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For Librarians, Sharing Knowledge is Sharing Power

People standing on books and around a lightbulb
Published April 8, 2021

It’s hard to imagine a time when most of us could not, relatively easily, access information. There was a time, when all the general population knew only what was told to them by those in positions of power. For those in power, controlling information, and therefore knowledge, was what kept them in their position. Fortunately, for many of us, times have changed!

Librarians believe that sharing knowledge is sharing power. They strive to deliver quality information to empower their users. Implementing a web-based library management system is critical in delivering access to the knowledge under their management. We at Softlink IC share their philosophy and work to continue providing librarians with the tools to do so.

Protecting Knowledge Was the Protection of Power

In a 1993 Harvard Business Review issue the article, ‘The Post-Capitalist Executive: An Interview with Peter F Drucker’ the now well-known comment from Drucker still resonates,

“Knowledge is power, which is why people who had it in the past often tried to make a secret of it. In post-capitalism, power comes from transmitting information to make it productive, not from hiding it.”

Over the centuries, knowledge remained in the hands of the powerful who used it to entrench their control. A lack of educational opportunities for the general public helped those in power to manipulate and retain it until the late 18th century. While access to education was not equal until the twentieth century, it was the catalyst that began the loosening of power by the few over the many.

A Bit of Recent History

Libraries are not a recent “invention”! They have existed for centuries. However, from the 20th century, the growth of libraries accessible to everyone, be they in educational facilities, private and public organizations, and local communities has been a major achievement. Librarians live by the ethos that sharing knowledge is sharing power. It has been instrumental in the rise of an increasingly educated and more aware society.

In the early days, library staff, particularly in business organizations, responded reactively rather than proactively. Knowledge staff have been restricted by budgets, a lack of technology, and changing policies within their organizations. However, a better appreciation of the advantages of easier and broader access to information by decision makers has resulted in an empowered, proactive library work force that benefits their users. It has contributed to increasingly successful businesses and positive social outcomes.

Access to Information is Critical

For librarians, providing access to valid information is a critical factor in empowering society. It provides an avenue for citizens to become more knowledgeable, enabling them to make decisions on everything from their health to education, based on facts. More importantly, it enables members of society to, amongst other things, hold those in power to account.

For some there are limitations to accessing information. For example:

  • Location.
  • Physical or intellectual abilities.
  • Economic situations.
  • Poor technology.

Technology is helping reduce any limitations to information access suffered by members of our society. Librarians champion the use of new technologies to ensure the power of knowledge is available to as many users as possible!

While access to information is easier for most of us these days, there is a need to restrict the availability of sensitive information that by its nature needs to be secured.

The Need to Secure Access to Certain Information

While access to knowledge has increased exponentially, there are situations which call for the restriction of sensitive information.

Library staff in some institutions and organizations manage information that is restricted from general access. For example:

  • An individual’s private information.
  • Organizational policies.
  • Commercial in confidence information.
  • Legal and medical cases.
  • Culturally sensitive knowledge.

Such information must always be secured and available only to users within an organization who have the necessary clearance.

The type of information that librarians secure often depends on the industry in which they work. For example:

  • Those in medical libraries understand patient records should only be accessible to appropriate medical staff. However, there is a vast amount of research and countless studies that are available for general access that inform and educate everyone.
  • Legal librarians understand cases, on which specific attorneys are involved, may not be freely available to everyone within the practice. Other information such as legal rulings, precedents and legislative changes are freely accessible to their users.

The most important tool available to knowledge and library staff is their library management system (LMS). It makes it easier for them to not only share knowledge easily but manage access to it as required. A great LMS ensures they have an efficient and effective tool enabling their users to easily search for and retrieve the right information. We think Liberty is just the management system that enables library staff to share the power of information. Don’t just take our word for it. Contact us, and we’ll prove it.