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Associations and InstitutionsAnnual 

64th IFLA Conference Logo

   64th IFLA General Conference
   August 16 - August 21, 1998


Code Number: 003-125-E
Division Number: VI.
Professional Group: Management and Marketing
Joint Meeting with: -
Meeting Number: 125
Simultaneous Interpretation:   Yes
Arranged for translation into:   English   French   Spanish   German   Russian

Intellectual capital: auditing the people asset

Hazel Dakers
British Library Consultancy Services,
London, UK


Much of the intellectual capital of any library is within the content of its stock. However, within the British Library several other aspects have been identified as worth collecting and using better. One, an audit of staff consultancy skills, will be carried out largely to re-launch British Library Consultancy Services. This will make the skills of the British Library more available to other organisations.

Hazel Dakers, new Head, British Library Consultancy Services and writer of the paper, is carrying out this audit. She has worked as a training strategy consultant herself having previously managed the development of UK Information and Library Services National Vocational Qualifications.


People in all kinds of society have realised for centuries that in times of uncertainty - war, revolution and other great change - learning can turn out to be their most valuable investment. Regardless of the collapse of political structures, for as long as one lives, the knowledge acquired through learning - and the intellectual capability that has accompanied that acquisition of knowledge - will stick. Countless groups of people have been forced to leave their homes, their belongings and accumulated wealth. They cannot be separated from their intellectual capital. This has been invested by many a refugee in a new life in a new country.

Globally we live in times of turbulence and change. Society is moving at a greater speed now at the close of the twentieth century - in part thanks to the rapid developments in information and communications technology (ICT) - than ever it did in Europe two hundred years ago in the first industrial revolution. Those under the age of about 35 who may be classified as Generation X have abandoned organisational loyalty and have identified the constant development of their own skills as their personal passports to survival in our changing times. No coincidence, then, that we are turning towards intellectual capital and knowledge management as the kernel of continuing value within our organisations. Whatever the next decade brings, the wise organisation is realising that it must develop, nurture and exploit its corporate knowledge because much else that we now recognise may be discarded.

Mine might be described as the worm's eye view. Skills development is an area in which I have specialised for some years. What this paper covers is by no means a solution to listing the human side of intellectual capital within information and library services organisations. It is more of a report on the small progress made by Easter 1998 and a mention of the many factors contingent to this.

At the end of 1997 I started to work at the British Library - the day after our new building at St. Pancras was first opened to the public. This was an exciting moment to join. As the new Head, British Library Consultancy Services, my remit was to develop and commercialise the ten year old service based at the Research and Innovation Centre. Additionally the British Library sees consultancy as an opportunity for staff development and for importing external experience and ideas. How could this be done without first knowing what are the skills amongst the 2,400 staff of the British Library? At the same time some of the BL senior management team were trying to grasp the nettle of making a cultural change within the organisation as a whole. Somehow or other the relaunch of consultancy services and the audit of potential consultancy skills of British Library staff must be placed within the mainstream of change that was about to envelop the whole being of the British Library.

The Director, meanwhile, invited me to join a group of relatively recent recruits amongst professional staff who were being drawn into the British Library Change Group to add their perspectives from the outside world. It was felt that our Directorate should become responsible for the British Library Research Register (a published listing to which staff may contribute their research activities) and continue its work on the Corporate Research List (an unpublished and incomplete listing of internal projects mainly in the IT field). It soon became apparent that if the two existing registers could be completed they, together with a comprehensive skills audit and contacts data base, would constitute much of the living intellectual capital of the British Library. 1 have chosen to use the word "living" to distinguish between the intellectual capital produced by the British Library's own staff and that much greater part of it which is contained within its stock.

I had first approached the problem of a skills audit by applying my background in functional analysis and competence. This was too simplistic. Identifying the skills present amongst staff running a library - even a very large one - is quite different from identifying those of their skills which other organisations might wish to consult for advice. The information and library services skills identified by functional analysis have largely been from a clerical level to a middle management level. Consultancy is usually a strategic level activity and might be influenced by the functional analysis of Management which has been carried out to this strategic level. However, even these competencies alone will not be enough because, in consultancy, personal skills such as good communication, a willingness to adapt experience to new contexts, evidence of one's own continuing professional development and currency at the cutting edge of the profession, availability to suit the client, experience of working overseas and ability to work in other languages may all be equally important. As yet the skills needing identification have not been fully defined.

A brief reading into the work of other organisations in this field alerted me to the developing experience of the World Bank and Booz Allen & Hamilton amongst others. Thames Valley Enterprise offered a demonstration of their Consultants' data base and I was fortunate to visit the London offices of Booz Allen & Hamilton where I was shown examples of their management of corporate knowledge or intellectual capital. This provided several ideas. In time the Research and Innovation Centre should develop a bank of Curriculum Vitae of all those whose research it sponsors. British Library Consultancy Services needs a similar bank consisting of staff who wish to undertake consultancy, and associate consultants with whom it works. Similarly after both research and consultancy projects two summaries need to be written. One will be an account of the project. The other will be an expression of "our current best thinking" on the particular topic. Both will include names and contact points for key personnel. In time these data banks should be augmented by parallel internal British Library project information. If this knowledge becomes shared by all British Library staff across all directorates the organisation stands to benefit from fully using its resources. By programming these data bases to be linked, one area of work should feed into another.

The original quest for a model for this particular type of skills audit has so far been unsuccessful. Booz Allen & Hamilton have delayed on this aspect as they recognise it will be difficult and time consuming. Our Deputy Director has proposed that for the time being it be stored as part of a data base of Research and Innovation Centre Contacts. It may be hoped this will in time be augmented with the contacts of other British Library directorates. Two additional fields will be supplied, within what will otherwise largely be an electronic directorate wide address book, to cover specific skills information. In reality the numbers involved from the consultancy angle will be small - possibly two hundred and fifty - and so the database itself need therefore not be too complicated.

It is planned that the first version will be a relatively broad questionnaire relayed to BL staff through the intranet. Those Directors whose staff do not all have intranet access are being asked to facilitate access through their own terminals if necessary. The intranet will enable direct inputting to the database. It seems that an intermediary editing stage for those two additional fields may prove useful and may reduce the need for a complex thesaurus of skills.

Now it is only possible to share with you the germ of an idea (and some of the above, I should add, is essentially my own thinking and not yet British Library policy). Like so many other historic institutions the British Library is having to change to survive. This is as a result of cuts in funding, the difficulties and stimuli created by the new building, and owing to changing expectations of the marketplace. These are often triggered by the fast moving developments in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) mentioned at the start of this paper. The identification of the consultancy aspect of the British Library's staff skills will enable British Library Consultancy Services to access those skills on behalf of its clients. This is just one small current of intellectual capital in a sea of change.


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