Let’s dance! Thoughts and cases on academic and public library collaboration

Written in collaboration with awesome public library ninja Marie Engberg Eirikkson from Gladsaxe Public Libraries and with contribuation from great library peeps from around the globe. This blog post in on collaboration between public and academic libraries and is meant to grow with new cases and idea, so if you know of a good case or have a good idea sent it to cula [at] roskilde [dot] dk

Ones there was a small tribe in Siberia. The tribe lived, hunted, ate, slept and died together. And they didn’t want anyone to interfere so they isolated them self from the surrounding world and for many years they actual didn’t see or interacted with other human beings outside the tribe (they lived in a really rural and cold place). After living like this for some generations they become extinct; they simply degenerated physical and mentally.

Point of this story? Collaborate or die…

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In Denmark we have a lot of awesome academic libraries and a lot of awesome public libraries and as libraries they are at the same party but they almost never ever dance with each other. They barely even talk. And the mobility of library workers moving between the sectors is very close to zero. So many great folks connected by the core values of libraries that never collaborate, that never learn from each other, challenge each other, develop services together, tell the library story together. It is a shame, it really is. It is a shame because we think academic and public libraries could learn a lot from each other and it is a shame because we think a stronger tie between the sectors would result in actual initiatives and services that would benefit both academia and society.

So it’s easy to say that public and academic cross-sector library collaboration is valuable and important but how to actual do it and how does it actual make a difference? Here is some takes on how we could go about it. We have divided them into overall benefits and actual projects.

Overall benefits  

Communities win

No matter what kind of library we are talking about, libraries are about people. Libraries are a people business and people are what brings libraries together. But often we fail to see the whole life of those people; Public libraries sees different kinds of citizens; Kids, grown-ups, elderly, folks with reading disabilities, refugees etc. Academic libraries see students, teachers and researchers. But all of those people don’t just belong to one category; A student at a university is also a member of a local community and might want to be engaged in cultural or social activities. An engineer working at the local power plant might be in use of some new research results. Dividing library services in public and academic might make sense according to library logic but it often doesn’t to a user logic. As open institution focused on people succeeding public and academic libraries holds a great opportunity to empower people across the public and academic domains. Examples on how to do this later in this post.

Shared values, inspiration and joint-problem solving

We believe that library workers at public and academic libraries share many of the same values. Values as readily, equally, and equitably access to information, diversity and inclusion, education and life-long learning, intellectual freedom, trust and social responsibility seems to be drivers for people in both sectors. Yet we do things differently and difference views are good, so talking about different takes on the library task – both practical and strategical – will be of benefit to all if we are willing to listen and will eventual lead to joint-problem solving and development of services.

Information literacy from cradle to the grave

Almost all libraries, from school to university libraries, deal with supporting of information literacy of their users. While collaboration between school libraries, high school libraries and public libraries are pretty common, and some places even share the same building or staff, the same is not true for public and academic libraries.

In order to make a real impact on society when it comes to digital edification and information literacy we need to stop looking at the user within that silo that is a specific library, and center our forces at supporting and promoting digital skills and a critical sense throughout the whole life of a citizen. This means much closer collaboration and coordination between school, public and academic libraries. An obvious obstacle is that the different libraries belongs to different formal structures in the Danish society and the shutters between those are pretty closed but libraries, as open institutions, should be able to open those shutters. We have an obligation and responsibility to look at the whole life of the individuals in order to make an actual impact supporting digital skills.

A library is a library to most people

We often meet users of libraries who don’t understand that they can’t return books from the public library at the university library and don’t really know – or is interested in knowing – the difference between the types of libraries. To many people a library is library and they like it that way, because they like the library. Is that good or bad? For library professionals it seems really important to distinguish between the types of libraries but if so why aren’t we better at communicating this to our surroundings? Maybe we should focus more on that force of social good that is THE LIBRARY no matter what kind of library that is instead of focusing on where people can return the books. A shared universal story of all libraries might be a better deal for all.

Examples of cross-sector projects and activities  

Shared stacks, shared delivery

ReCAP (The Research Collections And Preservation Consortium) is a HUGE remote stack in New Jersey currently able to holding up to 17 million items facility and is located on Princeton University’s Forrestal Campus. ReCAP is a joint-venture between Columbia UniversityThe New York Public Library and Princeton University. More than fifteen million items are currently in ReCAP’s care and they are used to fulfill approximately 250,000 requests for materials each year, from its partners and from libraries around the world. tems housed at ReCAP are requested through the partners’ library catalogs. Requests are processed daily by 3pm, and ship out to Manhattan overnight and twice daily to Princeton. Electronic delivery of articles and chapters is available as well, with requested materials sent directly to members of the partner libraries.

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The ’seamless’ library

In Drammen, Norway, they have established a combined library with three library types under one roof. The library opened in 2007 and is a coalition of three separate library organizations working together: The county library, the municipal library and the university college library. To the visitors the library experience is supposed to be seamless, they should meet one library unit, not three. The aim is to meet all library needs in the life of a user: as a kid, grown up, pupil, student, researcher, senior citizen etc. The idea is brilliant but if Drammen has actual succeed on creating a 100% seamless library experience and to link municipality and the university college, helping to remove any barriers between the two worlds we don’t know. Study trip in the making… Link to Drammen Library: https://www.drammensbiblioteket.no/
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The public library is knocking on the door to the university class room

The awesome Amy Walduck pointed us towards an upcoming project between City of Gold Coast Libraries (public) and Bond University Library in Australia. Basically Bond have international students (mostly Chinese) who have low level English skills when they arrive to study. They have to complete an English course but the library just doesn’t have the type of resources that the students need and want outside of course materials. The Gold Coast Libraries have eBooks, eAudiobooks and print books in their first language as well as a lot of English as second language resources. The plan is to go into their class, show students what we have and sign them up on the spot.

When you have a community on the rise but don’t have the opputunity to build a public library

In Roskilde Municipality there is a new area on the rise called Trekroner. Buildings are pupping up and the numbers of citizens are growing each month. Obvious Roskilde Public Libraries want to reach out to this new community but there is no public library in Trekroner. A mobil library bus is offered (and very populare) but it is hard to do book clubs, litterature talks and other kinds of community building programs when you don’t have a physical site. But Trekroner is also home of Roskilde University and Roskilde Universty Library so the obvious move choice was to do a partnership with different kind of programs hosted by the public library but taking place in the university library. The programs are open to both the community of Trekroner and students, researchers and teachers at the university so in that way the library partnership also becomes a platfrom for bringing society and acdemia together.

Letter of intent on music, library systems and data exchange

A new collaboration between University Library of Southern Denmark and Odense Public Libraries are on the rise. A letter of intent on enhanced cooperation between the parties has been written and aims to confirm, document and formalize the collaboration that already exists between the libraries and to form a foundation for new partnerships. According to Jane Jegind, founding partner in the collaboration and politician in Odense Municipality,  the purpose is “to ensure a comprehensive and perspective-based library development between two leading knowledge and dissemination institutions within the research and public libraries area in Denmark.”

“The cooperation will strengthen library offerings for citizens and students in Odense and the rest of the region. It allows for better use of existing resources, as well as making joint investments in technology and new offers to users. I also welcome the fact that the letter of intent has grown on the basis of already good cooperation between the parties. There are big gains to pick up by handing out”, says Jane Jegind.

The letter of intent has defined a number of areas of cooperation in which the University of Southern Denmark and the Odense Libraries will assist each other in the future. These are the following areas:

  • The music service with joint operation of the collection, public service and academic cooperation between the Music Conservatory Library and the Odense Libraries.
  • IT collaboration on joint operation of library systems.
  • Cooperation on the development and exchange of data and data-based service areas for the development of library offerings by both parties.
  • Joint efforts on the library service of upper secondary education in Odense and on Fyn.
  • Collaboration on material stock and use of storage capacity, depot and magazine facilities.
  • Study of joint operation of reading room facilities with study facilities in Odense center.

This collaboration really got a sound platform and a great volume so it will be exciting to follow.

Ideas for future collaboration

Fiction as a window to a broader view on education and learning

In Denmark medical students are required as a part of their course load to read fiction to help them understand the point of views of the people they are diagnosing. To see the person behind the disease.

This approach might also be beneficial to people studying administration, political science, to be social workers or other kinds of vocations that bring you in to contact with people in different difficult situations. As public librarians have vast amounts of experience in book talks and knowledge of genres and titles. It might be relevant to students to have public librarians visiting the academic libraries to do book talks and curating small collections of fiction that fit this theme.

Beside helping the student examine other points of view, reading fiction also reduces stress, helps concentration and sleeping patterns. Thing students could benefit from in stressful periods like during exams.

WE WANT MORE!

Know of a good academic/public library collaboration case or just got a good idea? Let’s have ’em so they can be shared, discussed, qualified and maybe inspire others to do the same. Hit us in the commentaries or at cula [at] roskilde [dot] dk

Cheers

Christian & Marie

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