There had to be a better way…
We’ve seen a lot. We come from many different industries and disciplines: IT; enterprise and information architecture; AI; systems engineering; knowledge engineering; KM. We’ve applied our craft in government, industry, nonprofits, and academia. We’ve helped clients in aerospace, agriculture, energy
In each and every case we’ve enjoyed the satisfaction that comes from capturing knowledge hidden deep in the minds of key experts. And we help share and grow that knowledge across the entire organization. We do this despite the many challenges that come from the unique culture, strategic focus, infrastructure, work processes, and other aspects of every organization.
Over the years, we began to recognize certain patterns. Some were common to all. Others applied only to specific types of situations.
That’s when we decided to build, grow, and share that body of knowledge with others. It all began one fateful day at the annual conference of the Special Libraries Association…
The Rise of the Knowledge Librarian
It was mid-June 2006 in Baltimore, Maryland. Hordes of special librarians were in town for their annual conference. One of the attendees, a biochemist and molecular biologist turned corporate librarian, decided to check out an early morning session on this new thing called knowledge management. When the speaker broke out a water basin surrounded by a small flock of drinking bird toys, he wondered, “What the heck is this?“
As it turns out, the drinking birds were a metaphor for getting people in an organization to drink from the same knowledge font, i.e., share what they know, rather than working alone and hoarding their knowledge. By dunking the bird’s heads in the water and eventually getting all the birds to drink, the presenter was demonstrating the role of this strange, new individual which he was calling a knowledge librarian. As he began to rattle off more than two dozen skills a person needs to transform themselves from a traditional librarian into this new version, it wasn’t looking like it would be an easy position to fill.
After the session, our biochemist attendee and SLA member Ken Wheaton, invited the speaker, Art Murray, to travel out to the Midwestern US, birds and all, and work with his team. As it turns out, Ken was already looking for ways to make his old, dreary special librarian’s job obsolete, while creating a new position aimed at connecting people, rather than cataloging books and periodicals.
A few years later, having succeeded in abolishing his own job, Ken headed out to the Alaskan wilderness, where he found a culture just like the one he was attempting to create in his old company down in the lower forty. There, everyone was a knowledge librarian, ready and willing to share what they knew in order to help save others a lot of trial and error, and learn a few new things along the way. It was the proof he was looking for: that knowledge does indeed keep growing and increasing in value the more it’s used.
More presentations and articles followed (all in the spirit of knowledge-sharing, of course), including an article in KMWorld that created quite a stir across the special librarian community.
Fast forward to today. Many presentations and workshops later, we’ve begun the process of documenting what we’ve learned so we can help even more individuals and organizations capture, share, and grow their critical know-how.
P.S. Ken’s semi-retired now, helping others as a Mayo Clinic-certified wellness coach. We owe him a debt of gratitude for his role in bringing this whole idea of knowledge curation to fruition.