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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
Spring 2006

Book Reviews

Encyclopedia of Knowledge Management

Rachel Bridgewater
Reference Librarian
Washington State University Vancouver
Vancouver, Washington

Encyclopedia of Knowledge Management /David G. Schwartz, Editor. Hershey, PA: Idea Group Reference, 2006. ISBN 1-59140-573-4. $275.00.

The Encyclopedia of Knowledge Management is a first-of-its-kind reference work for the emerging field of knowledge management (KM). KM researchers study how organizations gather, store, use, and organize information - from the data on their computers to individual experiences of people in the organization. This single source brings together articles representing a broad cross-section of expertise in this profoundly interdisciplinary field. The 170 contributors to this volume hail from 23 countries and a number of academic disciplines. The thoughtful preface provided by the editor, David G. Schwartz, describes the process of soliciting articles as follows: "...a wide net was cast in the Call for Papers in an attempt to attract researchers from many relevant disciplines." This approach is evident in the final product, mostly for the good. This encyclopedia covers all aspects of KM from theories and philosophy to very specific applications and everything in between.

Articles in this encyclopedia have been divided into six broad categories:

  1. Theoretical aspects of KM
  2. Processes of KM
  3. Organizational and social aspects of KM
  4. Managerial aspects of KM
  5. Technological aspects of KM
  6. Application-specific KM

In addition to a standard table of contents, a "Table of Contents by Category" is provided which groups the articles into the categories above and then further divides them into subcategories. This is a nice feature, especially given the varied nature of the articles included. Allowing the researcher to easily locate articles within just one category or subcategory certainly improves the usability of this rather daunting volume.

Though individual articles provide an introduction and background information about the topic to be covered, these articles are definitely not for beginners. Entries are detailed and technical, assuming some familiarity with the subject matter. That said, each one helpfully concludes with a list of key terms and definitions. These key terms are provided as much for the experienced KM researcher as the student. Because the field is so very interdisciplinary and researchers can't be assumed to share a vocabulary, each author provides definitions of key terms as they are used in their own discipline. The included articles also provide extensive references, which could be a gold-mine for the researcher and student alike. There are over 3600 references and 940 "key term" definitions included. The typical entry is several pages long, often including tables and figures.

Much is made in the press materials and preface about the indexing, which is curious given that the indexing is by far the weakest feature of the book. Two indexes are provided. The first is an index to the "key terms" used throughout the text. The second is a standard index that does an exceedingly poor job of providing access to the text. Many important concepts discussed in the text are not indexed at all, while others are indexed inadequately or incompletely. It was not unusual to find passing mentions of a term indexed, while substantial discussions of that same term are not.

This encyclopedia is intended primarily as a reference resource for researchers working in knowledge management (KM) and its related disciplines and the tone, content, and level of the articles reflect that intention. Nothing about this book is welcoming to the lay-reader. It is a strictly no-frills affair, addressing the needs of researchers with well-researched, authoritative, and detailed articles. That said, many of these articles can be read and understood by the curious lay-reader, providing detailed background information about many of the foundational concepts in this field. For that reason, many of the articles would also be very appropriate as supplemental reading in KM-related courses or as research aids to students writing papers and doing projects.

Libraries supporting KM-related disciplines such as business, information science, and computer science would do well to purchase this book despite its shortcomings. At the time of this writing, the Idea Group was offering free access to the electronic edition with purchase of the print. One suspects that electronic access may help overcome the shortcomings in indexing. The Encyclopedia of Knowledge Management offers an interesting and fairly comprehensive picture of an emerging and truly interdisciplinary field of study.

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