librarians need not become professionally certified in knowledge management. However, the Special Libraries Association (SLA) does offer certification programs in managing copyright, licensing digital content, and providing competitive intelligence services. These optional certification programs can help you to advance your career as a librarian and knowledge management professional, and might make you more attractive to potential employers. 

Knowledge Management Jobs

Most jobs in knowledge management are more information science/information technology-focused. However, for those with an MLIS degree, these jobs could be quite enticing. A few examples of recent job openings in knowledge management include:

  • Data Center Knowledge Management Content Curator, Facebook – Remote:
    • Salary: not specified
    • Requires bachelor’s or master’s degree in library science, computer science, or related area plus three or more years of knowledge management experience
  • Knowledge Management Specialist, Ally Financial – Charlotte, NC
    • Salary: not specified
    • Requires bachelor’s or master’s degree in library science, computer science, or related area plus three or more years of knowledge management experience
  • Knowledge Management Consultant, Southern New Hampshire University – Remote
    • Salary: $67,700 to $85,700/year
    • Requires bachelor’s degree in library science or related field plus one year of related work experience
  • Knowledge Manager, TikTok – Mountain View, CA
    • Salary: $109,000 to $138,000/year
    • Requires bachelor’s degree, five years of knowledge management experience, and three years of supervisory experience

Organizations and Resources for Knowledge Management

Librarians and others who are interested in learning more about knowledge management may wish to consult the following organizations and resources:

Knowledge Management Institute (KMI): This organization provides the premier certification in knowledge management for information professionals (Certified Knowledge Manager, or CKM). 

Knowledge Management Consortium International (KMCI): Started in 1997, this organization offers knowledge management training courses for information professionals and businesspersons. 

Special Libraries Association (SLA): This organization, based in the U.S., represents the interests of librarians and information professionals in more than 80 countries around the world. It also runs a knowledge management certification program.

International Society for Knowledge Organization (ISKO):This international interdisciplinary society has chapters worldwide, and works to advance knowledge organization for all kinds of organizations and purposes.

Network for Information and Knowledge Exchange (NetIKX): This organization, based in London, shares good information and knowledge management practices among professionals in information science, human resources, information technology, and the business world.