Information professionals are encouraged, even expected, to engage in collaboration as evidenced by the array of statements from organizations like ALA, ACRL, LLAMA, SLA, and SAA citing collaboration as a competency. In a time of limited resources and increased accountability, collaboration is crucial to delivering excellent services, reaching the widest audience, and meeting community needs. Certainly, there are many examples of libraries collaborating with a variety of community partners from social workers, journalists, and immigration centers in public libraries to accessibility offices, careers services, and writing centers in academic libraries. But when assessed against a collaboration spectrum (Himmelman, 2002), many projects fall along the lower-end or middle of the spectrum, reflecting coordination or cooperation, but not deep partnerships that characterize true collaboration. The lack of deep collaboration suggests that libraries and those with whom they cooperate are not reaping the full benefits of an integrated partnership, including full ability to leverage each other’s resources, expertise, and respective audiences.
Lower levels of collaboration could be due, in part, to a lack of understanding of the complexity involved in developing an integrated partnership and a lack of training in such development, both of which can lead to a mischaracterization of cooperation as collaboration, and uncertainty or inability to proceed in the face of common barriers to collaboration. Building on one of the outcomes of the IMLS-sponsored Know News symposium, which identified low levels of collaboration as an issue, the presenters engaged in focus groups with librarians and allied professionals to identify barriers to and success factors for collaboration. The research has uncovered themes which form a framework for collaboration, including identifying community needs; understanding cultures (mission, vision, values, jargon, work patterns); articulating mutual benefits; developing metrics of success; setting parameters (e.g., creating MOUs); and project management.
In this session, the presenters will present their framework for collaboration. They will review some of the common barriers to collaboration and discuss approaches for overcoming those barriers. They will share best practices for meaningful collaboration, including identifying community needs and potential partners; aligning vision and goals; and implementing and managing a successful collaboration.
Identify common barriers to collaboration and how to overcome them
Discuss factors that enable collaboration and facilitate success
Apply best practices for planning and implementing a collaborative project