Christina Stoll and Debbie Baaske from the North Suburban Library System (NSLS) presented their efforts in knowledge management with a special focus on what they have done with communities of practice at the November KM Chicago meeting. The NSLS has been pursuing a formal knowledge management program since 2001 with some significant input from the APQC. They have presented this work locally, at a recent APQC conference, and they are presenting at BrainTrust 2006 (4 pm on Day One).
The bulk of the discussion focused on the communities of practice elements of the project, since this effort brings in the widest direct participation of their clients (650 libraries of all varieties). They've developed a basic technical component for communities that include common components for threaded discussion, events, file sharing, email notification and membership management. About two dozen communities have been created, some of which have been for short-term projects, and many of which are for ongoing communities within the library system. They have seen the best wins for communities when there is a team of people involved in designing the how and why of the community. They set the vision, create guidelines, and set up leadership for ongoing management of the community. In addition to the community leadership, each community has a liaison at NSLS itself, who can handle technical issues and work with the leadership team for ongoing support.
The goal of the overall KM effort is the familiar refrain of "better, faster, cheaper" though stated in different terms. They have a mandate to educate, connect and provide consulting services for their 650+ member libraries around the northern Chicago suburbs. They have NSLS has about a dozen KM technology programs. The initial list of projects should sound fairly familiar: enhancements to their intranet; a consulting knowledge base; expert yellow pages; a taxonomy; communities of practice, and several other projects. The encouraging thing I heard is that many of these efforts are heavily interlinked. The taxonomy is built into a number of components, of course. But so are the intranet, consulting knowledge base and yellow pages interlinked, so that one can find an entry and cross reference the expert or other work going on with the given client.
And results? Their clients have been very happy with their efforts to date. In surveys, they've had people say they could not do without the tools in their interactions with NSLS and with one another. The tools have enhanced the capabilities of NSLS member libraries.