Year for Productivity: Session 1: What is PKM?


Welcome to the very first session in our year-long look at Productivity for Academic Librarians and Researchers!  We are excited you are checking us out and hope that you stick around and participate throughout the year.  You are welcome to post insights or questions to any of the information we provide here, and you are still very welcome if you prefer to be a silent participant.  The “exercises” that we suggest at the end of each session offer each of you the opportunity to spend some active time with the topic of the day. We hope they might spark ideas, changes or goals to implement in your own lives and suggest to your students, coworkers and faculty.

One housekeeping point.  Several people have reported difficulties subscribing to our blog via email.  Feedburner has some glitches when it comes to accepting email addresses that contain special characters other than @ or a period.  Using a different email address may resolve any problems.  I have heard from several individuals that gmail accounts seem to be working well.

We begin the discussion of productivity by introducing of a concept that may be new to some of you. Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) is a field of study, an amalgamation of skills and tools to aid in knowledge creation, growth, storage and dissemination.  It is also a label that is used by many to describe how they manage their lives more effectively and productively.  I wrote a blog entry on the definition of PKM back in November of last year which you can review here.

PKM is a personal tool, and personal choice and personal learning are fundamental to its practice.  Knowledge management (KM) without the modifier is assumed to be an organizational practice; it is often seen as yet another way for management to try to squeeze still more out of us workers.  While management may reap some of the benefits from increases in productivity that result from effective use of PKM skills and tools, that is incidental to our focus here.  It is by stepping back and examining the process of learning and its dissemination that we can better understand how to help our faculty, coworkers and students to become more effective as well.

When productivity is discussed, there are a lot of different kinds of terms used.  We hear experts arguing over the concept of information overload; librarians are widely discussing the ever growing field of data management; business and computer specialists are talking at length about the importance of an organization internally implementing efficient KM systems; and philosophers and historians discuss the wisdom of past visionaries.

Perhaps it would help us focus on PKM a little better if we considered the flow of these different terms:

The collection of data is necessary in order to prime the rest of the process. Once that data is analyzed, related and organized, we can consider the resulting product “information.”  Knowledge takes a body of information to a new level by synthesizing and relating information and one’s own experience and learning to create new or clarified meaning of value that can be disseminated to others. Wisdom results when both ethical and “higher good” thinking is applied to a person’s growing knowledge and experience base. Acquiring true wisdom is generally a process that evolves over time.


Considering this flow (also called by some the DIKW Pyramid), it seems to me that our opportunity as academic librarians is vast.  We have traditionally been involved in helping others find the information produced by others, and even in finding data.  NIH and NSF mandates for public access to data as well as the open access movement in recent years have also caused an explosion in the library fields of data management and overseeing newly created data repositories.  Librarians have seemed less active in the right hand side of the mix.  Granted, we do not have the in depth knowledge of our researchers’ fields of expertise, but we do have many skills to offer them in terms of easing their progress through the stages of DIKW.  Throughout this year, we hope to offer participants ideas and tools that librarians and researchers can implement in their own lives and also offer to their faculty and students to help achieve their goals more efficiently and with reduced stress in the process.

 Selected Readings:

Bedford, Denise A.D., “Enabling Personal Knowledge Management with Collaborative and Semantic Technologies”, ASIS&T Bulletin, Dec/Jan 2012.

Cheong, R. K. F. and Tsui, E. (2011), From Skills and Competencies to Outcome-based Collaborative Work: Tracking a Decade’s Development of Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) Models. Knowl. Process Mgmt., 18: 175–193.

Frand, J., & Hixon, C. (December 1999). Personal knowledge management: Who, what, why, where, when, and how [Working paper]. Retrieved November 9, 2011, from

Liew, Anthony (June 2007). “Understanding Data, Information, Knowledge And Their Inter-Relationships”. Journal of Knowledge Management Practice 8 (2).


For Further Exploration and Insights:

  1. Brainstorm for a few minutes regarding your work situation.  How do you interact with the various levels of the DIKW Pyramid? What opportunities might there be to offer further value to your faculty, coworkers and students? Are there new classes you could create? Other services you can offer?  What creative things are you already doing in this regard?
  2. Jason Frand and Carol Hixon’s paper in your selected readings is an often quoted source on PKM.  Frand & Hixon ask a series of questions which are still pertinent over 12 years later:

“If students and teachers continue to approach the educational experience using the same old approaches and techniques, will investing in information technologies make any difference? What, if anything, do faculty and students need to do differently in order to get value from our investment in information technologies “

How would you answer this question?

Calendar Image courtesy of ammer/

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