Collaboration in the digital domain

Digital innovation means new opportunities for collaboration in UK public libraries. At ILI 2011 the authors will be discussing emerging models and good practice.

The collaborative imperative

In a rapidly evolving and increasingly complex global society, partnerships and alliances are now widely regarded as essential to future library success.  They provide opportunities to increase the visibility and awareness of services offered, enhance access to services, and improve the quality of services. 

 Collaborative opportunities

In an era of unprecedented technological innovation and evolving user expectations and information seeking behaviour, digital libraries are evolving from content-centric systems to person-centric systems.  The emphasis is shifting from the static storage and retrieval of information to the provision of personalised interactive digital services.  Digital collaboration, through coordinated or collaborative activity, offers the opportunity to extend the services offered and, through convergence, to provide a seamless user experience across distributed information domains.

At Internet Librarian 2011, we will report on current UK collaborative practices, and illustrate how public library collaborative opportunities are extending beyond those with archives and museums, to other cultural organisations, educational institutions, social services, health services, industry and commerce.  We will also cover associated digital trends.

Digital collaboration

Across the domain, cross-institutional digital collections and shared virtual learning environments are evident, with digital libraries variously assuming the role of both content provider and access provider.  However, our findings suggest that collaborative initiatives are not widespread nor necessarily coordinated.  All libraries provided a relatively comprehensive set of links to external online information resources (NewsUK, Credo Reference, Britannica, Oxford Reference, BBC Education Scotland, NHS Inform etc.), but such links are arguably, at best, examples of passive cooperation rather than involved cooperation or convergence.  As a consequence, we argue that public libraries are failing to fully capitalise on the opportunities offered by the digital domain, and their enviable position as a trusted information provider. 

We highlight opportunities for shared procurement, development of online catalogue facilities, reference services, and active cross referral of patrons with associated strategic and architectural recommendations made.

Dr Steven Buchanan is a senior lecturer and head of the i-Lab research group within the Department of Computer and Information Sciences, University of Strathclyde. With a particular interest in establishing effective and efficient information systems and services, interests include: digital service analysis and design; evaluating digital library usefulness; and understanding information seeking behaviour. 

David McMenemy is a lecturer and librarianship course director within the Department of Computer and Information Sciences, University of Strathclyde.  With a background in public library policy, he has particular interests in the evolution of digital libraries as digital service providers.  

Picture of keyboard courtesy of RambergMediaImages via Flickr.