The evolving role of information intermediaries: Preliminary findings

In this presentation, the research team discussed their interest in the role of knowledge brokers, whose job is to move information in between groups. The literature on knowledge brokers identifies specific competencies, such as understanding context and the research process, valuing teamwork, and a commitment to lifelong learning. The research team noted that these competencies are similar to the competencies of information professionals, and decided to investigate further. They conducted an interview study in 2020 with 24 information professionals in Canada (see The Evolving Role of Information Intermediaries). They asked exploratory questions about the kind of work people do, the knowledge and skills required to do their work, and challenges and opportunities. Their goal was to consider how to support professional development around the competencies required for information professionals to act as knowledge brokers. The people working in these kinds of roles are often unique within their organizations, which can be both exciting and isolating.

This work cites the K* spectrum, created by Shaxson et al. (2012), which visualizes four role categories:

  • Information intermediaries
  • Knowledge translators
  • Knowledge brokers
  • Innovation brokers

From top to bottom here, roles range from a primary focus on disseminating information to co-creating knowledge and leading innovation. Information professionals are often seen as information intermediaries – but they occupy other roles along the spectrum as well. Examples of activities within each role emerged in interviews with participants, such as incorporating community input on a speaker series or advocating for more widespread use of open education resources among faculty.

Read GAA Ciara Farmer’s reflections on presenting at the CKMF.


Shaxson, L. (with Bielak, A., Ahmed, I., Brien, D., Conant, B., Fisher, C., Gwyn, E., Klerkx, L., Middleton, A., Morton, S., & Pant, L.). (2012). Expanding our understanding of K* (KT, KE, KTT, KMb, KB, KM, etc.): A concept paper emerging from the K* conference held in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, April 21–25. United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH).

Conference presentation: Farmer, C., McDavid, K. & O’Brien, H.L. (2020). The evolving role of information intermediaries: Preliminary findings. Poster presentation at the Canadian Knowledge Mobilization Forum, November 24-26, 2020.