ABCs of KMEducating knowledge managers

Libraries and information science as part of KM [EKM series]

Editor’s note: This is a continuing serialisation of edited portions of Andre Saito’s PhD.

Knowledge management seems to be a natural extension to the field of library and information science (LIS). With a long tradition in the organization, storage, distribution, access and retrieval of information, librarians have been discussing the changes in the role of the information professional and proposing the professionalization of KM.1 2

It has been said that the role of knowledge manager has long been performed by those in the library sciences.3 Among the topics of interest in LIS that are relevant to KM are:

  • the organization of information through classification systems and taxonomies
  • the development of information architectures
  • the study of information needs and user information behavior
  • techniques including information audits, and
  • applications like content, document, and records management.

In all fields contributing disciplinary knowledge, there is a close correspondence between the original field of the school or department coordinating the program and the KM competence profile being taught in KM programs:

  • Library and information science, and education programs focused on the information manager profile
  • Computer science and information systems and engineering programs emphasized that of the knowledge systems developer
  • Management schools had a less clear typical profile but tend to focus on the learning facilitator

[Ed: This next passage is referenced but not directly cited in Saito’s PhD, but was felt to be important to include as an explanation of why the origin of a KM program matters.] As Todd & Southon write:

For some [library and information science professionals], knowledge management is seen as the saviour of a beleaguered image of librarians as a means of moving beyond the narrow confines of their traditional roles and improving their image. For others, knowledge management is seen as offering a substantial enhancement of the role of the information professional and an opportunity to rejuvenate the profession. And for others, knowledge management is seen as a key strategic organisational process, based on an understanding of the value of the collective knowing integrated into the organisational infrastructure.

[However] knowledge management is not the same as information management, and while there are understandings and skills that appear to overlap … formal education and training programs for knowledge management need to be responsive to this …

[K]nowledge management is not a new name for what librarians have been doing for years … it is not a vogue way of describing information resource management as traditionally undertaken by librarians.

[There is a] need to develop a strong, shared understanding of the nature of knowledge management, its underpinning assumptions and values, and its multi-faceted relationship to existing information work (emphasis added)

Next edition: A discussion of practices involved in implementing knowledge management.

  1.  Al-Hawamdeh, S. (2003). Knowledge management: Cultivating knowledge professionals. Oxford: Chandos Publishing.
  2.  Todd, R. J., & Southon, G. (2001). Educating for a knowledge management future: Perceptions of library and information professionals. The Australian Library Journal, 50(4), 313-326.
  3.  McInerney, C., & LeFevre, D. (2000). Knowledge managers: History and challenges. In Prichard, R. Hull, M. Churner & H. Willmott (Eds.), Managing knowledge: Critical investigations of work and learning (pp. 1-19). London: Macmillan Business.
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Andre Saito

Dr Andre Saito is president of the Sociedade Brasileira de Gestão em Conhecimento (Brazilian Society for Knowledge Management) as well as a researcher at the Wenovate Open Innovation Center.

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One Comment

  1. Stepehn,

    Thanks for featuring “a continuing serialisation of edited portions of Andre Saito’s PhD.” Andre and I were studying for our doctorates at the same time, and i was exceptionally impressed with his work.

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