I am currently struggling with a challenge (but it is a good one).
The challenge is in having to combine Knowledge Management duties with Library Services duties in a law firm setting. In many (if not most) firms, the positions are split and separate. For now, I am (in theory) divided 50% between each function. A colleague with a financial background put his understanding of the situation in these terms: KM is all about harnessing the “internal” information (getting and organizing law-related information that is in lawyers’ heads and in their documents) whereas Library Services is all about the “external” information (getting and organizing law-related information that is available from publishers, courts and governments).
Although his understanding is overly simplistic, there is some truth to what he says. I find the challenge arises in part due to the different pace and focus of each department. Library Services tends to involve fairly concrete actions or steps (order a book, research a point of law, train students on how to use Quicklaw) with specified daily activities for library staff (check in new case law reporters, circulate newspaper stories from Lexis Publisher, catalogue new books, etc.). On the other hand, knowledge management tends to involve longer term planning that is much less defined in what daily steps need to be taken and what results can and will be achieved.
The danger of a combined role for overseeing these two functions is the difficult in evenly splitting one’s time since Library Services can absorb much of one’s day with the immediate needs for research assistance and other daily activities.
How do others out there with this dual role cope?
The simple solution to the dilemma is to formally separate the roles but I am not prepared to do that yet since there are a number of nice synergies between formal KM and formal Library Services: both involve information/knowledge, both are all about providing service and access to information, and both require similar educational and work experience. Current awareness and the use of Web 2.0 technologies is an example that could fit neatly into either department’s basic functions (or could be handled by a combined department)
Increasingly, we are seeing law firm librarians and library staff becoming more involved in KM at their firms (e.g., helping the firm organize and maintain the firm’s research memo and work product databases or helping design and maintain the firm’s intranet, to name but two examples) but we don’t necessarily see the opposite: it remains unusual for KM lawyers and KM staff to be involved with or integrated into library or research services. This may well be because most KM lawyers may only have a law degree (and not a Master of Library Science degree). Perhaps the two services – KM and Library – can never be fully integrated . . . .
I actually don’t expect comments or replies to this posting (but they would be welcome). Instead, I will continue to think about how to best integrate the two services or plan around them being separate for some functions. Perhaps a name change and a merger of both departments into the “ARK Group” (the Applied Research and Knowledge Group)? Oops, “ARK” is already taken.