Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2009 Issue

Exploiting Marketable Skills - The Bookseller as Knowledge Manager


I have to admit that I never thought of myself as a knowledge manager, but that title certainly applies to the bookselling business. We are constantly selecting and honing knowledge and disseminating that information collegially and to current and future clients. By publishing we take the process a step further by finding forgotten writing and bringing it to the forefront again, seeking out authors and works, and encouraging the creation of new works.

As it happens, knowledge management is an entirely marketable skill. Businesses have long known that their intellectual capital was their primary asset and now non-profits are getting that idea as well. It is part information technology, part curriculum creation and includes marketing and partnership development. At my agency we are going to develop a separate web server installed with a multimedia knowledgebase (SharePoint) that also handles business processes. The database is filled with images, books, pamphlets, articles, videos and so forth and then can be served up in numerous ways. It can create internal products like employee manuals; it can create courses to be used inside and outside the agency.

It is something like Google, but instead of just serving up knowledge, it can be used to serve of products made from the knowledge. It is a lot like what a skilled bookseller does when faced with a client who needs help finding material in a particular area.

As more and more non-profits begin to look for new ways to acquire unrestricted funds, they will increasingly seek ways to mine their intellectual capital. This presents an opportunity for experienced booksellers to branch out and ply their skills in a familiar but different context.

For more information on knowledge management: there is a nice article in Wikipedia.

Nancy Zurbuchen (no pun intended) has a good downloadable online paper on knowledge management and non-profit organizations.

For knowledge management software, check out interspire and Microsoft SharePoint.

Renee Roberts can be reached at renee@roses-books.com.

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