I had a fruitful discussion a short while ago about librarians and web 2.0, and research and knowledge management. In the same vein, a recent post from Dave Pollard with a link to his presentation on “librarians as knowledge managers” posits some interesting thoughts. Pollard presented at the recent Special Libraries Association conference in Denver, Colorade, USA. In the presentation slides, Pollard recognised the skill of the librarian to acquire, add value, store and disseminate information. He then asked whether librarians were any good at connecting, synthesising and applying their knowledge to the information they had researched.
I would say, “it depends”. In my experience, there are times when finding and disseminating information is enough. At other times, and in other contexts, there is a need to connect with a range of people in addition to acquring the information, and then some analysis and rearticulation before the information reaches the customer. Realistically, some librarians won’t have all the skills necessary to do all of these tasks but there are many who will. The challenge for information professionals is to develop the necessary skills and relationships to enhance their personal capabilities across a range of information service actvities if they want to move beyond the traditional librarian function of finding, organising, and delivering static information resources.
Pollard also raised the interesting dichotomy between what the executives of an organisation want and what the workers on the front line want and what the customers want. Pollard recommended analysing the “cultural anthropology” of the three groups – in other words, understand the wants and needs of each group. A successful knowledge management approach seeks to establish a framework that can demonstrate value for all of these groups (and they need not be mutually exclusive).
In my early working life, the reference interview was seen as the critical dimension in dealing with a customer’s information wants and needs. It’s not so different today, although perhaps we have an increase in scale and organisational complexity to deal with now. As in most dealings with people, clear communication is the key to successful understanding.