Librarians vs Knowledge Managers: Understanding the Distinctions

Are you curious about the contrasting roles of librarians and knowledge managers? You’re certainly not the only one! Despite sharing a focus on information management, these professions have unique responsibilities and duties. This article aims to delve into the distinctions between librarians and knowledge managers, providing insights to help you determine which career path may align better with your interests. Prepare to embark on an exciting journey into the world of information professionals!

What is a Librarian?

Librarians are expertly trained professionals who specialise in information and its management. They can work in various settings, such as public, academic, corporate, government, and medical libraries. Typically, librarians hold a master’s degree in library science from an accredited institution.

In contrast, knowledge managers are also trained professionals that work with information and knowledge, but they focus primarily on the needs of organisations rather than individuals. Knowledge managers usually possess a background in business or management and may hold a degree in library science or a relevant field. They work in diverse settings such as businesses, governments, nonprofits, and educational institutions.

What is a Knowledge Manager?

The responsibility of a knowledge manager or a team of knowledge managers is to procure, systematise and preserve information within an organisation. The purpose of this role is to guarantee that accurate and relevant information is accessible to the appropriate individuals at the necessary time.

To achieve this goal, a knowledge manager may have to develop and execute policies and procedures associated with information management, such as document control and records management. They may also need to construct taxonomies, ontologies, and other controlled vocabularies to facilitate information organisation. Additionally, a knowledge manager may provide staff training on using information management systems.

Differences between the Two Roles

Libraries and library science programs have long been a source of training and education for people who want to enter the field of information management. In recent years, “knowledge management” has become more common in business and academic circles, leading some people to believe that the two terms are interchangeable. However, there are important distinctions between the roles of librarians and knowledge managers.

Librarians are primarily concerned with organising, storing, and retrieving information. They use their research and information literacy skills to help patrons find resources. Knowledge managers, on the other hand, are focused on using knowledge to achieve organisational goals. They may develop systems and processes for gathering and sharing knowledge or create training programs to help employees better use information.

Both librarians and knowledge managers play essential roles in organisations, but their approaches to managing information differ. Librarians focus on access to information, while knowledge managers focus on using knowledge to improve decision-making and organisational performance.

Commonalities between the Two Roles

Librarians and knowledge managers share several similarities. Both require extensive knowledge of information and its organisation and exceptional research and analytical skills. Additionally, effective communication with others, often to share their expertise, is crucial in both roles.

Despite their similarities, there are some significant differences between the two professions. Librarians generally grant access to information resources, while knowledge managers focus on producing and distributing new knowledge. Furthermore, librarians usually work within a single organisation, while knowledge managers may partner with multiple organisations or individuals.

Should you have them both in an Organisation?

Well, it depends. However, saying this as a librarian may be considered arbitrary, as this is my role. It will always be based on personal whim, preference and subjective judgement rather than objective or rational criteria.

However, having both roles in an organisation can offer numerous advantages. Below are some of the benefits:

  1. Having both roles in an organisation can help to increase efficiency as the knowledge manager can help direct the librarian to relevant resources, and the librarian can provide expertise on using those resources.
  2. The knowledge manager can help ensure that the organisation’s output is high quality by working with the librarian to develop quality control procedures.
  3. Having both roles in an organisation allows for greater flexibility as the responsibilities of each position can be adjusted as needed to meet the organisation’s changing needs.
  4. The knowledge manager and librarian can work together to enhance organisational communication by developing and implementing effective communication strategies.
  5. The knowledge manager and librarian can work together to improve the organisational culture by promoting a culture of lifelong learning and collaboration.

Now, let us discuss the challenges of having both roles in an organisation.

Challenges of Integrating Both Roles in an Organisation

Libraries and library staff have always been at the forefront of managing and disseminating organisational knowledge. In recent years, however, there has been an increased focus on the role of knowledge management (KM) within organisations. This has led to a debate over the distinctions between librarians and KM professionals and what each role entails.

Several challenges come with integrating both roles within an organisation. Firstly, there is a need to establish clear lines of communication and collaboration between the library and KM teams. Secondly, there needs to be a shared understanding of the goals and objectives of each group to avoid duplication of effort or conflict. It is crucial to ensure that library and KM staff have the necessary skillsets to carry out their respective roles effectively.

With careful planning and execution, however, these challenges can be overcome. By working together, librarians and KM professionals can create a dynamic and effective knowledge management system that meets the needs of all organisational stakeholders.

Integrating librarian and knowledge manager roles in an organisation can present some challenges. Below are a few examples:

  1. Role definition: There may be confusion over the specific responsibilities of each role, leading to overlaps or gaps in duties.
  2. Communication barriers: Different terminology and practices used by librarians and knowledge managers can create communication barriers that must be overcome for successful collaboration.
  3. Resistance to change: Implementing changes to integrate both roles may face opposition from staff accustomed to traditional ways of doing things.
  4. Resource allocation: Providing the necessary resources and funding for both roles can be challenging, especially in smaller organisations.
  5. Training and development: Ensuring both roles have adequate training and development opportunities to keep up with changing technology and trends can also be challenging.


I trust this article has provided valuable insights into the differences between librarians and knowledge managers. While librarians focus on information organisation, knowledge managers leverage technology to enhance the accessibility and usefulness of data. Both roles play crucial parts in facilitating access to resources necessary for success. With increasing dependence on digital tools for information management, comprehending the distinctions between these related professions becomes critical for organisations.