Day 8: You’ve got to have faith

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high wire

CC image by Hojusaram - click to view original on Flickr

True collaboration calls for a radical leap of faith, the risks are great but so are the rewards. Working collaboratively requires a different mind set. It is necessary to think collaboratively from the outset rather than consider an issue and then think how it could be approached collaboratively.

When collaborating it is vital no one approaches the partnership weighing up what they bring and compare it to other partners’ potential contributions. It is not an opportunity to mark territory or protect interests. The stronger the collaboration, the higher the investment needed in staff time and commitment as much as financially. This can be difficult in a time of limited funding, and particularly between traditionally competitive institutions. However, the benefits will outweigh the investment. It should be an opportunity to develop new and innovative services, and produce something more than all the partners could do individually. True collaboration produces more than the sum of its parts.



Day 3: Being trusted is easy, trusting is hard

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Trust your co-worker

CC image by JarkkoS - click to view original on Flickr

Collaboration has been a key part of LIFE-SHARE and perhaps the most vital element to the success of this is trust. All partners must be trustworthy to ensure they fulfil their role both during the project and as part of the wider outcomes afterwards. However, much harder than being trustworthy is being willing to trust others. This is especially true as closer collaboration ensues. The risks are higher and thus the need to rely on partners is much greater.

The White Rose Libraries already have a history of working collaboratively and so have an existing relationship of trust. The project has continued to build on this relationship by developing communication methods so that more staff are in regular contact sharing ideas and best practice. As is often the case with relationships, this continued regular contact and working to build stronger ties has helped the partners trust each other more.


Registration open and speakers announced for Digital Collaboration Colloquium


We are delighted to announce the programme for the Digital Collaboration Colloquium on Tuesday 29th March in Sheffield. The day is free to attend and registration is now open.

We have had a number of excellent proposals for Pecha Kucha sessions but there’s still time to get yours in if you haven’t already. The deadline for proposals is 14th February.


10.00 – 10.30 Registration
10.30 – 10.35 Welcome
10.35 – 11.05 Digitisation, collaboration and WHELF
Peter Keelan (WHELF / Cardiff University)
11.05 – 11.35 Virtual and Actual: collaborative digitisation at the Victoria and Albert Museum
Doug Dodds (Victoria & Albert Museum)
11.35 – 12.00 Tea and coffee
12.00 – 1.15 Pecha Kucha sessions
1.15 – 2.15 Lunch
2.15 – 3.15 Roundtable discussion
Doug Dodds (Victoria & Albert Museum)
Jodie Double (University of Leeds)
Martin Lewis (University of Sheffield)
Peter Keelan  (WHELF / Cardiff University)
Chair: Alastair Dunning (JISC)
3.30 – 4.00 Tea and coffee
4.00 – 4.30 Library seeks partner, must have GSOH… White Rose Libraries and the future of digitisation
Beccy Shipman, Ned Potter, Matthew Herring (LIFE-SHARE Project)
4.30 – 5.00 Summary and discussion – Alastair Dunning (JISC)


Halifax, University of Sheffield (

In order to register please email with the following information:

Job title
Access and dietary requirements
Any questions for the roundtable discussion

We look forward to seeing you in Sheffield for what should be a really interesting and thought provoking day.

Digital Collaboration Colloquium

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We are planning our end of project event and have decided to hold a colloquium. Whilst we do have findings from the project that we’d like to share which could have been done in a straight forward conference style event, we also felt it was important to keep looking forward and open up conversations about future collaboration.  So we’ll be using a range of presentation styles across the day and encouraging others to come and participate as well. There will be some more traditional presentations, a roundtable discussion and Pecha Kucha sessions.

The focus of this event is collaborative digital content, to include all areas of the digital lifecycle from content creation through metadata to preservation and long term storage, and everything else in between.  The aim of the Colloquium is not only to share past experiences of collaboration but also to start new conversations about future possibilities.

We have just put out a call for papers for the Pecha Kucha sessions and are looking forward to receiving some great proposals. If you’re interested please email a description of your paper (no more than 300 words) to We’d be particularly interested to see sessions about innovative approaches to digial collaboration, the benefits and pitfalls, and any future plans. Send in your proposals by the 31st January. A prize will be awarded to the best Pecha Kucha session as voted for by delegates.

The Colloquium will be held at the University of Sheffield on Tuesday 29th March 2011. More details about speakers will follow in the new year.

The Collaboration Continuum

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At the moment LIFE-SHARE is busy investigating consortial strategies for digitisation. As part of this process we’ve been looking at what works and what doesn’t across many library consortia spanning the globe, and we’ve also been reading the literature.

A recent event at the Smithsonian in Washington, Yours, Mine, Ours: Leadership Through Collaboration, threw up an interesting paper from OCLC‘s Program Manager, Günter Waibel. You can read Collaboration Contexts: Framing Local, Group and Global Solutions here (.PDF); the part we found particularly useful was the Collaboration Continuum graphic on page 7:

A graphic showing investment, risk and benefit, running as arrows through a continuum made up of Contact, Cooperation, Coordination, Collaboration, Convergence

The Collaboration Continuum. Quoted here from Collaboration Contexts: Framing Local, Group and Global Solutions by Gunter Waibel.

It was one of those moments of serendipitous discovery, where your existing thinking is crystallised by an established model. The stages of the continuum can be explained briefly like this:

  • Contact is when groups first meet up to open dialogue. No joint efforts or projects at this stage, just getting to know each other and building relationships that allow groups to proceed along the continuum.
  • Cooperation is when groups work informally on an activity that offers small but tangible effort. This might be sharing info or helping each other out with an activity; can be one way cooperation at this stage.
  • Coordination is when the work moves beyond an ad hoc or ‘as needed’ basis, and a framework is required to organise the group into everyone knowing what they have to do, when and where. Calendaring, distribution lists, meeting reports and other communication tools emerge to support this frame-work, such as cross-domain advisory committees.
  • Collaboration moves beyond the shared agreements of the previous two stages, to become a process of shared creation – the groups should create new shared understanding that didn’t exist previously and couldn’t be arrived at individually. Something is new that wasn’t there before, including transformation among the collaborators – it is because of this need for actual change that true collaboration occurs so infrequently.
  • Convergence is a state of collaboration that has become so extensive, engrained and assumed, it is no longer really recognised as a collaborative undertaking. It has matured to become infrastructure – a critical system we rely on without considering the collaborative effort that makes it possible.

(Definitions paraphrased from Zorich, Diane, Günter Waibel, and Ricky Erway: 2008. Beyond the Silos of the LAMs: Collaboration Among Libraries, Archives and Museums (.PDF) in which the graphic was first published.)

To come up with a specific model for collaboration is, understandably, a complicated process. This model helps focus that process, and allows you to develop several versions of the same model, each more advanced than the last and going further and further along the continuum – ultimately towards a converged service. As the arrows along the bottom of the graphic suggest, the further along the continuum your ideas lie, the greater the risk, the greater the amount of investment required, and of course the greater the potential benefits.

An example might be two libraries working together in the area of metadata. ‘Contact’ may involve informal discussions of each others’ metadata practices and preferred schema, right through to ‘Convergence’ in which one central Metadata team works across both institutions, describing the materials contained in both collections.

LIFE-SHARE is using the continuum to work towards models in three distinct but related areas of collaboration; as always, Outcomes from the Project will be published on the LIFE-SHARE Project website as soon as they are complete. We’ll also be regularly updating progress via the recently revamped Twitter page.