Innovation as needed

There’s a lot to reflect on this week so I chose one of the group questions from the end of the “Innovation and entrepreneurship in information organizations” chapter reading to start me off.

Describe an ‘innovation’ you were involved in.

I worked most of last year in a university library where, even though I was originally part-time and ‘only’ an assistant, I was encouraged to involve myself in changes and take charge of projects. In short, my library fostered an innovative organizational culture. This is how I came to be involved in the ‘waiting room’ rehabilitation of the periodicals and new books display.

What were the personal circumstances or drivers that led you to seek an
opportunity to do things differently?

In our library the Circulation Desk is directly across from the front doors, but also has a good view of an area with a couch, coffee table, and two chairs. Originally we had a periodicals display between this area and the entrance and a glass display case for new books on the other side. While working at the Circulation Desk, I noticed that the couches were being used as a meeting place for group projects; students who didn’t have each other’s phone numbers would plan to meet there before moving upstairs to the study rooms. At the time, one of my colleagues was trying to improve the system for tracking periodical usage. I suggested that we could improve the periodical and new book usage by arranging this area like it was a proper waiting room.

How did you go about locating and developing that opportunity/idea? How did you go about the planning for translating that opportunity
into action?

I spoke with our Systems Librarian who was our expert on access and also our Health & Safety representative about the best way to rearrange the chairs and displays and also the Library Technician in charge of our new book displays.

How did you go about capitalizing on the new opportunity?

My new arrangement worked really well for several months until a colleague who’d been put in charge of a book display completely rearranged everything without conferring with anyone. She made the area completely inaccessible a weeks before I left to come here and start my MLIS, so hopefully by the time I return they’ll have missed me so much they offer me a full-time job!

As I was reading this chapter, I was thinking back to a few weeks ago in my Systems Analysis & Design class when we read an article on creativity and innovation by Robert I. Sutton called, “The Weird Rules of Creativity”. Sutton’s management techniques for creating an innovative environment are very different and I’d take him more seriously if he had shown evidence that he had work experience to back it up, but some of his ideas had some merit. He spoke about the innovations that can happen when creative colleagues disagree, or when you hire someone who hasn’t had experience dealing with your current issues as opposed to someone who’s boxed themselves in because they have. I did come away from the article with the idea that creating an innovative environment is as much about managing people as it is providing the right technology. My take on J. Rowley’s chapter was informed by this view; the reading mentions both sides, digital entrepreneurship and public/social entrepreneurship. Overall, I think that with OSS and higher technical skills amongst everyday people, it’s not new technological solutions that we need, but management styles that focus on the management of HCI instead of a focus on one or the other.


Chun Wei’s article, “Working with knowledge: how information professionals help organisations manage what they know” is written for a conference of librarians, but it focuses on business organisations. In her explanation of explicit knowledge (codified knowledge being the domain of libraries), she discusses how intellectual assets indicate the worth of an organisation, often because they’re the source of innovation. My question is, how does this work in libraries? Aside from a few exceptions such as private law libraries, libraries are public service institutions; they don’t earn money (aside from fines that commonly cover the cost of a loss), they don’t cost money to use, and they also don’t usually have intellectual assets. So how do we determine the worth of a library in terms of KM?

You're All Just Jealous Of My Jetpack

You’re All Just Jealous Of My Jetpack

Libraries do not own the intellectual property that has led to recent innovations in information science, such as the digitalization of print media and increasingly convenient access points to information on the internet, so how can they bank in on the worth of it? Libraries have certainly benefited from these innovations and their needs and the needs of their users have stimulated new knowledge management innovations, but the only value is in the third point Chun Wei discusses, an increase in the organisations reputation and accountability.

One of the other articles we had to read this week was “A Review of Knowledge Management in the Irish Civil Service” by Joanna O’Riordan who displays KM in a completely different way. O’Riordan focuses more on KM as a process rather than the types of knowledge being managed. In fact, the KM process reads a lot like a system analysis of the type I’m learning about it my Systems Analysis and Design class where you study the system in place, identify issues, design a solution, test it, and implement it.

The case study of the Knowledge Audit at SEI wasn’t very helpful because I don’t know anything about the kind of data an energy organisation would be working with so even though this was a real-life example it was still abstract and theoretical to me. As such, I’m having trouble thinking of a KM project that I’ve been involved in personally. I have done plenty of inventories in bookstore and libraries, which at a stretch could be described as a knowledge audit, but at best these were audits of the codified knowledge. Basically, I’ve only ever managed the containers of knowledge.

I also found this article by Failte Ireland really interesting:


Chun Wei, C. (2000).Working with knowledge: how information professionals help organisations managewhat they know. Library Management, 21(8), 395.

JoannaO’Riordan. (2005). A Review of KnowledgeManagement in the Irish Civil Service. Institute of Public Administration.