Knowledge Management in Secondary Schools and the Role of the School Librarian

By Boelens, Helen | School Libraries Worldwide, July 2007 | Go to article overview

Knowledge Management in Secondary Schools and the Role of the School Librarian


Boelens, Helen, School Libraries Worldwide


At the beginning of the 21st century, educators are facing new visions, theories, and aims of education in a changing environment. In these "new kinds of learning," concepts such as individual learning, cooperative learning, e-learning, and lifelong learning have become important. New visions of learning suggest that pupils can learn to manage or control their own acquisition of knowledge. The introduction of ICT in schools has also contributed to these new visions and has caused enormous changes in the schools themselves. The role of the school librarian and the goals of the school library in the school have also changed. The school librarian needs to retain the ability to run and maintain the important traditional role of the school library, but must also act as an information specialist who coordinates the management of information and knowledge in the school and accesses information and knowledge from outside the school. As the new school information specialist, the school librarian may need retraining in knowledge management. Strong school management, strong infrastructure, and good communication in the school also are essential to the knowledge management process. The content of this article is part of the author's doctoral research at the Middlesex University School of Lifelong Learning and Education in London.

Introduction

In Boswell's (1773) Life of Johnson, Samuel Johnson defined knowledge in this way: "Knowledge is of two kinds: we know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it."

Sallis and Jones (2002) define knowledge as "the key resource of the information age" (p. 1). They describe knowledge management as:

the process of constructively using information and knowledge that is inherent to any organisation-be it a school, university or multinational company-in order to enhance its performance, its management and its operation.... Education-whose core business after all is knowledge-stands to reap tremendous rewards by using this technique, (back cover)

Sallis and Jones go on to say that successful 21st-century organizations-schools, small businesses, or corporate giants-will be those that make the best use of their information and knowledge to create sustained additional value for their stakeholders. The amount of information available in the world today, in hundreds of languages, increases daily at an amazing rate (van de Bunt, 2006). Everyone in the school (teachers, other staff, pupils, and the school information specialist) needs to learn to cope with and use this stream of information adequately and to be able to identify reliable information. In this article, I describe the importance of two kinds of knowledge management in the secondary school and the role that the school librarian plays in the organization of knowledge in the secondary school.

First, knowledge management is concerned with management of the large amount of educational information and knowledge that is stored in secondary schools in both print and digital formats. Important educational knowledge in various subject areas is stored in various places throughout the school. Traditional printed information and also digital information can be found and accessed in the school library and information center through the Web-based school library program. Other digital information is stored in the school network or accessed through the Internet from outside the school. This information becomes knowledge when it is used successfully for a specific purpose. The organization of this knowledge so that it can be retrieved on demand can be considered a form of knowledge management.

The use in the school environment of software such as a Web-based school library program, an ELE (Electronic Learning Environment) with its own "library," and a CMS (Content Management System) facilitates knowledge management. Relevant educational knowledge is stored in each of these programs and can be accessed and retrieved when required. …

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