Libraries, Archive and Museum convergence

LAM Workshop @ PrincetonWe’re still on the LAM! At this point, we have received guidance from thought leaders, conducted phone conversations with interested RLG program partners, and visited 5 sites to hold a comprehensive library, archive and museum workshop with participants from all constituencies.

LAM Workshop @ V&AOur site visits were (in chronological order) at the Smithsonian and Yale (workshop blog), the Victoria & Albert Museum (image to the left), U of Edinburgh (image at the bottom) and Princeton (top image). These campus (or campus-like) organizations all harbor various libraries, archives and museums, and are at various stages of collaboration (all the way to administrative integration). The workshops were aimed at both surfacing existing models, as well as deepening the working relationships among the different units. We did not confine ourselves to digital issues, but allowed participants to take the discussion of collaboration in whatever direction they felt was most fruitful, including brick-and-mortar considerations.

While we are in the very beginning stages of work on the final report, here are some random exemplary findings which I think you may find reflected in it:

  • We’ve found that the presence of a catalyst is crucial in fostering the discussions between libraries, archives and museums. For the workshop day, RLG Programs played that role. For the long-term, institutions where LAM institutions have a strong partner in an interested and responsive IT department seemed particularly well poised to make progress.
  • We’ve found that in particular when institutional mandates for integration (top down) meet with grassroots enthusiasm for working together (bottom up), a powerful dynamic for change unfolds. If the administrative mandate and staff enthusiasm aren’t properly synced up, progress becomes more difficult to achieve.
  • We’ve found that incentive structures often reward competitive rather than collaborative behavior. Staff evaluations often don’t include metrics to measure collaboration across institutions; in institutions where tenure shapes the behavior of individuals, collaborative endeavors usually don’t play a role when the review comes up.
  • We’ve also seen that organizational charts can play an important part in making collaboration more difficult, especially in a campus setting: when the reporting lines of different collections terminate in different administrative offices, setting a joint goal might require more negotiation.
  • LAM Workshop @ U of EdinburghWe’ll also report out on the projects the sites have committed themselves to as an outcome of the workshop. I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag too much (although an earlier LAM posting contains some project details), so you’ll have to wait for the report to hear all about the projects sites committed themselves to! However, it’s interesting to note that there was a remarkable similarity in the overall ambitions articulated at workshops sites.

    At most institutions, we found that a single search across all institutional resources, both for the benefit of the public and the staff, is a major aspiration (and inspired Ricky’s recent post on cross-collection searching), closely followed by a sense that a more compelling body of digitized material needs to be provided, as well as the means of managing those materials for the long term in a pan-institutional trusted digital repository. Most of the sites also grappled with questions of how to better harness user knowledge and contributions, as well as the place of LAM collections in an information landscape dominated by online search engines and social networking sites.

    I hope this little teaser posting gives you a good idea of what sorts of insights you can expect to glean from the forthcoming report, which will be written by our consultant Diane Zorich, and should be posted here as part of the PAR report series in early August. We’ll also make the agenda from the day-long workshop as well as the scene-setting power point presentation we used available soon. We hope other institutions may be tempted to hold their own workshops, inspired by the successful template we’ve developed.

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