User Tools

Site Tools


Academic Libraries and Knowledge Management

date: 2014-01-31 17:32


This semester I am teaching a knowledge management (KM) course. I will be posting entries throughout the semester that describe, critique, summarize, etc. KM articles that my students are not reading. The purpose here is to leverage the amount of material I can expose them to.

Article under discussion:

This post is about:

Daneshgar, Farhad, & Parirokh, Mehri. (2012). An integrated customer knowledge management framework for academic libraries. Library Quarterly, 82(1), 7-28. doi:10.1086/662943

The article was picked at random.

Notes and discussion:

The article begins by acknowledging the competition that academic libraries face in today's environment. In the sense that the authors acknowledge this competition, I am in agreement. I am more wary of the use of the term *customers* though and therefore will be wary of some of the assumptions I'm guessing the authors will make. There is also a sense, based on the abstract, that the authors do not review academic library literature in detail–they make a point of having reviewed the knowledge management (KM) literature.

The authors note that the knowledge generated by librarians and library users should be captured.

The authors' research question:

How can the existing bulk of customer knowledge accumulated in many of today's academic libraries be used in more effective ways?

The authors define the three main types of academic library customers:

  • undergraduate students
  • postgraduate students
  • academics (p. 9)

Essential (for their study) observation:

In knowledge economies, customers do not simply make up a passive audience but rather are active knowledge partners (p. 9).

The authors will need to defend this statement – especially the second half of the sentence:

We believe that despite considerable efforts in libraries to manage information from their clients (e.g., [3]), a lack of “market-orientation” focus and associated research perspective may be one of the reasons for underutilization of various types of the customer's knowledge in many of today's organizations, including the academic libraries (p. 9).

Note: After reading the article, the authors do not extend upon or defend the above statement. Since the above statement seems to be the major justification for this study, it really does need a defense (i.e., some evidence to support it). See the end of this post where I make explicit some of the assumptions in the above statement and in this article.

In the section Definition of Customer Knowledge (p. 10), the authors list three classes of this type of knowledge:

  • Knowledge about Customers (KAC)
  • Knowledge from Customers (KRC)
  • Knowledge for Customers (KFC)

They briefly describe customer knowledge management systems (CKMS). These systems help manage activities related to customer knowledge management (CKM).

The authors proceed to lay out the details of the case study, which includes a description of an Australian academic library.

After describing the departments and units in the library, which includes some description of work flow, the authors break their research question into the following three components:

1. How can the existing bulk of customers' knowledge available in academic libraries be organized?
2. How can this knowledge be used effectively?
3. How can the benefits of CKM in academic libraries be evaluated (p. 14)?

In the model displayed in figure 4, it's not clear, to me at least, why the Knowledge Sharing & Dissemination element is labeled as tacit knowledge.

On page 18, the authors parenthetically “define” tacit knowledge as knowledge that is “generally understood” and “taken for granted” (p. 18). (This is a common, more recent way of defining tacit knowledge and not in line with how Polanyi defines it.)

The authors discuss the “categorization scheme” and refer to this as a “customer knowledge taxonomy.” They write that

the aim of the taxonomy is to provide a formal and explicit specification of a shared conceptualization of customer knowledge, which among other things, will circumvent the problems created by the multiple knowledge maps that the librarians will have (p. 16).

It's a little difficult to follow, but it appears that the elements in the initial model (figure 3) and the revised model (figure 4) represent the taxonomy discussed on page 16. However, these categories are introduced on page 10 and in such a way that it implies that these categories are pre-existing. The authors write:

From an organizational perspective, customers' knowledge can be categorized into at least the following three classes (p. 10).

And they then describe KAC, KRC, and KFC (see above). Again, the process is not clear. Were these pre-existing or derived or both? The authors mention basing this study on KM literature as well as this case study, so perhaps both.

So KAC, KRC, and KFC are the coding schemes used to analyze and label each “'customer call report'” (p. 19). The authors went through quite a bit of work to examine these reports and label parts of the sentences or sentences that could be identified as relevant to the category. (Seems like a lot of work for so few categories.) Even though they write that each of these three categories were subdivided into tacit and explicit knowledge, it's not clear how the subclasses were used in practice for the call reports.

The authors do not review library related literature (there are one or two library related journals in the references).

Note: What follows is the essential argument, rationale, etc. in this paper:

The authors mention theoretical framework and theory a few times, but they leave details unsaid. The implicit theory is that academic libraries should be viewed as participants in a market. And as participants in a market, they exchange goods and services with their “customers,” which include undergraduate students, postgraduate students, and academics. The goods and services that are exchanged is knowledge. Knowledge then is given to students and academics, in regards to their information needs, and knowledge is received from students and academics by the librarians. This is the essential two way exchange that makes this a market. The received knowledge is internalized by librarians and used in later “transactions” (I don't believe the authors actually use that term). Leaving the knowledge internalized (or tacit), however, means that the librarians are failing fully to “capitalize” (I don't believe they use this term) on the knowledge they receive from their customers (who are “active knowledge partners”). To capitalize on the received knowledge, the librarians must be able to code that knowledge (aka, knowledge codification). When the coding scheme, or classification, (i.e., knowledge from customers, knowledge for customers, knowledge about customers) is applied to reports of exchanges between librarians and their “customers,” (the taxonomy), the result is a customer knowledge management system.

In short, the KM as applied in this paper has a theory and the theory is simply this: knowledge is a commodity.

While I have some issues with how this report is presented (it could have been a bit more linear), a basic refutation of this paper (or acceptance of it) will involve addressing the above proposition that knowledge is a commodity. I'll withhold a critique of that theoretical perspective for the moment, but it does need to be addressed at some point.

Note: I'd have to come back to it, but I have not addressed how well the authors answered their research question, or the three questions that were derived from their main one.

  • categories:
    • academic libraries
    • knowledge management
    • LIS658
blog/academic-libraries-and-knowledge-management.txt · Last modified: 2017/03/07 10:11 by seanburns