Past Forward: Collaboration Station

July 25th, 2013 by Merrilee

[This is the third in a series on the OCLC Research Library Partnership meeting, Past Forward. More to come!]

Another theme that emerged during the meeting was collaboration. Now, when we say “collaboration” what we I generally think of, and what I believe is commonly understood in the community, is collaboration better two or more institutions (say on a grant around digitizing materials, or looking at shared storage for print journals or monographs, or even exploring more meaningful partnerships like 2CUL). Or, maybe campus collaboration between two or more units, particularly collaboration between libraries-archives-museums (LAMs) (in order to achieve greater scale and efficiency and to provide “one stop shopping” for users). The type of proposed “collaboration” that came up during Past Forward was more mundane but no less transformative.

The argument went like this:

On fundraising: Yes, it can be a real pain to work with library (or campus) development. It’s time consuming to get them on the same page as you are, to get them to understand your priorities, you infrastructure. But you know what? If you invest the time and energy helping them understand your issues, needs, operations, and goals, this will be time well spent. Not only that, but you would probably benefit from a deeper conversation, understanding their operation and their modes of working. If you do this, you will have built a powerful alliance and partnership that will be well worth the investment. We are all working on the same team after all.

On issues around copyright and IP: Yes, it can be a real pain to work with general counsel. It’s time consuming to get them on the same page as you are, to get them to understand your priorities, you infrastructure. But you know what? [etc.] We are all working on the same team after all.

On issues around hiring and human resources: Yes, it can be a real pain to work with HR. [etc.] We are all working on the same team after all.

Are you seeing a pattern?

I think those of us (and I include myself in this) who are focused on getting the “stuff” done have a hard time veering off the critical path. However, good relationships and understanding between these business units and yours can smooth the path to more resources, agreement about how to more productively deal with copyright, and better scoping of requirements for job descriptions. It’s difficult to characterize this wide ranging conversation but if I had to boil it down I’d say:

Understand your colleagues, their needs, their work environment. Help them understand you and yours.

This reminds me very much of the work that my colleagues Ricky and Geunter did around LAM collaboration, and the useful “Collaboration Continuum” graphic featured in the report, which nicely illustrates the transformation that’s possible as you move from contact to convergence. Think of this as a possibility for business units and special collections (or other parts of the library for that matter).

Most of this discussion happened during the reactor panel following the first session (you can view the video of that here) and in Susan Gibbon’s and Tim Pyatt’s fantastic talks on development during the outreach workshop.

My next post will focus on some of the challenges with workplace skills that surfaced during the meeting. I’ll see you back here then.

[And if you're interested having a discussion with general counsel about digitization of unpublished materials (in the United States!) you might be interested in our Well-intentioned practice
for putting digitized collections of unpublished materials online
document.]

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