posted 3 Nov 2008 in Volume 12 Issue 2
IK cover story:
Info pros leverage their network to become KM pros
As KM migrates from the wonks to the workers, the Special Libraries Association (SLA) leads the way among professional associations shouldering the implementation strategies.
One of my first introductions to the topic of KM and its application in a corporate setting was the special pre-conference programme offered in 1998 by the Special Libraries Association (SLA), a 100-year old global association for librarians and information professionals.
One day of the event was led by Thomas Davenport and I was thrilled to meet and learn from a thought leader in the field. I had read Information Ecology and later would read Working Knowledge. When I met Tom Davenport I felt like a groupie at a rock concert! That initial course was extremely beneficial to me in many ways, including introducing me to a core group of SLA colleagues who, to this day, are still very active in involving
In many ways,
Over the years, I have found myself reaching out to my fellow
This informal global network used common interests in the many facets of KM to connect people with like interests, share expertise and best practices, provide educational seminars and courses, and leverage lessons learnt by another (lest we repeat the same mistakes).
Anyone who has been an info pro for more than 10 years will tell you we need to constantly bring and show the value our expertise and service provides the organisation. For many of us, this means taking on additional KM-related functions. At the same time, it seems that KM is shifting in emphasis from supporting pure “’technical’ or expertise knowledge to supporting knowledge that relates to the business as a whole. And we are all learning that the KM function is often, almost always, pressed to quickly demonstrate a tangible ROI. (Another topic info pros are all too familiar with...)
KM profile of
Librarians and info pros might not be the first thing one thinks of when it comes to KM expertise, but SLA members have long shown an interest in KM, with sessions on KM at the SLA Annual Conference popping up and growing in numbers since the mid-’90s. And why not? Info pros and librarians are uniquely suited to KM endeavours. Our roles within organisations are evolving and the skills and training many of us received in library school is extremely relevant and valuable at the big ‘KM table’.
What is in our tool box? Our education, skills and abilities include, among a multitude of others, taxonomy development/management. Info pros learn in school to manage thesauri as a method of information retrieval. Library subject headings are in essence a taxonomy. Info pros know how to catalog and classify, or in today’s terms, tag database records and web pages with metadata for increased information retrieval.
Information professionals are human implementers and managers of KM. We are early adopters of new technology. We use Web 2.0 tools like wikis and blogs, belong to communities of practice and attend or facilitate knowledge cafés. We are masters at networking and sharing best practices via informal means such as conversations or presentations.
The days of card catalogues, shelves, stacks, book carts, along with the title ‘librarian’, are quickly being replaced by portals and handhelds and titles such as ‘knowledge integrator’ or ‘information facilitator’.
Genesis of a special interest group
As info pros began to move into these roles over the last 15 years, there grew an increased demand in the SLA membership for continuing education on KM-related topics, as well as sharing of best practices and lessons learnt. SLA’s Annual Conference provided the opportunity for each of the different special interest divisions or vertical market specialisation groups within SLA to feature programming for its members. Many divisions would hold one or two continuing education sessions each year on KM. This allowed us to begin learning from each other’s mistakes and successes.
Drawing on the strength of SLA’s network and programmes is in part how these info pros, myself included, got to a point where we were being asked to take on new KM responsibilities, adopt leading-edge technologies, and move information management into new directions unprecedented in the library community. So it stands to reason that SLA was the place we should turn as we navigated through the KM waters. Why reinvent the wheel? What had others done that worked? And how did they do it?
As interest in KM continued to quickly grow within the library community, many of SLA’s members, including myself, felt the current situation was not meeting our needs. SLA was suffering from a gap in general KM support, programming and resources. More and more of us were moving into or being asked to assume KM roles and were thirsty for more focused and detailed programming beyond just one or two sessions per year. In 1995 a small group came together to form the KM section, and then eventually the section became so large that it was decided that SLA would form a KM division (SLA-KM).
With a special interest division dedicated solely to KM there would be more opportunities and benefits for the members working in KM. The new division would provide the KM component regardless of which industry or vertical market they were in. Networking and communications could be focused on KM. Clearly, from a member perspective, there was a need to formally establish a special interest group for KM – a group focused on making connections and sharing expertise.
Birth of SLA KM division
A petition was initiated, many members eagerly signing it, and in September 2006, SLA issued a press release announcing the creation of a new professional interest division: “The Knowledge Management (KM) Division of SLA will focus on the characteristics and processes through which organisations facilitate the creation, sharing and use of knowledge. The KM Division plans to offer broad-based programmes, communications, and resources that enable participants to develop their capacity for implementing knowledge management practices in organisations of all types.”
SLA KM’s formal charter indicates the division’s activities and programmes will focus on:
All dimensions of knowledge used in organisations, including analysis and synthesis of knowledge into tools for learning, using, developing and sharing through a variety of means including but not limited to documentation;
All aspects of the knowledge lifecycle, including knowledge creation, sharing, capture, organisation, management, reuse and preservation;
Enabling people to directly exchange ideas and learning to increase the relevant knowledge available for use in their organisations;
All aspects of an organisation that affect its ability to create and transfer knowledge, including culture, policy, process, management and technology;
Techniques and tools for collaboration, organising knowledge repositories, for demonstrating the economic value of KM activities, for promoting organisational learning techniques and applications, and for increasing understanding of knowledge economics;
Facilitating a continuous learning environment and reduce knowledge hoarding through collaboration with all parts of the organisation, including executive management, information technology, human resources, research & development and document management.
Today the SLA KM division has over 800 members and was recognised as the SLA division with the most growth in 2007.
What do the members want from a KM division in SLA?
The SLA-KM division has conducted two member surveys and crafted a strategic plan based on the needs of the members and the future success of info pros working in KM. The survey will continue to be conducted annually and the programme plan will be revised on a rolling year basis.
Our first survey provided some good demographic data on our members.
Membership composition of the SLA-KM division is split between beginners (57 per cent have less than four years of experience and 35 per cent less than one year) and highly experienced (43 per cent have four or more years of experience) KM professionals, so it is a challenge to present programming which appeals to all members.
We asked our new members “Why are you interested in KM?” As to be expected, we received a myriad of responses. Some of the replies included:
It is the future/changing nature of library and information services;
New responsibility/part of job;
Strategic goal of place of business;
Need to understand how information is used and shared, not just gathered;
Improved performance and efficiency;
Ensuring information is available to those who make profound decisions is critical. Information that remains in silos helps no one. How to move both people and knowledge into a usable connection;
Connection with competitive intelligence.
Using the data from the surveys the division developed a strategic plan to guide us as we develop programmes and resources for the members. For the purpose of the plan, the division adopted the following working definition of knowledge management:
“... knowledge management refers to strategies and structures for maximising the return on intellectual and information resources. Because intellectual capital resides both in tacit form (human education, experience and expertise) and explicit form (documents and data), KM depends on both cultural and technological processes of creation, collection, sharing, recombination and reuse. The goal is to create new value by improving the efficiency and effectiveness of individual and collaborative knowledge work while increasing innovation and sharpening decision-making”.
Four broad goals were identified in the KM Division’s strategic plan and all programmes and resources developed will speak to one or more of the following goals:
1. Fostering connection among the membership
The SLA-KM Division has a widely scattered membership – from Alaska to India, China, Australia and New Zealand. The first priority of the leadership is to create cohesion among the members and a sense of community for those who are often separated by oceans and continents.
2. Providing education and training opportunities for members
Membership composition of the division is split between beginners and highly experienced KM professionals, so it will be a challenge to present a programming which appeals to all members. According to the member survey, topics of interest to the current members range from best practices, to software, to leadership and collaboration.
3. KM Division e-newsletter
Sixty-one per cent of respondents to the survey supported the idea of a KM Division e-newsletter. Whereas blogs, wikis, and the website might be forgotten about, ignored or only referred to occasionally, the KM e-newsletter provides an opportunity to reach out to members on a regular basis as well as showcase up and comers, case studies, tools, tips and news.
4. Annual membership survey
As knowledge management changes at fast pace, it is imperative that the SLA-KM division focuses on issues of relevance to members and be able to quickly adapt to changes in practice and requirements.
Professional development and networking
The most significant portion of the division’s efforts every year go towards supporting the KM programme at the SLA Annual Conference. The division runs full or half day continuing education programmes as well as networking events, roundtable discussions and receptions.
The division is allowed to lead the programming of six sessions and co-sponsor up to three more with another division. Since the 2006 official inception of SLA-KM, member info pros are able to get focused non-industry specific programming on knowledge management. SLA’s 2007 Annual Conference was held in Denver, Colorado, US. This was the first-ever KM Division programme offering. Session titles covered in 2007 included A View from the Executive Suite, Dave Pollard; Librarians as Knowledge Managers: Best Practices from the Field; Three Stages of KM; KM Tools and Technologies & Tales to Tell: KM, Organisational Culture and the Role of Storytelling.
In 2008, the SLA Annual Conference was held in Seattle, Washington, US. The division arranged for Dave Pollard to come back (by popular demand from attendees of his 90-minute session). Pollard offered a half-day course on From Content to Context and from Collection to Connection: A Workshop in Making Knowledge Management Effective. Patti Anklam’s course, Mapping Knowledge and Knowledge Flows, which was so well-received in 2007, was also offered again and again received extremely positive reviews.
At each SLA Annual Conference the division also holds networking events including an annual business meeting/luncheon (with a keynote speaker) for its members and an evening reception. From my experience, while there’s an enormous amount of learning and sharing going on at the programme sessions and courses, more practical information and the best contacts are made during those casual conversations in the hallways or at the bar.
Click University and KM certification
In addition to the SLA-KM division activities, SLA continues to provide targeted content to its members in the area of knowledge management. One way this is accomplished is via Click University (Click U). Click U is SLA’s online professional development offering, exclusively for SLA members. In Click U’s online libraries, there is a specific collection devoted to KM which includes full-text, no-cost access to 34 books on KM. SLA’s Information Portal section on KM has extensive links to articles, papers, software companies.
Click U offers monthly webinars, and has focused on KM courses including, Taxonomy KM – Where to Go Once the KM Program Is Already in Place (Seth Earley); and Moving to Knowledge Services: Managing the Change and Identifying Advocates and Champions (Guy St. Clair) to name a few.
SLA launched a new IACET (International Association for Continuing Education & Training) certificate programme in KM this year. Participants have up to three years to complete 13 courses. You can also take all 13 within a one-year period.
Not a lot of universities or library schools offer subject specialisation in the area of KM. This programme provides a solid educational framework from which to build. The certificate is the first and only online learning system for post-graduate practicing librarians and information professionals.
The Click U KM certificates programme consists of three different levels of curriculum so that information professionals may choose courses based on their specific function within their organisations. According the 2007 SLA Workplace Study and Salary Survey, KM is one of the highest paid disciplines within the information profession for respondents in the US who identified KM as their primary area of responsibility. These results demonstrate the increased importance being placed on this function, as well as recognition of the significant strategic value KM pros add to an organisation.
KM courses began this year and are open to those working towards a full KM certificate and to those SLA members seeking occasional courses to enhance their professional development and expertise. The programme is appropriate for seasoned KM professionals as well as library and information science (LIS) professionals who are not currently performing a KM function. A third certificate will be a dual certificate combining the two.
The Certificate in Knowledge Management is designed for information professionals and other knowledge workers who are interested in transitioning into a more formal KM role in their organisations or are seeking to learn more about KM in anticipation of a future need for KM expertise in their careers.
The Certificate in Knowledge Services is designed for information professionals and other knowledge workers who are interested in bringing the benefits of well-managed information, knowledge and strategic learning delivery into the service of the larger organisation. Knowledge services is defined as the convergence of information management, knowledge management and strategic learning and is best thought of as putting knowledge management to work, the practical side of KM.
The Certificate in Knowledge Management and Knowledge Services is designed to provide information professionals and other knowledge workers with the expertise and skills they need for building an enterprise-wide knowledge culture for the organisations in which they are employed. The programme combines theoretical and practical approaches to the subject, delivering an end result for the larger enterprise that serves as a framework for measurable and tangible benefits in the utilisation of information, knowledge and strategic learning in achieving the corporate or organisational mission.
A blended learning approach, combining online modules with instructor-led classroom training, is incorporated into all three certificates.
This KM Certificate programme was SLA’s second certificate offering. The Competitive Intelligence Certificate programme was launched in 2007, less than three years since the formation of a new SLA Competitive Intelligence Division, founded in 2004. An as any good CI professional would tell you, CI has a strong KM component. The two SLA Divisions often collaborate on conference programming and many members belong to both KM and CI divisions.
Communication to members is key
Two-way communication is critical in knowledge sharing. With this in mind, significant efforts were made after our inception on the development of the SLA-KM website. The members only section includes links to best practices, continuing education, links to division conference presentations, and access to an expertise database.
The Best Practices section includes:
Beginning a KM project;
Developing an information and knowledge strategy;
KM models of best practices – stories and ideas from the field;
Maintain a KM project;
KM expertise database
We created areas on our wikis for members to have a secure area for sharing expertise and developing ideas. We developed a KM expertise database. In essence, it is simply a ‘bucket’ for adding and sharing your expertise to fellow SLA-KM division members. It takes about 10 minutes to read the instructions (or view the video) and add a short description about who you are and what you are best at doing within your role or roles. We are expecting member input to drive the content and use of the database. The SLA-KM division is also pursuing software to migrate the database to a more sophisticated platform.
Why people join the SLA KM division
Connection with over 800 info pros interested in KM;
Interactive, member-driven discussion list, podcasts, blogs and wikis;
Dynamic programme speakers who are leaders in the field of KM;
Professional development opportunities;
Member only access to presentations from the annual conference, best practices, Click U programmes and expertise database.
I feel proud to be a founding member and the first chairperson of the SLA KM division. With the establishment of the SLA KM division, SLA is clearly taking a leadership role in KM offerings. ?
SLA Website: www.sla.org
SLA KM website: http://wiki.sla.org/display/SLAKM/Welcome%21