Let’s start by considering our terms: collaboration is a term on everybody’s lips, but if you’re like me, you often wonder what people really mean when they wield it. Collaboration can mean everything or very little, depending on the speaker and the context. Let me explain what I mean by “collaboration.”
During an RLG Forum on library, archive and museum collaboration in 2005, Ken Soehner characterized collaboration with these words, highlighting both the risks (the dependency on the other trapeze) and the rewards (transformational change).
In his talk, Ken also differentiated cooperation and coordination from deeply transformative collaboration. In the course of our latest LAM exploration, we’ve extrapolated his admonition into a collaboration continuum. cooperation and coordination are additive – they don’t change your behavior, they just add something that’s nice-to-have, but not essential. collaboration and convergence are transformative – they change behaviors, processes and organizational structures, and lead to a fundamental interconnectedness and interdependence among the partners. As you proceed on the continuum from first contact to convergence, your investments and risk steadily increase, as do your benefits. The continuum starts with contact , when groups first meet to open up a dialog and explore commonalities in activities and needs. The “get to know you” nature of the meeting leads to the development of interpersonal relationships and a foundation of trust. The next major point on the continuum is cooperation . At this stage, there is agreement to work informally on an activity or effort that offers a small, yet tangible, benefit. Often this benefit is nothing more than sharing information or undertaking an activity on behalf of the other partners. Coordination marks the next major point on the continuum. When cooperative activities move beyond a stage where they can be undertaken on an “as needed” basis, a framework is required to organize efforts and ensure that everyone in the group understands who does what, when, and where. The next point on the continuum, collaboration , moves beyond those agreements to a shared understanding that none could have come to on their own. Information is not just exchanged; it is used to create something new, a transformation among the collaborating parties. The endpoint of the collaboration continuum is convergence , a state in which collaboration around a specific function or idea has become so extensive, engrained, and assumed that it is no longer recognized by others as a collaborative undertaking. At this point, each of the partners has freed up time to focus more productively on tasks only they are qualified to do. Lending for exhibitions could fall under the rubrik of cooperation and coordination, whereas a joint investment in a trusted digital repository would be an undertaking worthy of the label “collaboration.”
From the pool of institutions from the Partnership who expressed interest in the initiative, we chose five large campus or campus-like institutions with a track record of LAM collaboration, and we hired Diane Zorich as a facilitator for the workshop day. Diane, Ricky and I designed an outcome-oriented one day workshop for library, archive and museum professionals in campus or campus-like environments. Our goals were to be both observers of existing initiatives of LAM collaboration, as well as catalysts for new and deeper working relationships among LAMs. Workshop participants were asked to identify motivations and obstacles in the collaborative process, and plan new collaborative projects and programs that addressed needs at their own institutions. The workshops were so productive and well-received by the 10-20 attendees at each site that I feel confident in saying: you should try this at home! Among the resource I cite on the last page of the presentation, you’ll find all the background materials you need to build your own workshop.
To set the tone for the workshop, we created a short scene-setting presentation, and I’d like to share a handful of slides from that presentation with you. When you’re trying to figure out where to go, sometimes it helps to consider where you’ve been!
The cabinets of curiosities assembled by gentleman scholars in the 17 th and 18 th century provide the seed collections for modern libraries, archives and museums, and therefore the starting point for our short history. Cabinets of curiosities did not differentiate materials into what we consider today museum objects, library books and archival papers. They contain [CLICK] library-like books next to museum-like paintings, [CLICK] archive-like manuscripts as well as [CLICK] museum-like objects. [CLICK] These early collections, such as the German cabinet from the 17 th century you see here, represent an undifferentiating passion for knowing the world and collecting the evidence of natural and cultural production. [CLICK] The gentleman scholar’s collecting activity explicitly aimed to unite the world’s information under one roof – however, access to this body of information remained the exclusive and expensive pleasure of the leisure class.
With the rise of democracy and the establishment of modern nation states in the 19 th and 20 th century emerge new ideas about how information should be collected, managed and shared. [CLICK] As a result, the world of information stratifies into libraries, archives and museums. The cabinets of curiosity of the gentleman scholar become the founding collections of these modern institutions. Each type of material begets its own dedicated domain. [CLICK] To the state, these new institutions are an economic solution for managing and safekeeping the massive onslaught of cultural production in a modern nation; to the citizens of a democracy, these institutions respond to their expectations of transparency and access to information.
In a way, we have come full circle. With the rise of the internet, the gentleman scholar’s dream of the world of information at your fingertip experiences a revival in the 21 st century. [CLICK] Search engines have become the de-facto first stop for information gathering – an OCLC Perceptions Report from 2005 shows that 84% of respondents claim that they start their quest for information with a search engine, as opposed to the 1% who start with a library website. Not only are search engines the first stop for information gathering, they have also profoundly shaped our users expectations of how to search for and retrieve information. The often-quoted single search box exemplifies the ideal of an integrated search across all relevant resources. [CLICK] Universities and other organizations managing a plethora of collections are starting to think about how they can provide a more integrated experience for the scholars and students they aim to serve. The University of Aberdeen, for example, has administratively integrated special libraries and archives as well as the collections of the Marischal Museum into a “Historic Collections” department. Arguably, they are trying to take advantage of what could be the most democratic (24/7 access), most economic (collaborating on shared functions) and most integrated information space to date – libraries, archives and museums acting as a single body of LAM information. And now that you’ve heard my preamble to the workshop, let’s hear from Doug about how things went at the V&A.
We designed an outcome-oriented one day workshop for library, archive and museum professionals in campus or campus-like environments. Our goals were to be both observers of existing initiatives of LAM collaboration, as well as catalysts for new and deeper working relationships among LAMs. The workshops were so productive and well-received by the 10-20 attendees at each site that I feel confident in saying: you should try this at home!
Workshop participants were asked to identify motivations and obstacles in the collaborative process, and plan new collaborative projects and programs that addressed needs at their own institutions.
Yale: The creation of a “Federation of Collections. ” This will have an advocacy role of identifying priorities for collections and serving as the voice of a collaborative vision on how best to use collections to fulfill the educational mission of the University. The Federation’s early efforts will coalesce around two areas: identifying ways to share physical facilities and services and planning a shared information architecture for cross-collection services Update: Yale just created the Office of Digital Assets and Infrastructure (ODAI) to support an integrated campus-wide architecture for access to Yale library, archive, museum collections, as well as faculty research output. Meg Bellinger, a key player in the LAM workshops, will head the new office.
U of Edinburgh: Exploration of a federated search model. The University will undertake a systematic analysis of its current federated search efforts and explore models that offer different approaches to the problem of cross collection searching (e.g., metasearch, harvesting, combined approaches). UPDATE: On September 29 th 2008, the University of Edinburgh opened the Centre for Research Collections, a space designed to house and promote library, archive and museum collections from across campus.
Princeton: Creation of a single backend to support all digital management. As University collections move into digital form, it is increasingly important that these assets remain viable for the long-term. To address this challenge, the University needs a central store where digital products are held, maintained, and made available to the systems used by researchers, students, and staff. I trolled all major news outlets, but couldn’t find a juicy story on Princeton. Suffice it to say that Mark Ratliff will join Smithsonian CIO and myself in November to update us on Princeton progress during the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) conference.
Collaboration doesn’t come naturally, especially when there are so many immediate things needing our attention. It will only happen where it is accepted that the outcome will benefit all involved (whether in efficiencies, in reaching broader audiences, in supporting the mission, in enhancing professional skills…) We’ve found that the presence of one or more catalysts is crucial in fostering the discussions between libraries, archives and museums. [Catalysts include: 1. As the stakes in terms of rewards and risk get higher along the collaboration continuum, the trust the parties have in each other must equally grow. Moving along the points on the collaboration continuum is an exercise in building trust from the first handshake all the way to combining common functions. 2. For a collaborative idea to succeed, it has to be embedded in an overarching vision all participants share, and which makes it worth the effort to overcome the inevitable obstacles. 3. Mandates are powerful catalysts for collaboration, and range from expressions of support to mandates enforced by metrics. A mandate can kindle and sustain staff commitment in collaboration. 4. Collaborations nurtured by incentive structures reward both individual and collective efforts undertaken on behalf of the collaboration. Existing incentive structures often encourage competition among LAMs. Recognizing independent action and departmental fund-raising prowess can foster parochial attitudes. 5. At every stage, collaboration can benefit from the presence of a change agent ” – a trusted, often-neutral, individual, department, or program that keeps the effort alive, injects it with resources (ideas, technology, staff), and keeps participants focused on the overall vision. 6. Collaborations thrive and survive when they have an administrative mooring from which they can conduct operations, communicate with others, and incorporate their efforts into the broader mission of their institution. Untethered collaborations face continuous struggles as ad-hoc efforts. 7. Collaborations cannot function on “collaborative will” alone. They need tangible resources such as stable IT infrastructure, stable funding, and dedicated teams of staff and expertise in order to sustain their successes. 8. Flexible LAM professionals who understand issues surrounding different types of collections and collecting practices bring an open-mind to embrace ideas from other professions in the interests of the collaboration. 9. External Catalysts also play a role. Successful LAM efforts clearly define their audience and create collaborations that serve their distinctive needs. LAMs are keenly aware of keeping up with what their colleagues are doing at other institutions. LAMs feel pressure to meet funding expectations but ensure that their collaborations are not “one-off” projects. Not all these catalysts are required for successful collaboration. One or two can be sufficient to enable progress. But when several catalysts come together in positive ways, magic can happen.]
For a collaborative idea to succeed, it has to be embedded in an overarching vision all participants share which makes it worth the effort to overcome the inevitable obstacles. If a collaborative effort succeeds, it becomes another step closer to the vision. If a collaborative effort fails, the vision itself still remains and the parties involved can regroup to strategize about a new attempt. A well articulated vision is also key to shoring up administrative support, as these words from a senior administrator at one of our workshop sites testify.
A mandate, expressly conveyed through strategic plans or high-level directives—as well as less formal modes of encouragement—can kindle and direct staff enthusiasm for collaboration. Even at workshop sites where great strides in LAM collaboration had been made, workshop participants sometimes seemed unclear about whether they truly had an administrative mandate to work together more closely. The quote exemplified the power a clearly articulated mandate has.
Staff evaluations and departmental assessments should include collaborative activities in their appraisals, and make it possible to support these efforts with promotion, monetary incentives and public recognition of collaborative work. We found that incentives for collaboration by and large did not exist at our workshops sites. To add insult to injury, the existing metrics for success often focus exclusively on individual units, and don’t promote the success of the collaborative whole. Libraries, archives and museums belonging to the same institution found themselves competing for donors, visitors and attention, as the quote highlights.
For a more detailed review of collaboration catalysts and the collaboration continuum, as well as many other lessons learned from our conversations with thought leaders, the RLG partners, and the workshop participants, may I suggest you consult the rather cleverly titled report “Beyond the Silos of the LAMs,” available as a free download from the RLG Programs website?
Günter Waibel CILIP LAM presentation
Beyond the Silos of the LAMs Unlocking the benefits of collaboration between libraries, archives and museums G ünter Waibel Program Officer OCLC Research 15 September 2009 CILIP Executive Briefing
The Workshops Princeton Smithsonian Victoria & Albert U of Edinburgh Yale
Story Time A short history of libraries, archives and museums NYPL Digital Library. Rivington Branch, Story Hour: A Girl's Club Listening to a Story of Atlanta. Digital Image ID:1145780
First: One for All—Cabinets of Curiosity Less democratic • Less economic • More integrated
Then: One for Each—Libraries, Archives and Museums More democratic • More economic • Less integrated
Now: One for All (Again) <ul><li>Library + Archive + Museum = LAM </li></ul>Most democratic • Most economic • Most integrated
current collaborations obstacles a vision actionable projects
A Sampling of Projects <ul><ul><li>“ Federation of Collections” </li></ul></ul>
A Sampling of Projects <ul><ul><li>“ Federation of Collections” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Single search across all collections </li></ul></ul>
A Sampling of Projects <ul><ul><li>“ Federation of Collections” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Single search across all collections </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ OneStore” for asset management </li></ul></ul>Mark Ratliff, CNI 2008
The Collaboration Catalysts <ul><li> Vision </li></ul><ul><li> Mandate </li></ul><ul><li> Incentives </li></ul><ul><li> Change Agents </li></ul><ul><li> Mooring </li></ul><ul><li> Resources </li></ul><ul><li> Flexibility </li></ul><ul><li> External Catalysts </li></ul><ul><li>Trust </li></ul> Collaboration Stones for Stepping Collaboration Stones for Stepping Collaboration Stones for Stepping
Vision <ul><li>An inspiring vision provides the context in which obstacles can be overcome </li></ul><ul><li>“ [If you] come up with a really creative, innovative vision that is at the intersection of these institutions and will help our mission, and you help me frame it, I’m more than ready to…carry it forward.” </li></ul>
Mandate <ul><li>A mandate provides clarity about priorities and empowers those naturally inclined to collaborate </li></ul><ul><li>“ The vice-president of the university has called a task force together about digital dissemination, so we're all getting this as a mandate…Sustainability will become more possible because of the mandate…from someone far more powerful.” </li></ul>
Incentive <ul><li>Incentives ensure that staff have a tangible reason to engage in the hard work of collaboration </li></ul>“ We have spoken long about cross-institutional collaboration. The reality has been though…that we are measured against each other and then you do take naturally a possessive attitude.”
Thank you! <ul><li>Comments or questions about the LAM? </li></ul><ul><li>Want to subscribe to our LAM list? </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>Zorich, Diane, Günter Waibel and Ricky Erway. Beyond the Silos of the LAMs: Collaboration Among Libraries, Archives and Museums . (.pdf: 334K/59 pp.) </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.oclc.org/programs/publications/reports/2008-05.pdf </li></ul><ul><li>Conducting your Own LAM Workshop </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.oclc.org/programs/ourwork/collectivecoll/relationships/LAMworkshop.htm </li></ul>