Sunday, 6 April 2014

Librarian to KM


I have been thinking lately about the skills I gained as a librarian that have assisted me in my move into a knowledge management role. It is interesting that knowledge management practitioners come from varied backgrounds - HR, IT, business improvement, libraries and information management.
The role itself changes depending on the organisation, industry and job description. From my perspective, it was good luck that I had had some new experiences* in my previous role in a large government agency in addition to my library training and experience and these new skills, matched what my new employer was looking for. 

These are some of the library-related skills and experience that have been useful in my new role:
  • information management - I have an odd desire to manage information: to identify, classify and provide access to it. This is somewhat easier in a library where the information you are managing is generally externally sourced or purchased (books, articles, subscriptions, online databases etc). As a knowledge or information manager the range of information, systems and knowledge is broader, and often more difficult to quantify and even to identify. Of course there are exceptions to this and it depends how broadly the libraries responsibilities extend in an organisation and how widely an information manager's control extends. However there are fundamental challenges or tasks associated with managing information in any form; such as quality, access - providing a federated search or one-stop shop for information, mediation - managing information overload and providing appropriate tools and processes around information. Sound familiar? Acquire, organise and disseminate? 
  • records management - record keeping obligations under the Archives Act are also part of my role as a knowledge manager in a government department. As a librarian I wasn't aware of the extremely complex and stringent guidelines set by the National Archives of Australia (NAA), I was, as all librarians would be, aware of the importance of information and it's value as a record for legal proceedings, as a historical record and a record of business transactions and also in some cases just for their intrinsic value.
  • customer service - I guess working in retail helped also, but librarians definitely benefit from this skill. Good communication skills, understanding what people need, being approachable and helpful, all of these are key in libraries. 
  • Basic IT and systems experience. My current role includes content management for a website and intranet. In my previous library role I worked a lot on an organisational wiki and was able to build skills in basic html.
I know there are lots of opportunities for librarians looking for a career change and km is just one option. In this climate with special libraries being reduced in size or closed altogether, it may be important to start looking at what skills are best to cultivate. I can see a future for academic and public libraries, not sure about other special libraries, they appear to be slowly diminishing?

*User testing, social media experience, change management, project management, systems and IT basics

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