If librarians are going to facilitate knowledge creation, we’d better learn the process through which knowledge is created. Throughout the Knowledge Creation Thread of The Atlas of New Librarianship, R. David Lankes focuses on Conversation Theory as a means of fostering knowledge creation. Conversation Theory, in my own significantly simplified definition, is the idea that to know and understand something, you need to talk about it. You can talk to your colleagues, your friends, or your self–it doesn’t matter who you are talking to, as long as the conversation is a two-way dialog.
Conversation spurs knowledge, creates and cements ideas, and is vital to developing systems that benefit the people in our libraries. In ensuring our libraries evolve as true community assets, the first conversation we should engage in is with our members regarding their needs. Librarians have a choice to make–either start a conversation that will lead them to joining their members in creating a library that benefits their community; or quietly go about their business, handing out resources and wondering why their communities don’t see their value. To be relevant to the conversation, you’ve got to engage in the conversation. Further, you’ve got to engage in the conversation using language that library members use. It is hard to get excited about a multi-disciplinary cross-searchable full text database if you aren’t sure exactly what that means. It is much more effective to ask library members if they know that they can use the library’s system to enter search terms, much like they would in Google, and access digital articles, books, and information that speak directly to their information needs. If they say they aren’t interested, ask them why. Start a conversation with your members about what they do need. If they say they had no idea they could do that, ask yourself why. Start a conversation with your library staff and yourself about how to raise awareness of the resources your library holds that can be useful to members. This is just one example of one service, you can apply this to any resource or technology you think is underutilized, or even potentially needed, by your members. By continually engaging in these conversations in language that is meaningful to librarian and member alike, our libraries can be optimal environments for knowledge creation.