Collaboration can be transformative – Take homes from the CILIP executive briefing ‘Beyond Silos of the LAM’s

Beyond Silos of LAMs conference

“Collaboration can be transformative”. This was the opening statement made by Gunter Waibel at the ‘Beyond Silos of the LAM’s’ event at CILIP on 15th September.

He used an analogy for collaboration being like a trapeze artist, swinging from one swing to another. In other words, something that requires an act of faith and a trust in yourself, your fellow flyers and the technology you are using.

Trust and risk were themes of the day. Who was willing to do both? It was clear that in most cases it was getting a mandate for collaboration from senior management that was necessary.

Case studies from V&A, Smithsonian and York Library and Archives all shared the presence of a clear vision, a belief and clarity about purpose and value that drives your ambitions. With this, securing the mandate for collaboration seems easier – as Stuart Dempster so nicely put it“ success breeds success”.

One thing that struck me was the question – What are the incentives to collaborate beyond personal success that so often (if we are honest) can be defined as trumping your partner? Guenter spoke accurately I felt, about the inherent tension in the fact that we are often measured “against each other – not really a natural state for collaboration”!

Maybe a way to deflect this dichotomy might be as Nick Poole suggested in his talk the need to collaborate “beyond our mates”. and consider wider collaboration with perhaps the creative industries, tourism, arts or commercial partners.

This mirrors my personal feelings that by far the biggest threat facing LAM’s is the risk of not collaborating beyond their mates – not to face outwards from the sector to the wider environment and the many places where cultural content could be of value (schools, broadcasters, publishers, bloggers and more).

Nick encapsulated this very well when he said “ we have a collective opportunity, we are all emerging from an ere of mass digitisation into something more nuanced and sophisticated.”

Roy, Nick and Brian
Left to right: Brian Kelly, Fiona Williams, Roy Clare, Nick Poole and Guenter Waibel

I was struck by the fact that within the Smithsonian, they face internally all the same issues that an individual museum, library or archive face in collaborating with others. With their 19 museums, 20 library branches, research facilities, archives and a zoo, they probably have as many objects as a small country! They are singlehandedly their own silo, but with a brand (a bit like the Tate), that needs no introduction.

My own presentation considered the issue of users, their needs and behaviour online. In particular what methodologies and tools are available to us now that could deliver more focussed user friendly services that have a collaborative model at their core.

You can view the presentation of slideshare here.

My essential premise took a specific profile of a 10 year old child sitting down to a computer in a library. It asked “why can’t the library’s online offer, engage the child to the same degree as the physical library?

It’s a very good question and one that is long overdue in asking. For me, the answers are all there for the taking – diverse content feeds, open data sharing, aggregation platforms and interface personalisation.

I would love to see my idea tried out in a library and then track the usage.

Any takers???

3 thoughts on “Collaboration can be transformative – Take homes from the CILIP executive briefing ‘Beyond Silos of the LAM’s

  1. I agree with the sentiments expressed in earlier blog postings. The JISC has moved out of it’s comfort zone (akin to not talking to it’s mates) through the Strategic Content Alliance initiative. We have developed a raft of cross sector tactical tools on issues such as meeting online users needs and measuring impact. These are freely available via the SCA Blog. We support this activity with free training events too. We would be happy to hear of any ideas or suggestions for prototyping Jane’s “mash-up” ideas on presentation layers for “Web 1.0” sites.

  2. Great piece. I agree with Nick Poole – the sector needs to start talking beyond it’s mates. I also strongly believe the LAM sector has a pivotal role in building a flexible and responsive digital public space.

    I have tried to capture some of this thinking into a report – Project Five – I was commissioned to write for NSLA – the National & State Libraries of Australasia.

    The report is available , here:

    Community of Practice
    It argues for the development of a community of practice tasked to scope – design and build a series of loosely coupled tools whcih offer the user four different worlds of activities

    – Source – building and sharing tools which gives the user a place to store – locate and manage their digital lives.

    – Search – building and sharing social and semantic user centred search and discovery tools – with a special emphasis on LAM material.

    – Social – building and sharing collaboration and personalisation tools – with an emphasis on community collaboration frameworks – e.g. Town Hall meets LAM – or building civic space

    – Remix – building and sharing a set of remix and co-creation tools which leverage peoples rights to IP cleared LAM material

    The Community of Practice
    I think building this community of practice is totally achievable – but it needs to go beyond the LAM sector and include the development/producer community.

    Looking forward to seeing you in Wellington in November!

  3. Yes. I believe that libraries, particularly school and academic libraries need to be turned into learning commons with both a virtual space and a physical space. The virtual space needs to be a giant collaborative; a giant conversation rather than a one-way stream of information that most library web sites are a present. The physical space needs to be a flexible learning space where books and computers don’t get in the way; a place of collaborative knowledge building. Email me if interested in more ideas.

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