Organizational & Service Relationships on the LAM

I promised a follow-up on my earlier posting about the convergence of libraries, archives and museums – so you just guessed what this entry will be about.

In our Organizational & Service Relationships on the LAM program, we’d like to see whether the carrots and sticks in the cross-community space now are sufficiently enticing / punishing to bring about deep collaborative efforts. Our focus will be on the campus environment – we’d expect to see the first signs of significant convergence in an organizational structure where libraries, archives and museums actually belong to the same institution.

One of the main sticks I see are user expectations: users don’t and shouldn’t invest the time and energy to make sense of our fragmented services. A quote from the narrative of a Mellon grant helping Yale to integrate access to rare and unique materials across the campus serves as an illustration: “The availability of rich museum and library collections to enhance the education of Yale undergraduate and graduate students is tempered by the lengths to which faculty and students must often go to discover and integrate them into courses and research.” [pdf]

One of the main carrots I see are economic factors: if functions can be pooled across the collecting entities on campus, cost-savings are natural result. A classic example might be digital preservation – the Digital Repository Service at Harvard, for example, has clients across the LAM community, which pay a cost-recovery fee for a central service which would have been prohibitively expensive to replicate locally.

We’ve retained Diane Zorich to support our investigation, during which I hope we’ll surface more carrots and sticks, as well as emerging models for collaboration. During the course of this initiative, we will hold in-depth conversations with staff at five partner institutions which have already made a strong commitment to integration across domain boundaries. At the core of our interactions will be a one day meeting at each institution gathering a strategic group of professionals to assess existing activities, examine incentives for deepening collaboration, and scope steps to take integration of shared functions to the next level. We’ll share the outcomes from these discussions through a published report.

If your are an RLG Programs partner, your institution features an array of libraries, archives and museums in a campus or campus-like environment, and you have made a commitment to greater cross-domain integration, you’d be a good candidate to participate in this investigation. Some partners I’ve already heard from – I’d be thrilled to hear from more of you! We’re starting to make final decisions about who to visit about a week from today.

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