Knowledge management is an ever present issue in many organizations. It is especially important in libraries. I got to thinking about its importance over the past few weeks as many in my own department were preparing for the impending retirement of a few staff members. It is extremely difficult to transfer years of knowledge in a matter of days. In the world we live in, it is very important to be able to pass along knowledge from one person to another. The only answer really is time and patience.
I tried my best to understand the new task that I was to be responsible for: in this case, preparing the monthly statistical report. The person who had normally done this had been doing it for 15 years and had her own way of collecting the information and compiling it into a report. I took her instructions into consideration but decided one change that I would implement to streamline the process. One of the first things I did was to begin requiring all the staff to record desk statistics electronically via Excel. We had previously recorded them on paper which had to then be transferred to an Excel report. I saw this as a waste of time. I also send out e-mail requests for statics to be included from the rest of the staff. Previously, the other staff member would use tons of slips of paper and a paper copy of the desk numbers. Now, I just compile the info from the electronic files into one report and don’t use a bit of paper. I think this just speaks to how two people can approach a task in very different ways.
One of the new staff members in the department said to me the other day “I wish I knew what you knew!” My only response was first to thank her and to say that it just takes time. I have been working in reference at this particular library for five years and it took a great deal of time invested for me to know what I know. This is a prevalent phenomenon in the library world but if more cross-training happens in organizations, the better equipped they will be for staffing shortages. I am grateful that we have brought in new members to our department because it forces the rest of us refresh in our knowledge and pass that along in an understandable way to someone new. So until science can come up with a way to transfer knowledge from one brain to another, we will still have to do the best we can with training, learning and practice.