The Knowledge Manager as a Digital Librarian: An Overview of the Knowledge Management Pilot Program at the MITRE Corporation

Kathleen M. Flynn

Digital Libraries Department
The MITRE Corporation
7525 Colshire Drive, McLean VA 22102-3481
Tel: 1-703-883-6479



The Knowledge Management Program was instituted at The MITRE Corporation in October of 1994. At the midpoint of this year-long program, the responsibilities of the knowledge manager have become clearly defined and the similarity of these responsibilities to the traditional roles of the librarian suggest that this program offers a model for role of the librarian in the transition to a digital library environment.

KEYWORDS: models, knowledge management, communications tools, library science.


At Digital Libraries '94, several papers explored the role of the "digital librarian" and reflected on the opportunities for library professionals in this new environment. As our experience with networked tools and information structures increases, the parallels to the traditional roles of collection development, resource organization, bibliographic instruction and reference services are more easily translated into similar roles in the digital library. Collection development changes in emphasis from acquisition to location; resource organization becomes even more complex with the exponential increase in information and the new opportunities and challenges from the dynamic nature of the digital environment; bibliographic instruction remains a necessary component, increasing in importance with the rapid introduction of new tools; and reference services changes to accommodate the new and diverse communication tools. With the advent of many digital library models, it is important to address the role of the library professional in the transition to digital environment. The MITRE Corporation's Knowledge Management program offers one model for the role of the librarian during this transition.


The MITRE Corporation is a multifaceted engineering company that provides technical and strategic guidence in information, communications and environmental systems to United States government and civil agencies. The Corporation has over 5,000 employees in sites around the world and its Corporate Information Services maintains a collection of over 175,000 items. The corporation supports multiple platforms with varying levels of connectivity providing access to both internal and external information resources. In order to share knowledge across diverse and distributed groups, MITRE is combining emerging network and information retrieval technologies with structured processes for publishing and organizing information. As part of the G050 Productivity Initiative, MITRE established such an environment in its DOD Intelligence and CINC Support Division (G050) called the G050 Information Server. MITRE is currently engaged in scaling and augmenting this environment for the entire corporation in an effort called the MITRE Information Infrastructure (MII). When completed the MII will serve as the repository for all MITRE-generated documents and will allow users to access a variety of internal and external information through a single interface.


MITRE recognized that the reengineering of an information environment has a many effects on the user community, some of which cannot be anticipated. In order to ease the transition and to identify and meet the information needs of the technical staff during the transition and in the new environment, the position of Knowledge Manager was created. This component of the G050 Productivity Initiative began in October 1994 with the following responsibilities:

The project is based in Department G056 - Digital Libraries Technologies, which is also responsible for the development and maintenance of the G050 Information Server - the testbed for MITRE Information Infrastructure (MII). The Knowledge Manager works in coordination with Corporate Information Services to tailor and profile information specific to the department domain, in effect, to broker industry and consortia information, corporate knowledge and history, and customer products for the technical staff.

At the midpoint of the program, the responsibilities associated with this position have become more clearly defined. Each of the traditional roles of the librarian are represented and modified to take advantage of the new technologies and tools and to better meet the information needs of the staff.

Collection Development. In MITRE, as in most corporate organizations, the external resources are largely on a fee or subscription basis. This is also the case with electronic resources. Corporate Information Services handles the negotiations of corporate-wide licenses and the purchase of online resources. The Knowledge Manager can participate in a significant way in the selection and evaluation of the services by bringing a thorough understanding of the research interests and projects of the individual department.

Unlike the libraries of the past, however the digital corporate library has access to a wealth of free information through the Internet. The Knowledge Manager adds to corporate resources by establishing pointers to reliable sites, abstracting contents and putting these resources together in easily navigable format. Professional and technical listservs and newsgroups are identified and monitored so that upcoming trends, product reviews and new resources can be noted and forwarded to interested parties. This close monitoring is more easily accomplished on a department level where the research and work falls into a focused domain, making the review of a variety of resources feasible.

Resource Organization. The Knowledge Manager is involved in resource organization on two levels. There is the organization of specific resources within the department, through the establishment of a collection reflecting the domain knowledge and the creation of a hyperlinked document for the collection which functions as a gateway to related resources. This gateway has embedded links to electronic resources and provides location and summary information to other types of resources. Equally important, the Knowledge Manager plays a part in the design efforts of corporate information infrastructure by participating, with members of Information Services, on the development teams for the MII in Publishing and Information Search and Retrieval as well as working with the G050 Information Server team. This participation assures that the technical developments are tempered by the retrieval requirements of both the professional and non-professional researcher.

Bibliographic Instruction. Teaching the user community how to use tools of the digital library to locate information is potentially the most significant role of the Knowledge Manager. In this particular environment, the technical staff design and evaluate such tools on regular basis and so require little in the way of instruction so the focus has been instead on the promotion of new resources and sharing of valuable sites. New staff are given an introduction to the MITRE networked resources as well as access to the external collections. Reference Services. The new communication tools, primarily electronic mail, have been at the root of much of the discussion of electronic reference services which often emphasize the difficulty of conducting a reference interview. The experiences in this program illustrate that, for now, the greatest benefits of new communication tools lie in the delivery of information rather than the articulation of information needs. While specific requests, such as particular articles or literature searches, are often made via email, the majority of requests come out of meetings and from personal interviews. Networked technologies have provided a variety of methods by which responses can be delivered which are sensitive to the preferences, skills and technical requirements of the requester. Currently, the Knowledge Manager responds via email, through the creation of linked web pages, or by placing a response in public folders or electronic in-baskets.


The Knowledge Manager position will continue to evolve as the information infrastructure develops. A greater emphasis will likely be placed on training and collection development while resource organization will be facillitated by the establishment of standard processes. The precise role of the Knowledge Manager will depend on the organization structure and information needs. The emphasis in each of the areas discussed will likely change according to the needs of the user community and the level of technological sophistication. The experience so far has been useful in identifying the areas in which a Knowledge Manager or "Digital Librarian" can facilitate the transition into a digital environment. As digital libraries move closer to reality, it is important that users are equipped to handle the transition. Knowledge Managers and Digital Librarians should be considered tools to facillitate this transition.