CCE Theses and Dissertations

An Investigation of a Knowledge Management Solution for Reference Services

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Information Systems (DISS)


Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences


Timothy Ellis

Committee Member

Getrude W. Abramson

Committee Member

William L. Hafner


Existing historical and empirical literature indicate that reference librarians provide inaccurate answers 45% of the time. Many reasons have been offered for this ineffective service, including the overwhelming number of available resources making it difficult for any individual librarian to accurately recall the hest resource or answer for any specific question. While individual librarians may not recall specific information, when they collaborated with their colleagues and shared their collective knowledge, there was usually an improvement in the quality of service they provided. Existing studies exist which showed attempts at training to improve accuracy rate. However, none addressed the use of Knowledge Management CKM) as a means of improving reference services in academic libraries.

The Knowledge Base CKB) of Question Point CQP) is a KM tool capable of capturing the collective knowledge of reference librarians in academic libraries and making it available for future use. The goal of the study was to determine if the KB of QP is an effective KM tool by investigating whether the KB was being used, and the impact of the use or lack of use of the KB in providing accurate information, and reducing duplication. It also assessed the librarians' perceptions of the benefits and problems of using the KB.

Descriptive research was the methodology used for an unobtrusive study, a survey instrument, and interviews. The unobtrusive study resulted in an overall accuracy of 55.5%. The questionnaire revealed that while the reference librarians used some features of QP, they did not generally use the KB, thus resulting in duplication. From the librarians' perspective, the content, culture and process of the system contributed to nonuse. This lack of use of the KB, the resulting continuance of inaccuracy and the duplication, rendered the KB ineffective as a KM tool. The insights gained through this study have prompted recommendations for further study into the content, culture and process of KMS in the reference departments of academic libraries.

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