Academic journal article Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline

Role of Information Professionals in Knowledge Management Programs: Empirical Evidence from Canada

Academic journal article Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline

Role of Information Professionals in Knowledge Management Programs: Empirical Evidence from Canada

Article excerpt

Introduction

Knowledge management (KM) is a collection of processes that govern the creation, dissemination, and utilization of knowledge in an organization (Newman, 1991). It involves the management of explicit knowledge (i.e. knowledge that has been codified in documents, databases, web pages, etc.) and the provision of an enabling environment for the development, nurturing, utilization and sharing of employees' tacit knowledge (i.e. know-how, skills, or expertise). Information technologies, such as intranets, web portals, and groupware, are often used to facilitate the sharing of knowledge among a group of workers (commonly referred to as a community of practice) in an organization because of their capabilities in extending the reach as well as enhancing the speed of knowledge transfer. The implementation of an appropriate knowledge management program in a business organization has the potential of improving customer services, continually improving business processes, quickly bringing new products to markets, and bringing innovative new ideas to commercialization (Heisig & Vorbeck, 2001).

In most organizations, the key professionals involved in knowledge management activities are human resource managers, process & product developers, and information technologists (Taylor, 2001). This assertion was partly corroborated by a bibliometric analysis of the field of knowledge management that showed that the field's popularity was largely due to the dominance of information technology applications (Wolfe, 2003). However, of late, there has been increased interest in knowledge management activities by information professionals. To demonstrate the relevance of the profession to knowledge management, various articles have discussed the roles of information professionals in the knowledge management process (Albert, 1998; Balcombe, 1999; Broadbent, 1998; Duffy, 2000; Marshall, 1997; Milne, 2000; Ponelis & Fairer-Wessels, 1998; Schwarwalder, 1999; Yeh, 2000); special issues of professional journals have been devoted to knowledge management issues; a book on knowledge management for the information professional has been published (Srikantaiah & Koenig, 2000); special sessions on knowledge management have been held at professional conferences; seminars on knowledge management are being organized regularly; some library and information science schools now offer courses on knowledge management, such as "Knowledge Management in Organizations" at the School of Communication, Information and Library Studies at Rutgers University; and a few schools have even gone a step further by offering specialization in knowledge management, such as the Innovative Master of Science in Information Architecture and Knowledge Management at Kent State University, United States of America, or the Master of Science in Knowledge Management at the School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

Despite the activities listed above, there is little evidence of the involvement of information professionals in an organization's knowledge management programs (Abell, 2000). Hence, the general objective of this study is to obtain empirical evidence of information professionals' involvement in knowledge management activities in Canada. Specifically, the objectives are to determine the:

* degree of involvement of information professionals in KM activities in Canadian business organizations;

* specific roles being performed by the information professionals;

* skills required by the information professionals to participate effectively in KM activities;

* and factors inhibiting the participation of information professionals in KM activities.

Previous Research

There have been various empirical studies conducted on knowledge management practices but these have been from the business or information technology perspective. For example, Ruggles (1999) conducted a survey of 431 organizations in the U. …

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