Our Knowledge Management Origin Story: knowledge adventures in a post-truth GLAMorous world

Knowledge Management Origin Story blog imageOur Knowledge Management origin story: Knowledge adventures in a post-truth GLAMorous world

What is knowledge management and what does it look like across the GLAM sector? Clare O’Hanlon and Eleanor Colla give us a bit of background to their upcoming talk at NLS8 about all things KM.

We were first introduced to the concept of ‘knowledge management’ in a business elective class at library school where we were two of four information management students. However, we quickly realised just how applicable the business-based concepts we were learning about were to the work we were doing in the GLAM sector. The subject featured talk of facilitating knowledge creation, communities of practice, adhocracies vs bureaucracies, organisational storytelling, gamification, and the importance of trust between individuals and the organisations and other individuals they interact with. We were quickly applying these to our working and volunteering lives, and we still are.

After jointly reflecting on our experiences from our first year in the industry, we realised they were very similar and knowledge management resonated so we decided to put in a proposal to share these experiences at NLS8. We will be talking about the different types of knowledge management we have encountered in the GLAM sector from volunteering at community organisations to working in tertiary libraries.

In his Field Guide to New Librarianship, David Lankes proposes that “the mission of librarians is to facilitate knowledge creation in their communities” (p.17) and advocates for us to help libraries become participatory platforms for knowledge development that allow our communities to share passions, expertise and resources (p.115). While he never explicitly mentions ‘knowledge management’, and we admit that sometimes the business jargon in class was hard to get our librarian heads around, studying knowledge management gave us many strategies and tools to start facilitating and managing knowledge creation and development. We remember discussing in our small IM group in class that although our work in GLAM often seemed more like KM than IM, we rarely heard it called ‘knowledge management’ and we thought “knowledge development” or “knowledge engagement” (or perhaps even “knowledge quest” or “knowledge adventure”) might resonate more with librarians.

Below are some key definitions, concepts, readings and podcasts to give you an introduction to knowledge management and get you thinking about how it might look and what they can mean in a GLAMorous environment.


Some key definitions and concepts

Data: observations, facts, or records that form the basis of future action.  It can be captured, transferred, and communicated.

Information: processed data that has been given relevance, purpose and context through humanintervention.

Knowledge: when human judgement and experience is applied to information.

Deb Verhoeven, a media and communications academic and Digital Humanities champion, draws on the @gapingvoid information-knowledge visualization to illustrate the differences between data, information, knowledge and humanities knowledge in a fun way:

Explicit Knowledge: information that can be easily identified, captured, and communicated.

Tacit Knowledge: information that is informal, personal, and difficult to identify, capture, and communicate. Once captured tacit knowledge becomes explicit knowledge.

Communities of Practice: A group of people with a common goal, problem, or passion who regularly come together to deepen and expand their knowledge and expertise on various topics. New Cardigan is a great example of an emerging GLAMorous Community of Practice and we strongly encourage you to check it out. Find out about their origin story.


Some recent articles, books, presentations, and podcasts to check out

  • David Tuffley (Senior Lecturer in Applied Ethics and Socio-Technical Studies, Griffith University) recently wrote an article for The Conversation on the emergence of knowledge workers.
  • Lane Wilkinson (Director of Library Instruction, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga) recently did an interview on Circulating Ideas podcast where he discusses types of knowledge, epistemology, information literacy and meaning making in the age of fake news and ‘alternative facts’.
  • A Knowledge Organization in an Age of Alternative Facts, a presentation by R. David Lankes on the place of knowledge, trust, and community understanding in libraries.
  • Lankes, R. David, Wendy Newman, Sue Kowalski, Beck Tench, Cheryl Gould, Kimberly Silk, Wendy Newman, and Lauren Britton. The New Librarianship Field Guide. MIT Press, 2016.
  • Wenger, E., McDermott, R. and Snyder, W. 2002. Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge, Boston: Harvard Business Press.


‘From chaos to calm through storytelling and community building in GLAM and beyond: A journey and conversation about Knowledge Management’ is Session 3 on Sunday 25th June at the 2017 New Librarians’ Symposium.

– Clare O’Hanlon (@clareifications) & Eleanor Colla (@EleanorColla)

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