For those institutions that participate, it is time for a “thank you” for another year of support and robust participation in the OCLC Research Library Partnership network! It is evident that now, more than ever, our program is providing a place and opportunity to connect with colleagues and grow skills in an inclusive, supportive, and caring space.
The RLP community model is based on active, engaged peer learning. This support is vital now, as we all seek to capture large amounts of tacit knowledge during a time of seismic shifts in the profession.
Peer support through significant change
Many of us are working through the impacts of massive workforce changes by reorganizing workflows, reevaluating priorities, and thinking differently about staffing. While there are tremendous opportunities in transformation, we also acknowledge the significant disruption and even grief that comes with change.
It is no different here at OCLC. We have also said goodbye to colleagues and considered our refactored future. We have spent the last year closely examining needs and requirements in relation to metadata workflows, access to collections, and the role of the research library in a world where the global effects of the pandemic have shifted the way we operate.
Holding generous spaces
In previous communications, we have shared information about the Reimagine Descriptive Workflows project and its convening held last June. The resulting publication from this effort, Reimagine Descriptive
Workflows: A Community-informed Agenda for Reparative and Inclusive Descriptive Practice, is now
available. The need for this project was articulated in the OCLC RLP Metadata Managers Focus Group, and we are grateful for the inspiration.
We learned so much from the Reimagine Descriptive Workflows project’s approach of community-centered design that integrated participant support and featured regular community feedback. We intend to extend this successful model of learning as we plan to further engage Partners with the report findings by providing opportunities for meaningful conversations.
During the course of the Reimagine Descriptive Workflows project and other recent initiatives, the OCLC RLP team has become sensitized to the needs of a workforce that is stretched to its mental and emotional capacity. We are carrying that valuable insight into all of our engagement planning. It is our intention to host learning spaces that honor the contributions of all participants, support trust building within our
communities, and are built around reciprocal and respectful exchanges. Our team of program officers have been increasing their facilitation skills to provide the best learning experiences for our members and for those we invite to share their knowledge.
Upcoming engagement opportunities
We often hear from our Partners that they really appreciate being able to meet with our program officers to discuss recent research efforts and ask follow-on questions.
Recently, we began hosting office hours to provide just such an opportunity. Recently we offered learning and engagement support for the report Research Information Management in the United States. This provided an informal opportunity to meet with the report authors to ask questions and share your own insights. Look for more office hours from the OCLC RLP coming soon.
We are also offering RLP members exclusive access to the Social Interoperability Workshop: Successfully Engaging Stakeholders Across Campus, based upon a 2020 OCLC Research report. This interactive workshop, facilitated by one of the report authors, will give members of your team the opportunity to connect with peers on the challenges of cross-campus collaboration and identify strategies to build stronger relationships with units across their institutions. This workshop is offered on two dates (June 14 and June 21) to accommodate time zones.
What’s new and next for the RLP
Since my last letter, we welcomed Kathryn Stine, Senior Program Officer for Metadata Engagement in November 2021. Kathryn is working not only with the RLP metadata management groups, but also with metadata engagement colleagues across the OCLC organization to synthesize and support the needs of the broader metadata community.
In a recent blog post, Kathryn lifts up changes in metadata workflows, focusing on the themes of flexibility and hybridity:
Despite the ongoing challenges caused by the pandemic, metadata managers shared opportunities and positive developments that have grown out of what was an initially abrupt shift away from library spacesManaging metadata, managing hybridity, HangingTogether January 25, 2022
and physical collections. . . . Though equipped with useful learnings from where we have been, persistent change can admittedly come with frustration and fatigue. The sensitivity that managers and staff have
brought to supporting each other’s well-being is a skill worth honing and continuing as well.
This need for sensitivity resonates across all of our programmatic areas. Future Metadata Managers Focus Group conversations will delve into staffing and leadership issues, from shifting job descriptions, to critical advocacy for cataloging and metadata workflows, and how managers can be responsive allies for staff and their work.
Improving access to collections
In January, we presented a “year one” progress report on our research project Operationalizing the Art
Research Collective Collection (OpArt for short). The project is supported by a grant from the Samuel H.
Kress Foundation with significant co-investment from OCLC. Inspired by discussions with members of the
RLP’s Art and Architecture Group, OpArt is a two-year study designed to help art research libraries identify potential collaborative models for addressing shared sustainability barriers.
Year-one milestones included:
- Convening and collaborating with our advisory board
- Identifying 85 North American art libraries whose aggregated WorldCat holdings will serve as a proxy for the art research collective collection
- Completing preliminary analysis of that proxy collective collection
- Building a dataset of all interlibrary loan transactions since 2016 where one of the 85 art libraries was a borrower or lender
Year two will focus on completing the collections and ILL analyses, which will inform the final phase of the project: a series of case studies of existing partnerships entered into by art research libraries.
What makes this project great is that it pulls together the art library group of RLP members and works with them as a cohort. This model is based on the highly successful SHARES community model. Yes, SHARES was developed to be a lending network service, but it is much more. SHARES has become a strong community of practice, where resource sharing colleagues gather and share innovative ideas and engage in collective problem-solving. The past year has generated several great initiatives, including an international toolkit that helps libraries share resources across national borders. SHARES is also currently developing guidance for sharing collections with accessibility in mind.
Caring for communities
Throughout the pandemic, the talented RLP staff of program officers have intentionally shifted from “managing” to “caring” for communities. RLP is shaping its 2022 slate of activities to think not only about network-level services and fundamental workflow shifts, but also how to support the people and their well-being. Our WebJunction colleagues hosted a webinar on 10 March (recording now available) that focuses on taking care of yourself, staff, and your community.
We will be convening those who work in leadership capacities at our member libraries to connect and reflect on the changing work environment. To make the most of our time together, we will send out a short survey to identify the best topics to frame a conversation and approaches to facilitate a meaningful experience.
Finally, we are happy to announce new Partners, the University of Rhode Island and the return of the London School of Economics.
On behalf of the RLP team and the larger OCLC Research group, thank you for your time, attention,
and contribution to our work.
Rachel Frick directs OCLC’s work and engagement with the Research Library Partnership, a venue for research libraries to undertake significant, innovative, collective action to benefit libraries, scholars and researchers everywhere.