Day 10: Mandate to innovate

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One of the messages which LIFE-SHARE has tried to communicate is the importance of giving staff working in collaborative ventures a mandate to innovate. Collaboration draws in the greatest benefits when the process of collaborating itself starts to generate new ideas and understandings. Collaboration can become something more than just doing the same things we have always done separately, but doing them together; it can become a means of innovating. This is a key feature of the Collaboration Continuum model which we have used as a guide to generate consortial digitisation models for the White Rose libraries. However, for this to happen there needs to be a management structure in place with the right balance between steering and empowerment of staff engaged in collaboration activities. It also depends on the breaking of established routines/processes: the job of management is also to encourage staff to look beyond current ways of doing things.

Day 9: Digital Preservation is Cheaper Over Time

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Picture of some coin

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One of the key outputs of the LIFE-SHARE Project was the case study at the University of Leeds: a cost comparison of physical conservation versus digital preservation. We analysed a sample of 200 monographs – French texts, dating from between 1890 and 1970, many of which were printed on acid paper.

Our findings were that destructive digitisation – which is to say digitising without applying a high level of handling restrictions, and disposing of the books afterwards – was the most cost-effective way of preserving the sample over time. This is despite the fact that it was many hundred percent more expensive than physical conservation in the first instance; once storage costs were factored in.

Clearly this method would not be applicable to collections whose books have intrinsic value, but it will certainly be a useful finding to inform future preservation strategy.

LIFE-SHARE links:

Day 8: You’ve got to have faith

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high wire

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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.

LIFE-SHARE links:

Day 7: Commit to communication

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Aeroplace model

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Improved communication has been key to the success of the LIFE-SHARE project. Prior to the start of the project, digitisation was fragmented both institutionally and consortially. The establishment of the project group was the first stage in bringing people together across the White Rose partners working in these fragmented areas of digitisation.

We have continued this work by holding a number of events for White Rose staff working in similar areas related to digitisation. Our exchange of experience events already mentioned on Day 5 of our takeaways, covered copyright, digitised course readings, digitisation for archives and Special Collections, and repositories. These events helped staff share expertise but, more than that, they also helped provide a space to talk to each other in a informal way. Staff have shared ideas, best practice and lessons learned. This in turn has assisted in the building of trust between colleagues and the institutions.

As the project approaches its conclusion, it is vital that these communication channels are maintained and relationships continue to build. The White Rose Directors’ decision to support the continuation of these exchange of experience events illustrates the strong commitment to communication between the partners.

Day 6: It pays to invest in digitisation infrastructure

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We found that, in the longer term, it pays to invest in digitisation infrastructure. In both the Leeds case study and the York case study, we found in-house digitisation to be potentially cheaper than outsourcing, in terms of the cost of staff time. This does not take into account the initial investment in equipment, which can be substantial, depending on the quality of the work to be undertaken, or the replacement cost of equipment. However, this may be offset against the possibility of doing digitisation work for institutions which don’t have the capability and thus generating revenue.

The LIFE-SHARE project has encouraged the development of in-house digitisation capability by investing in equipment and training for the White Rose libraries. Other benefits from developing in-house capability include generating staff expertise (which you need to get the best out of out-sourcing anyway); the control it gives you over processes, quality control and the handling of material; and responsiveness to your own needs.

Day 3: Being trusted is easy, trusting is hard

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Trust your co-worker

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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.

LIFE-SHARE links:

Day 2: Models help you see more clearly

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Aeroplace model

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As part of various aspects of the project we have used a number of models to inform our work:

LIFE – digital lifecycle model and costings

Digital Curation Centre – curation lifecycle model

OCLC – Collboration Continuum

These have all been extremely useful in helping develop our thinking, and ensuring all aspects of the digital lifecycle are considered. We have also created our own models for the delivery of collaborative digitisation services in the areas of digitised course readings, digitisation and training.

Unfortunately these models can only go so far in shaping the work we do. It is vital that local, institutional and consortial factors are taken into consideration. It is also key to implement actions based on the work from the models. One of the most exciting outcomes of the LIFE-SHARE Project is the decision by the White Rose Library Directors to instigate a White Rose approach to digitisation.

LIFE-SHARE links:

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