Collaboration Context: Local

“Local” is the first Collaboration Context we’ll explore at “Yours, Mine, Ours: Leadership through Collaboration.” Our panelists will be:

  • Ann Speyer, Chief Information Officer, Smithsonian Institution
  • Meg Bellinger, Director, Office of Digital Assets and Infrastructure, Yale University
  • Tom Hickerson, Vice-Provost, Libraries and Cultural Resources, University of Calgary
  • We’ve instructed all of our speakers to spend the bulk of their time on strategies for creating and deepening collaborations, and to focus both on successes and failures. (All of the presentations in this section are hence titled “Collaboration Trials and Triumphs”.) Here’s the background:

    Local Solutions – Common Administration
    “We work together because we have the same employer.”

    From the perspective of a large institution (e.g., a university campus) with many units (e.g., libraries, archives and museums), incorporating collaboration into the underlying work culture is foundational to realizing that institution’s potential and achieving its mission. When ideas, data and services flow freely, new solutions emerge, and new knowledge is created. From the perspective of individual units, collaboration allows them to thrive when times are good and survive when times are bad. Deep and pervasive service and data relationships with other units provide a compelling argument for continued or increased funding, whereas isolation calls into question the value provided to the institution as a whole.

    In highly distributed environments, deep collaboration requires conscious effort and leadership. Since both the institution and its constituent units directly reap the benefits of local collaboration, the context of common administration offers a straightforward environment for engaging in joint work. In the sphere of local solutions, we currently see activities such as cross-collection search, shared digitization and digital asset management, and shared conservation facilities.

    On the other hand, contemplating collaboration solely within the boundaries of your own institution is arbitrarily self-limiting. While there is no shortage of issues that beg to be addressed at the local level, some aspirations are simply beyond the reach of individual institutions acting alone.
    Group collaborations try to address that which transcends any single institution. Don’t try it abroad if you haven’t done it at home: in many instances, collaboration at the local level is likely to be a prerequisite for entering into meaningful collaborative activities centered on common interest.

    We’ll take a look at common interest collaborations in the next blog post. (Also take a peek at the initial post in this series if you haven’t already.) Stay tuned!