The spirited response to my last two posts (Librarians vs Knowledge Managers and Content Catalysts) regarding the relationship between librarians and knowledge managers drove home to me the importance of not getting too stuck on labels and stereotypes. To be honest, I did use for the purpose of argument a rather stereotypical (and as Nina Platt pointed out) old-fashioned view of a librarian and an equally stereotypical view of knowledge managers. While this approach might have some limited utility in that it creates straw men that everyone can knock down, I now want to shift gears to think more about functions than labels.
If we look at the range of activities in which information professionals engage, we’d include research (targeting both internal and external resources); analysis; content selection, collection and management; creating and deploying systems for use in sharing information; archiving; risk management; and compliance. There are librarians that do this work and there are knowledge managers that do this work. In fact, in many law firms, there are practicing lawyers who do this work.
At the end of the day, it’s critical to know what work needs to be done and then assign the right people to the task based on their talent, experience, temperament and inclination. That is a far better approach than to match people to tasks on the basis of labels or stereotypes. In other words, we should catalog content, not people.
Here endeth the sermon!
For an interesting view of Librarians as Knowledge Managers, take a look at the following slides from a presentation by the inimitable Dave Pollard to the Special Libraries Association: