NAHSL 2013: Knowledge Management in Hospital Libraries

November 25, 2013 at 7:54 pm | Posted in NAHSL Annual Meeting 2013, Professional Development | Leave a comment

As a library school student I worked in Administrative Computing at UCLA, maintaining document files organized according to an indexing scheme created by the librarian. At the time, the distance between records management and the management of a library of published books and journals seemed wide. Now that grant reports, meeting notes, annual reports, and newsletters are published on the web along with books and journals, these different kinds of representations of knowledge (knowledge assets) look more similar to me.

As the lead presenter in the Knowledge Management Panel “Bringing People and Information Together through Technology,” Margo Coletti defined Knowledge Management (KM) as the management of knowledge assets. Margo, Anne Fladger, Dina McKelvy, and Gary Strubel offered examples of KM activities that allow librarians to use their knowledge, behaviors, and competencies to benefit their institutions.

  • Thesauri: eScience, plain language
  • Systematic reviews
  • Institutional repositories (IR), which can include published articles, books, book chapters, conference papers, lecture series, and data sets
  • Web portals
  • Metadata for internal documents
  • Approved abbreviations
  • Standards of Care database
  • Copyright consultation

In her “Sports Medicine Repository” presentation, Dina pointed out that once you have a repository of publications, not only can you look up the publications, you can also identify the local expert in any particular condition. We may find that many of these activities create new opportunities.

How do librarians find the resources to take on these new responsibilities? Anne Fladger received a grant to support the “Rehab Services Standards of Care” database. In “From Library to Knowledge Services,” Gary described eliminating services that were not heavily used, including canceling journals and terminating the online catalog. He is the ‘Knowledge Services Analyst’ in the ‘Knowledge Services’ department. Changing his title has expanded his patrons’ understanding of his expertise.

KM projects require the ability to understand, to describe, and to translate. These projects depend on a capacity for strategizing beyond the immediate problem.  Fortunately, librarians are skilled with language and planning. These are valuable competencies that can be used to make a difference for patrons.

Technology can be a limitation. One might think that librarians need to be more tech savvy. But Dina and Anne are using EndNote and Sharepoint. Both tools have a steep learning curve and require persistence to master. Are we guilty of discounting the complex features librarians demand of software? Or is the right software is out there and we don’t have a good way of learning about the options available to us?

Librarians go where their patrons’ KM problems are. We save manuscripts from destruction, build catalogs and indexes, and teach doctors and nurses how to search databases. Knowledge management includes selection, organization, access, education, and preservation of knowledge assets. Our organizations have new challenges in these areas, particularly in preserving and accessing digital documents. Kudos to the librarians proactively addressing these issues and thank you for sharing your stories with us.

Donna O’Malley, MLS
Library Associate Professor
Dana Medical Library
University of Vermont


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