Knowledge Management Cases in a University in Asia/Knowledge Management Practice of a University Library in Asia
Knowledge management (KM) is essential in helping employees work efficiently and effectively. Groff and Jones (2003) portray KM as a tool, technology and strategy to analyze, organize and improve organization operation which helps developing new knowledge and creating the competitive advantage. KM can be used to harvest human asset in individuals’ mind. By using KM, librarians can serve user in a user-friendly way. A university library in Asia (Library A) realized this and started to develop KM in ten years ago. They have used different tools such as intranet and wiki to implement KM.
In the following, we will use 4 stages in KM cycle to analyze and evaluate KM application in Library A. They are knowledge capture, creation, sharing and lastly application and reuse.
Definition of Knowledge Capture
As suggested by Becerra-Fernandez, Gonzalez and Sabherwal (2004, p. 32-36 as cited in SAĞSAN, 2006), “knowledge capture which may be defined as the process of retrieving either explicit or tacit knowledge that resides within people, artifacts or organizational entities”.
Definition of Knowledge Creation
The Next step is knowledge creation. According to Dalkir (2005), Nonaka and Takeuchi Model states that knowledge creation is to transform tacit and explicit knowledge into different forms. It consists of Socialization (tacit to tacit), Externalization (tacit to explicit), Combination (explicit to explicit), and Internalization (explicit to tacit).
Definition of Knowledge Sharing
As suggested by Becerra-Fernandez, Gonzalez and Sabherwal (2004, p. 32-36 as cited in SAĞSAN, 2006), knowledge sharing is the stage which “Tacit or explicit knowledge is communicated to other organizational participants.”
Definition of Application and Re-use
The final step is knowledge application and reuse. Dhiman and Sharma (2009) state that this stage is to use the knowledge created or acquired before to further organize, publish, distribute and reuse whenever it is useful.
In this information and knowledge age, knowledge has become a valuable asset (Maponya, 2004). In the last ten years, many academic industries, particularly university library, started to apply knowledge management in their daily operations and consider it as a serious issue in the organization. Wen (2005) reports that The International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) 69th General Conference and Council (Berlin, Germany; August 2003) opened a session on KM, while the 3rd China-US Library Conference (Shanghai, China; March 22-25, 2005) addressed KM as a sub-theme of the conference.
Library uses formal and informal ways in capturing knowledge. Lim (1992), Dhiman and Sharma (2009) indicate some KM tools to capture knowledge at the Victorian Universities in Australia and The National Library Board. They use printed material such as newsletters and agendas of meetings. There is also an increased use of communication technologies to capture knowledge such as fax, teleconferencing, videoconferencing, and E-mail. Lim (1992) claims an informal way like cross-campus visits is organized at the Victorian Universities’ libraries which can ensure staff can be kept informed and in-the-know about their job. Besides, electronic systems are also set up to capture knowledge. Dhiman and Sharma (2009) take The National Library Board (NLB) in Singapore as an example. Database InfoXpress is established for recording customers’ questions while the Project Broadcast database was implemented to record the staff contributions and accomplishments. Besides, Gibson (2010) suggests to develop data cleaning in order to enable library records generated by library users navigation to be mined.
After capturing the facts, information and data, the next step is creating the new skills, ideas as to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the operation of library. Dhiman and Sharma (2009) indicates knowledge creation is an essential process for the future development of the organization to ensure better operation. Some libraries have built a learning atmosphere to encourage employees create new knowledge. Dhiman and Sharma cites that some libraries create knowledge competition to let employee contribute to the KM. The university libraries in the U.S. emphasizes on the knowledge creation in innovation since it help the library to keep pace with the dynamic environment. Most of the top managers agree that their staff need continue to capture knowledge to create new knowledge to achieve greater effectiveness.
After gaining organized knowledge in order to improve the daily operational process, librarian can utilize know-how through knowledge sharing. Librarian training is one of the strategies in knowledge sharing. Among different types of training, Clark (1986) claims that one to one instruction mode of teaching is the best and the most common one in Library bibliographic instruction training. However, only several libraries use one to one assistant or mentor systems in training. In another case, Semertzaki (2011) states the redesigned intranet “iSeek” in the United Nations (UN) fosters a sense of community and encourages dialogue among employee and top management worldwide. Furthermore, Lim (1992) claims some the sharing ways like social gatherings and interchange of staff to establish good communication between staffs.
The knowledge sharing practice not only takes place within an organization. Maponya (2004) points out that libraries need to cooperate with each other to handle or address the problems encountered and acquire knowledge. Lim (1992) even identifies a cooperation system - administrative centralization that is used in the libraries in Victorian universities in Australia to share knowledge within organization.
Knowledge Application and Re-use
Gibson (2010) reports that data mining technology should be used by territory school’s library to implement KM in library operation in order to improve the effectiveness and efficiency. This method allows library staff to read the record and generate knowledge.
Problems of applying KM in library
The low willingness of staff to share their knowledge and high difficulties in managing tacit knowledge are two general problems when applying KM in library. Mapanya (2004) and Trivedi (2007) identify these two problems in University of Natal Pietermaritzburg Libraries and Department of Health in UK. Staff usually does not aware of the importance of KM and ignores the KM policies or strategies in libraries. Besides, it is difficult to capture and share tacit knowledge of all internal staff, for example, no written KM policy and strategy is written in University of Natal Pietermaritzburg Libraries. Beside these two problems, Wen (2005) discovers that most knowledge is context specific, which means useful in particular situations. Trivedi (2007) also points out a similar problem that old knowledge is not useful in current and future times. Therefore, knowledge in a centralized knowledge management system would be relevant to users of certain unit but irrelevant to most users.
In the 21st century, many written resources would be digitized such as e-mail, e-newspaper, online shop and even e-books. It is inevitable to use technology for the future development of KM in academic library. Burke(2004) and Trivedi (2007) predict that using automated systems would be the trend for all libraries in the world. As a result, libraries need more technical staff that is familiar with high technology. They need to understand the information and knowledge needs of users and should be responsible for mapping the external and internal knowledge for enhancing working efficiency.
Besides, the information landscape would be reshaped in the 21st century. Lee (2007) points out that many libraries provide coffee shops, computer labs and Web 2.0 technologies as complement of their service. It provides an instant gratification and choice for the users. Those libraries can build a more relaxed atmosphere to encourage people to exchange knowledge in libraries.
The objective of this research is to find out a series of KM application in the Library A.
Before going into deep investigation of the applications of KM in Library A, 21 pieces of works have been read, including books, articles, e-journals and thesis, in order to understand the applications of KM in other universities and libraries. Based on the literature reviews, this academic research focuses on two main aspects: how the University of Asia apply KM in the daily operation of libraries. And how the University of Asia can improve the daily operation by using KM.
In order to find out a series of most suitable application of KM in Library A, the current knowledge management applications have been investigated and an interview has been conducted with the Knowledge Management Coordinator.
The KM Coordinator is also titled Information Literacy & Knowledge Management Librarian. She is responsible for monitoring the organization of library instruction programmes, such as the application of knowledge management, foundations to information technology and credit-earning course for undergraduates, in Library A.
In an hour face-to-face interview with the KM coordinator, . In order to facilitate the flow of the interview, note-taking is allowed during the interview.
Analysis of Result
The Knowledge Management Coordinator in Library A states that there is a significant project, Scholar Hub, running in the library. Before this project implemented, a lot of essays written by different scholars in university cannot be searched by users systematically. The Scholar Hub allows users to search and gain specialised knowledge from professionals. It collects the knowledge from university effectively. By referencing to the knowledge base in The National Library Board mentioned by Dhiman and Sharma (2009), using database to capture knowledge effectively seems to be a major trend in library industry.
On the other hand, the library committee is formed by representatives from every faculty, subject librarians, and knowledge team. They receive the opinions from faculties. The subject librarians understand the needs of faculties and different subjects. After that, they make policy and IT improvements for the library. These activities are kinds of interviews with subject matter experts in different fields. The tacit knowledge can be gathered for the community. We found that it is quite similar to other libraries like The National Library Board which capture the tacit knowledge by meetings and discussion. (Dhiman & Sharma 2009)
When employees quit their jobs, they need to prepare a handover notes in order to pass the specific knowledge acquired to newcomers. The library also hires professionals to train their staffs. Both explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge are available to be transferred to the staffs in the library.
Another way in capturing tacit knowledge is attending international forum by staff. They will share their experience and knowledge acquired from the forum by creating notes, providing presentations to other staff in the library. All staff can learn the knowledge acquired from other libraries. In this way, the library can improve their working process.
Library A also captures tacit knowledge from public. In the library website, the public can make enquiries or express their opinion through text, telephone, email, social media etc. The librarians and staff can review the records when they encounter the same situation or enquiry from customers afterwards. Dhiman and Sharma (2009) reflects that a database should be implemented to record customers knowledge and experience. It would be better to store knowledge in a database.
Library A lacks a great effort on creating knowledge within the library. By comparing to other libraries, Library A only provides some training courses to teach staff how to use the libraries’ database. However, other libraries have developed knowledge construction such as a good culture to increase the incentive of staff to create new ideas in order to improve organizational processes and competencies(Dhiman & Sharma, 2009). Although the staff of Library A has attended many site visits, it just acquires knowledge but not build on its own knowledge. It is good to absorb others advantage and then apply in the organization. However, it is bad to ‘copy’ others ideas without new knowledge. Library A would be lag behind others and fail to renew all their capabilities.
Eden (2002) suggests that people can visit other successful library for knowledge sharing. Library A sends representatives to visit other libraries in the city nearby to learn from them. Librarians share their professional knowledge and experience to each other during the library visit. Furthermore, Library A is a member of Joint University Library Advisory Committee. Expertise knowledge in library management is shared in the meetings so the staff can learn the practices of other libraries.
Semertzaki (2011) states that the redesigned intranet “iSeek” in the United Nations (UN) fosters a sense of community and encourages dialogue among employee and top management worldwide. In Library A, different types of knowledge are shared through the intranet, which is only accessible by full-time staff. Written materials such as discussion minutes, conference records, reports of specific projects are posted in the intranet. Besides, the quality sharing team posts their minutes in the intranet to let each departments in the library to learn and improve. Some departments also post basic procedures and regulations of work for the staff. However, it does not utilize the intranet system. Staff does not share their knowledge and gives their opinions to the information posted. So knowledge cannot be shared in a fast pace within the library.
As reported by Dhiman and Sharma (2009), regular meetings and formal briefings are commonly used in The National Library Board to ensure the staff is on the right track of their work. Every department in Library A has their regular meetings and formal briefings, knowledge about work is shared within the department in these activities, which is an effective way that knowledge can be shared regularly and in a formal manner.
Lim (1992) points out that some other methods such as social gatherings or interchange of staff are used to enhance knowledge sharing at the Victorian Universities in Australia. Staff Relationship Committee (SRC) also organizes social activities such as barbecue and hiking for different departments. The staff does not consider the social activities as a means to share their knowledge, but an opportunity of improving the relationship of the staff only. This wastes a treasurable opportunity of knowledge sharing between the staff of different departments since they have little chance to work together and share their knowledge to the others.
Knowledge Application & Re-use
Re-use is the final process that users selectively seek out the knowledge which can apply and re-use the retrieved knowledge according to their needs.
Although all the comments and complaints of the library are stored in the website of the Library A, Anna said that there is no knowledge base for staffs to handle the complaints. As the complaints are diverse over topic, the response and answer is not reusable and cannot be standardized. Therefore, according to Anna, there is no need to establish a knowledge base to handle the complaints even though Gibson(2010) reported that implementing data mining in libraries would improve the effectiveness and efficiency of its daily operation.
Establish a knowledge base recording past experience and best practices In Library A, enquiries, complaints and suggestions from customers are collected on the library’s website. However, the replies to the enquiries and customers’ opinions as well as the best practice of work are not recorded. The experience from employees and best practice as templates are useful for future use and to raise staff performance. Dhiman & Sharma (2009) reports that National Library Board implemented the Project Broadcast database to record staff contributions and accomplishments. Library A is encouraged to establish similar knowledge base to record customers’ opinions and staffs’ accomplishments . In this way, other staffs especially new comers can refer to previous cases when they face similar matters.
Training for using new technology
There are immense amount of literature in the searching database in Library A. However, employees cannot effectively use the knowledge management tools, for instance, the database searching in library. They only understand the basic functionality of the systems. Koenig (2004) states that librarians cannot perform effective database mining without training. In Library A, it is not compulsory for the staff to attend training courses for the new technology applied in the library. However, it is necessary for employee to be familiar with the data mining skill to enhance information seeking. Staff should be encouraged to participate in related training activities when new technology is implemented into the library.
Establish electronic communication forum
Library A does not have any electronic communication forums for the staff. Electronic communication forums can be used as a platform for organizing community of practice among employees. Kuhlen (2004) states that electronic forums can allow exchange of information between employees with different backgrounds who will not have any collaborations in real life. It will also build a continuous knowledge bases which is available for employees. It is suggested to establish a electronic forum as a platform for the staff from different departments to share their knowledge and discuss current issues about the library. Knowledge can be shared among the staff of different departments without complicated procedures.
Build up knowledge sharing culture
A library in the same city of Library A has already built the common learning place to develop its sharing culture. However, most of the staff in Library A do not know the importance of knowledge sharing and has low willingness and incentive to share their knowledge. Gurteen (1999) suggests that rewarding knowledge sharing and motivating knowledge sharing helps create knowledge sharing culture in an organization. Financial reward can be an incentive for knowledge sharing. Staffs who are active in knowledge sharing can be given reward to encourage his behavior. In addition, Library A can let the staffs learn the benefits of knowledge sharing to themselves since knowledge sharing helps the staffs do their jobs more effectively, helps them in their personal development and career progression and brings more personal recognition. With the financial incentive and benefits of knowledge sharing, staffs are encouraged to be more active in knowledge sharing in the library.
Build a knowledge creating culture
The staffs of Library A lack incentive to create new knowledge. They always accept the order from the manager and solve problem with same solution. They do not think of new methods to increase the effectiveness of operation. Therefore, the managers should cultivate staff to have the idea of creating new knowledge. They can provide some creativity course and talk to initiate their interesting. Besides, managers must be opened to accept staffs’ opinion in order to let them feel free to create new idea without unfriendly criticism.
Applying KM from ten years ago, Library A is still at the starting stage to have well-rounded KM. Considering the three critical elements of successful KM, technology, process and people, Library A still has space for improvement. Regarding “technology”, Library A has developed intranet and wiki for information provision and sharing, but the systems are not widely used by the staff for knowledge sharing. Also, knowledge base is not developed to record good staff practices as reference of the staffs’ daily work. Concerning “process”, many practices in the library enhance knowledge capture in the library, but little efforts are put on other processes including knowledge creation, knowledge sharing, and knowledge application and re-use. With regard to “people”, staffs in library A still have low awareness about KM. Most of the staff do not know the importance of knowledge sharing in the library and not much knowledge of the staff are applied and used at their work. Once the problems related to the three key elements of KM are solved with corresponding measures, the application of KM in Library A will be more smooth and successful.
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Please post your comments here.
Wong Nga Shun: It is better to include the definitions of Knowledge Capture, Creation, Sharing and Application under the section of Literature Review rather than Introduction part.
Lau Hei Tung Herbert: The concepts of knowledge management are well defined but it should be organized more effectively. It is because the literature Review has the details of those concepts.
Chiu Pui Lai: You may further explain why Knowledge Creation is not active in Library A as Library A has implemented KM for 10 years and there 're a number of sharing opportunites provided. There're must some reasons behind that you can focus on and elaborate more, it may be related to the sharing culture or KM strategies etc.
Yuen Tung Ki: some of the Literature Review seem to be personal opinion. Overall, the recommendation part is good with LR support.
Kwok Pak Lun: The definition of KM activities (e.g. Knowledge Creation, Knowledge Capture) are well defined. For easy understand, the recommendation is preferred to structure based on the analysis. e.g. To address the problems in knowledge creation, we suggest......