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Knowledge Management at Your Service: New Solutions and Sources for Librarians

Magazine article Searcher

Knowledge Management at Your Service: New Solutions and Sources for Librarians

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Knowledge management is sometimes described as "getting the right information to the right people at the right time, so they can make the right decisions." Although the term has come to be associated with software that automates the process, librarians have long been knowledge managers, especially by this definition. Corporate and academic librarians and information specialists manage the collection and distribution of critical information based on knowing what information their clients need and what information sources could meet those needs.

Many of the new and more powerful knowledge management software tools that could assist information specialists in their mission have yet to be widely used in the library environment. Ironically, this is partly because libraries were early adopters of computer technology, for bibliographic information and online database searches among other things. Once entrenched, these legacy systems were difficult to dislodge, although their limitations posed significant disadvantages.

Some integrated library systems (ILSs) have ported to standard SQL relational databases (e.g., Oracle, Progress, MS-SQL Server), but others are still written in proprietary languages or in multiple languages, remaining difficult to integrate with other enterprise systems. In any case, dealing with the complex layers of integration falls on professional librarians to implement and to manage the modules that integrate traditional technical services functions, such as acquisitions, cataloging, circulation, and serials management.

Proprietary systems also often present a steep learning curve for users who seek to maximize the effectiveness and value of the search. In today's self-service research environment, this counts as a disadvantage. The more advanced systems offer an online public access catalog (OPAC) for searching, which can often integrate with a corporate portal that facilitates self-service.

Several categories of knowledge management solutions offer potential for libraries. Sophisticated search and retrieval software, expertise location and management (ELM), and business intelligence (BI) products are among the KM solutions that can enhance library services. More flexible, user-friendly, and with broader functionality than many traditional library applications, these tools should be considered as options whenever organizations reassess their existing systems and processes.

Evolution in Search Solutions

The Internet has proven a mixed blessing for librarians, on the one hand providing a bounty of information, while on the other, failing to find target information. "The Web is wonderful in many respects," says Hays Butler, a law librarian at Rutgers University, "but I am least happy with the general search engines. If you use a keyword in Google or AltaVista or one of the other search engines, you will get thousands of irrelevant hits." Butler opts instead for such specialized sites as Thomas [http://thomas.loc. gov], created by the Library of Congress, and GPO Access [http://www.gpoaccess.gov].

Turbo 10 [http://turbo10.com], a new metasearch tool scheduled to emerge from beta testing early in 2004, offers some new and intriguing capabilities. This product allows users to select up to 10 individual search engines and place them into a collection that conducts a federated search. Because Turbo10 can select from among highly specialized search engines, it allows much more focused searches. Another important feature is its ability to search the "Deep Net," including databases. In contrast, Web crawlers usually get only as far as the Web interface of such databases but cannot access their content.

Search engine consultant Robin Nobles [http://search engineworkshops.com] concurs. "Internet search tools can't get past the first page of a database," she says, and points to the millions of pages of potentially relevant documents on the Web not being searched. …

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