Can I deliver Knowledge Management? A view from the library service coalface

Each year I struggle to comply with the LQAF criteria for Knowledge Management (KM) and each year I keep saying that I will find a course, or read more, to really understand what is meant by KM.  Well this is the year.

The thing that will make a real difference

In line with the Knowledge for Healthcare development framework,  and taking the steer from Patrick Mitchell at HEE, it is clear that implementing knowledge management will be the thing that will make a real difference to the way library and knowledge services are perceived and ultimately to improving patient outcomes.

As part of the HEE KfH Leadership Programme I am a member of a project group developing a model that can be used by other LKS to implement capture, storage and sharing of organisational knowledge to enable rapid spread of innovation for transformation, quality improvement and patient safety improvement.

Members of the project team were invited to the preliminary meeting of the new strategic working group to discuss what should be our key deliverables for knowledge management in this second year of the KfH programme.  I learnt more about KM in this one day than any theoretical text can supply and I can see where I can implement KM to make a difference in my trust.

The main problems for me with KM

I think the main problems with KM for me are three fold.  Firstly there is a lot of jargon to wade through; secondly it never feels as though we, as librarians, have a Trust remit to take this work forward and thirdly I doubt if my skills are suited to this work.

This is where the KM toolkit can really help.  Developed by a task and finish group this explains the terminology alongside worked case studies of how real library and knowledge staff have used the particular KM tool in a health LKS setting. I always thought KM had to be something quite technical, like developing a database or Sharepoint site, managing an intranet, running After Action Reviews and knowledge cafes. In fact, there are two KM activities delivered by most every service – current awareness and synthesised results from literature searches. We just don’t regard these as ‘KM’.

So how am I going to use my new found knowledge? 

I was in a patient safety steering group meeting just last week when the chair was discussing the need to capture all the good safety improvement work that is happening across the trust and “if only we had a way of sharing this with other teams”- KM.

At a medical education meeting the GP trainees would benefit from a single access point to varied clinical pathway and other policy documents from the three foundation trusts to aid referral and treatment decisions – KM.

We have four senior staff leaving the trust – time for a bit of harvesting?

“Isn’t someone else in the trust doing this?”

Probably not – and if we just get on with it and publicise the positive outcomes KM will naturally fall to health LKS staff.  So have I the skills to deliver KM work?  Just as much as anyone else working in the trust and, due to our unique position of working across all specialties and all professions, we are better placed than most to deliver excellent KM solutions that really will make a difference to patient outcomes.

To add your case study to the toolkit

You may not think you have a full KM example but step back and really think about capture, store and share. The chances are that we have all done some KM without realising it – so in the spirit of KM  – please share. Simply complete the template and send to

Alison Day, Lead Librarian

NHS East Dorset Library & Knowledge Service


Toolkit link is

KM story:

3 thoughts on “Can I deliver Knowledge Management? A view from the library service coalface

  1. You’re absolutely right Bruce. Knowledge Management is a great idea, but what people call it where they work doesn’t have to be knowledge management. Just decide what kinds of knowledge other than documented information you want to get involved in and crack on. Call it whatever is useful for your users and the profile of your unit.

    1. Thank you Bruce and Dion.

      I agree that knowledge management terminology is not always helpful as it means different things to different people. What is clear however, is a real need for solutions to help teams to work together more effectively, share experiences and celebrate good practice within and outside organisational boundaries. In my organisations at the moment they do not see the traditional library services we offer as a way of meeting these needs. We do, therefore, need to get involved and “crack-on” and I am glad that the KM toolkit is there to support me with this.

  2. I work within the field of Knowledge Management in a Knowledge Service. The trouble is that no-one apart from Knowledge Management professionals actually knows what the term Knowledge Management means and what a Knowledge Service offers. There’s no point in inventing more and more exotic terms for what we do when we’re leaving the users behind and confused. It doesn’t increase the pay either or improve the status if that is the aim.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *