I regard myself as a knowledge worker and integrally involved within the information sector. Over the last ten years I have increasingly been involved more on the knowledge management side of things than on the library-side.
When I first entered the information sector in the 1980’s I was physically based in a library. I worked in public libraries and corporate libraries, Macquarie Bank being my first corporate library experience. I have worked at the Parliamentary Library in Canberra. In all those environments there were books and often files that formed the main body of the “collection”.
Throughout the second-half of the 1980’s, electronic and online databases helped broaden the reach of information access and increase the speed and scale at which information could be found and circulated to the people who needed it. But I was still sitting in “the library”. And this was not such a bad thing, especially in corporate environments, where the library and my position in it were viewed as “neutral”. I was able to play information broker between different people and sections of the business – keeping in mind governance and compliance issues.
From the second-half of the 1990’s until recently, except for my time at the Parliamentary Library in Canberra, my working library environment became much smaller. My management and use of information resources became much more digitally based (and the internet was the obvious driving force). Bookshelves gave way to intranet portals and Google, and online databases became more sophisticated and carried significantly more content.
During much of the “noughties” (the year 2000 and beyond), the emphasis was less on a centralised one-to-one directed research and information service, but on establishing and managing networks of information and people within the organisation. In addition, more communication channels could be used to enhance reach and provide more specialised services while at the same time increasing the number of access points and search options. Communities of practice was one such manifestation.
Now I am working in a “library environment” that has no on-site physical collection and specialises in distributing information widely and in specific, tailored information products. We still have a book and journal collection, although most journals are now accessed electronically. There is less emphasis on one-to-one research, although this service is still provided.
We still use an electronic library management system, although we also have a (rather mediocre) content management system using Sharepoint 2003. Information is much more dispersed within organisations and there is far greater user-generated content, both internally and externally.
We also have thematic networks that are gradually emerging as a facility to promote knowledge sharing and information distribution across a range of groups of various subject interests.
There are other disparite activities that are happening in learning and development, human resources, internal communications, and information technology. There is much information produced and knowledge generated in program areas and country desks. They all have a part to play in how knowledge management takes shape within an organisation. Yet there is a need to give shape to knowledge management as a real and driving entity within organisations – all organisations.
The way forward is still to be mapped out in terms of an integrated strategic approach to knowledge management, although I hope to be part of it. After all, one of the strengths of the library and information profession is in “organising”, whether it is a subject search or an intranet page.
Giving life to knowledge management is therefore a real challenge and something a modern “library” can certainly play a vital part.