Peter Murgatroyd joined Ko Awatea as Library Manager in November 2013. Peter has extensive experience as a library and knowledge manager in both the corporate and academic sectors and has been a driver in the development of a number of internationally recognised knowledge resources. Prior to joining Ko Awatea, Peter was an adviser at the New Zealand National Library. He has a bachelor’s degree in social work and social policy and a master’s in library and information studies. He has published and presented at a wide range of regional and international fora.
In the health sector there are enormous budgetary pressures that impact upon all aspects of service delivery. There is constant pressure to achieve greater effectiveness, greater efficiency and continuous improvement. Within this context library budgets, services and resources will come under increasing pressure to demonstrate value to their organisation.
Alternative pathways for information discovery and information sharing mean that libraries no longer have a monopoly on information resources. Knowledge discovery and knowledge sharing is everybody’s business. There are no barriers of entry to an increasingly complex and fluid information landscape. Although this landscape potentially makes libraries and librarians more relevant and more valuable than ever, it can also potentially render the librarian invisible or worse, obsolete – one voice in a sea of noise.
Alignment, engagement and relevance create value
The value of the library service will be recognised if the library’s vision, objectives and outputs contribute to the core priorities of the organisation.
Realising alignment and engagement requires both an understanding of the vision and priorities of the organisation and the development of relationships with stakeholders across the organisation based upon trust, mutual respect and a shared vision.
Redefining the role of the library
New modes of information sharing and information seeking have superseded the role traditionally occupied by an institutional library.
Redefining the library team as partners and collaborators, not a support service, is a core component of reimagining the library’s mission. Similarly, the library must be more than a collection of information resources, and the library service must shift from a passive to a more assertively proactive one.
A library service model based on providing bibliographic access to hardcopy documents that can only be accessed from a traditional physical library space no longer meets the information needs of the health community. Knowledge resources must be accessible anywhere, anytime via any device at point of care or point of need.
The role of the librarian is to be immersed within the community of practice and the knowledge flow, developing relationships and partnerships with stakeholders through emails and listservs, social media networks and face-to-face encounters in both informal and formal settings. In this role, the librarian monitors and examines information, recognising themes, recurrent patterns and common critical elements that are relevant to the information needs of the community. He or she then organises and arranges these resources for ease of use. The librarian must also be able to establish linkages between formal organisational processes and informal communities of practice.
Knowledge curation is the new black
A primary issue facing health practitioners is not a lack of information or poor access to potential sources of information, but too much information. What many health practitioners lack are the time and skills to manage and filter the huge amount of information available.
Librarians can identify the information that is most relevant and valuable, and select, manage and disseminate it to stakeholders. This process is called knowledge curation. It requires judgement, experience and a deep understanding of the subject.
In knowledge curation, the role of the librarian moves from being gatekeeper to information intermediary, through to being a facilitator who makes connections between needs and available resources, and ultimately to become the knowledge enabler and catalyst for end users to interact with diverse information within their social network. A highly connected librarian ensures that comprehensive resources are available, people are linked to other people, and technology is optimised.
Rather than signalling the demise or diminution of the role of the librarian and the library service in the health sector, the transformation in information seeking and information sharing behaviour, and the rapid transition from reliance on hardcopy information to digital, offers the library profession an unprecedented opportunity to reposition itself as a central contributor to innovation, knowledge creation and improved decision-making.
The Counties Manukau Health Library is available online.