The Role of the Knowledge Manager in an AI World

Reposted with permission from Nick Milton at Knoco stories

How will the development of Artificial Intelligence affect the role of the Knowledge Manager? 

There is a lot of discussion on Artificial Intelligence as part of Knowledge Management, and the use of powerful computing to replace the reliance on experts. As discussed here, the expert, in a rule-based scenario, is seldom better than a smart computer, and the computers are closing the gap that remains. Is there still a role for KM and the Knowledge manager as the computers get smarter?

Take the vision below, from an IBM Watson TV commercial.

Here the company expert, Jack, is on holiday and is replaced by Watson, who can give advice just as good as Jack’s, and in some cases, in Jack’s own words. Engineers using Watson can “access 30 years of experience in seconds” according to the commercial, which is exactly what we are seeking for in KM. Knowledge which used to live only in the expert engineer’s head is now available to all at the point of need. Knowledge, through the application of AI, has become common property, easily accessed.

The benefits of this use of AI are considerable (please note that I am not, in this post, addressing the use of AI to search for correlations and patterns in big datasets; I am looking more at the retrieval of actionable advice).

What AI is doing here is automating the supply chain for knowledge, and removing the bottleneck which the expert previous represented. It represents some of the automated augmentation of knowledge work that will help increase the productivity of the knowledge worker, and help up meet Drucker’s “50-fold productivity increase” challenge.

As a result, the knowledge workers get quicker access to better knowledge, the organisation is protected against the loss of experts and the risk of problems onsite, and more can be done with fewer people.

It is probably inevitable that the number of knowledge workers will decrease as this sort of AI-related augmentation is used more and more. Think for example of the reduction in support-centre staff as the use of AI chatbots and technology such as Watson is used to answer customer queries, rather relying on human staff drawing on a Knowledge Base platform.

But what about the knowledge managers? Will they still have a job in the new world?

Yes, they definitely will. Continue reading


The 21st Century Law Library: Focus on Service

Reposted with permission from Jamie J. Baker at The Ginger (Law) Librarian

As we continue to talk about the ABA’s watering down of law library standards, as well as the impending squeeze from artificial intelligence, Law Librarian Dan Odenwald reminds us to focus on the fundamental service tenet of our profession.

In a recent AALL Spectrum article titled “Transforming Customer Service in the Post-Digital Law Library,” Odenwald notes that [w]e may be a long way from the day when artificial intelligence discerns legislative intent for us, or drones drop deskbooks at our doors, but we ought to contemplate that future and the critical role that customer service will continue to occupy in it.

He further articulates rules for law library customer service in the post-digital age:

1. Stop Selling Yesterday’s Fish: Next-generation legal research platforms, linked data and Watson long ago replaced the perfunctory, will-you-pull-a-statute-for-me duties of law librarians.

2. Anticipate Needs Before They Arise: As the practice of law transforms, so too do the needs of our customers.

3. Make Doing Business with You Remarkable: Every interaction between the library and its customers could fall on a graph of one to 10.

4. Make Others Look Good: How often do we as librarians thank our patrons or recognize their good work?

5. Join the Team … in Every Sense: Embedded librarianship is by now a familiar concept, and the benefits of weaving the library into the broader parent organization are well documented.

6. Help Manage the Disruption of Change: With the ever-expanding burden of mastering change—ironically enough perpetrated on patrons by digital technologies—librarians are uniquely well situated to address those challenges for constituents.

7. Embrace Technology — and Know its Limitations: Law librarians in particular have a long history of adapting technological advances to their purposes, including electronic research itself.

8. Always Evangelize the WIIFM (What’s in it for me?): The importance of marketing your library can barely be overstated

9. Do More With Less — Automate, Outsource, and Offload: Excelling in customer service involves choices, namely, deciding what you’re going to do and what you’re not going to do.

10. Assess. Iterate. Improve: If you’re not already creating mechanisms by which to measure, weigh, and evaluate the results of your labors, then how will you know if you’re succeeding?

These are all wonderful points that also comport with a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education titled “What the 21st-Century Library Looks Like.” As noted, [n]ow, with information always a few taps away, libraries have had to carve out a new niche. They’ve done so by pivoting away from books and toward supporting students.

As a student-service component, librarians are broadly spending less time with collections and more time teaching students how to do research and use digital tools.

It’s clear that our path forward is by going back to the basic, high-level service tenet of the profession.

Are New Attorneys Competent Legal Researchers – And How Would You Know?

By Gail A. Partin, Director and Law Librarian, Montague Law Library, Penn State’s Dickinson Law

Gail served as Chair of the American Association of Law Libraries’ Legal Research Competency Special Committee from July 2014 to July 2016.  Prior to that, Gail was a member of three separate task forces AALL created to develop and promote principles and standards for legal research competencies.  With fall associates starting and training and orientation underway at many firms, we thought this was the ideal time to highlight the AALL Principles and Standards for Legal Research Competency, along with related resources available via the AALL website.

As newly minted lawyers pass the bar exam and begin their legal careers, they will be confronted with research scenarios wholly unlike the problems they encountered in law school. Specialized practice areas require deeper knowledge of information resources that many law students have had little experience using. And even basic research skills are applied differently in the practice environment, leaving new graduates uncertain about their own competence. Consequently, efforts to improve research competency are underway within AALL and among our colleagues.

The AALL Principles and Standards for Legal Research Competency (PSLRC) are a good place to start to determine what skills attorneys should master to become competent, effective, and efficient legal researchers. These Principles and Standards offer a compendium of benchmarks to draw upon and a structure for focused training that can dramatically increase the effectiveness of newer lawyers. Typical practice competencies, emanating from the PSLRC, might encompass a scaffolded framework beginning with the new associate level through the one-year mark, similar to the approach described in Hitting the Mark: AALL Legal Research Competencies from Classroom to Practice (AALL login required). The PSLRC or an internal law firm framework can serve as the foundation for a core competency training and skills assessment program for new associates or other researchers that can be applied at any point on the continuum of a legal professional’s career and in any specific field within the legal profession. The AALL Legal Research Competency web center contains high quality resources detailing current practices and approaches to assessing and improving research competency.

Two major components to any competency improvement plan are assessment and instruction. Simply put, skill levels must be assessed before they can be remediated with appropriate training.  Evaluating the research skills of new lawyers, who are most likely adjusting to the time constraints and demands of their emerging careers, can be a challenge. Self-assessment can be a convenient, non-threatening evaluation tool to obtain a detailed audit of an individual’s unique strengths and weaknesses. The research competencies enumerated in the AALL Principles and Standards can be used as a baseline to construct self-assessment exercises similar to those described in this article, Creating a Legal Research Audit: Assessing Competency. More formal assessment tools, such as quizzes, demonstrations, essays, or self-paced tutorials can be considered as well — keeping in mind that the key purpose for assessment is to improve research proficiency and to develop instructional methods to achieve those desired improvements. Continue reading Article on Librarians Making Themselves Heard, Performing Firm-Critical Functions

Steve Kovalan, Senior Analyst at ALM Intelligence, wrote a great article, “Quiet No Longer: Law Librarians ‘Forgo the Status Quo,’” highlighting how law librarians are making a difference within their organizations. Steve helped compile ALM’s 2017 Survey of Law Firm Knowledge Management, Library, and Research Professionals (aka The Law Librarian Survey), so he is well-aware of the roles librarians currently play at their firms and how those roles have evolved. The “Delivering Value” section of the article includes some charts from the ALM survey and “illustrates just how many functions critical to the success of firms are performed by their libraries.”

Excerpts from the article are posted below with permission from the author.

“Delivering Value

In the post-recession new normal, libraries and knowledge services departments serve as an indispensable resource. Figure 1 below, reflecting responses to ALM Intelligence’s Survey of Knowledge Management, Library, and Research Professionals, illustrates just how many functions critical to the success of firms are performed by their libraries.


Those key functions include libraries and their staff filling their more traditional roles in legal research support. As clients become more cost conscious, firms can source legal research to their library staff as an efficient, low-cost alternative to billing the same tasks to firm attorneys. And they also include the effective procurement of the growing array of technology-based research and analytic solutions fundamental to the day-to-day operations of today’s firms. In evaluating the effectiveness of tools and negotiating subscription details, libraries are responsible for identifying new tools and controlling costs through negotiating favorable contract terms.

Next, there are the roles that library staff are increasingly filling as researchers in support of firm business initiatives (Figure 2 below).


Those business research responsibilities are growing to the point that many survey respondents expect the number of business research requests to eclipse the number of legal research requests in the near future.

Finally, as information and research experts, libraries and knowledge services departments are perfectly positioned to facilitate knowledge sharing within the firm through activities such as conducting training sessions and curating newsletters on key subjects. Furthermore, because knowledge not shared is knowledge lost, for law firms operating in the age of the lateral move, knowledge sharing can also be a key mechanism promoting institutional stability.”

Thomson Reuters White Paper on Law Librarians

Thomson Reuters has published a new white paper “Taking a Closer Look at the Changing Role of Today’s Law Librarian.” The white paper summarizes a survey of 123 respondents from large and medium firms, and reports that a “staggering degree of change” has occurred in the past three years:

“…more than half of respondents said their role had undergone substantial change within the past three years, with 15 percent reporting ‘extreme change.’ …Forty-eight percent of respondents reported spending more than three-quarters of their time on activities that were not part of their job descriptions three years ago.”

Respondents indicated that they have taken on new responsibilities in the past three years: research (95 percent), due diligence (37 percent) competitive intelligence (23 percent), and knowledge management (19 percent) were the top four categories. Due diligence (35 percent), knowledge management (20 percent), competitive intelligence (19 percent), and legal project management (10%) were the top four expected responsibilities in the next three years.

The white paper also covers staffing, resources, and budget issues.