Preserving institutional knowledge and processes

There is a distinct emphasis on outcome based education across higher education.  This is what I started to write about for my blog post.  But then our Advancement department called me – can we help with Alumni day?  Did I know what had happened at any past Alumni Day, or what type of template they should follow?  We will, and I did.  I dutifully emailed the information I had and started planning an activity.

I started again to look at how legal research outcomes could be formed from the top down when I got a call about Orientation. Was the Library participating and did I have a copy of last year’s schedule somewhere?  The Library is and I did – again, an email and a save the date for the Library staff.

Once again I turn to papers on Bloom’s Taxonomy and boot camps to think about what outcomes our students and their employers need.  And again my phone rings, Admissions wondering if the Library had given a presentation for them before and if I knew what it was about?  They were thinking that would be a good thing for the prospective students.  Yes, we had presented and of course, we have notes.

I have given up on outcomes at this point (for those of you who are disappointed, do some of your own research – here are the articles on a boot camp, the stance from the ABA, some thoughts on the ABA, and a couple on outcome based legal education generally) and instead want to talk about one of the library’s other positions in a scholarly institution – that of institutional memory keeper.

The library can, and perhaps should, be a repository of institutional knowledge.  How can we be information professionals if our answer to any question is “I don’t know.”  We think of some of the questions as perhaps not our job.  But all information is our job.  I like knowing where the nearest water fountain is and sharing that information. I want to tell the students where to find career services as well as where to find Martindale-Hubbell information.  Both are invaluable resources.

Now I am going to overgeneralize.  Librarians tend to save information.  We tend to archive notes and schedules.  When faculty and staff have information needs, or when there is a new coordinator for orientation, we want to be able to share our information.  We can keep people from recreating the wheel and redeveloping programs and researching information over and over again.

So, a couple of things to do – keep schedules and organize information so that it accessible and transferable.  Volunteer on law school and university wide committees if possible.  These are not only helpful as professional development but as a resource for information for students, other staff, and faculty.

And what to do with this mass of information on process and practical application?  Make an IR for it.  We do it for scholarship (there is lots of information out there, including concerns about process of collection and implementation), but not always for the practical information.  Some of us may use Outlook or folders for our records management, but that is not the best way to do it, nor can others access it.  Try for something more accessible and searchable (University of Oregon has some of this in their Scholars’ Bank).  That way, when we need to know how last year’s orientation went, we won’t have to reinvent the wheel,  just do what we are best at – a little research.

About Shawn Friend

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