Why Don’t Librarians Collaborate More?

After reading a lot of literature on libraries in this 21st Century, it finally struck me that one area in which I have read virtually nothing is collaboration among librarians. Having consulted with numerous libraries, I find more that do not share ideas and information than do. Naturally, that lead me to investigate, and guess what I found – virtually nothing.

There is the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) made up of 13 universities partnering with Google to digitize up to 10 million volumes from their collections. The CIC’s collaborative efforts span the academic enterprise of its members, including:
• cooperative purchasing
• course sharing
professional development programs
• library resources
• information technology
• faculty and staff networking

• study abroad
• diversity initiatives for students and faculty

There is also the Young Librarian Association in India “To promote and foster cooperation and communication among the members of YLA, the Library community, other library organizations, and other associations.”

OCLC says, “[A]lmost a decade into the 21st century, we can see that increasing technological and social changes impact how all individuals and groups cooperate. Coming from a long tradition of sharing, libraries may be better-suited than other industries to benefit from increased cooperative opportunities.”

ALA tried to create a Interdivisional Committee on School/Public Library Cooperation (AASL/ALSC/YALSA), but it was organized by YALSA, and had so many restrictions, who knows if it even got off the ground. Another example of bureaucracy at work.

Almost every state has some form of regional cooperative, such as Upper Peninsula Region of Library Cooperation (UPROC) for Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan, the New Jersey Library Cooperative, and Florida’s Panhandle Public Library Cooperative System, and many more. These include all types of libraries.

Of course, every state has a State Library Association comprised of dues-paying members, some of whom actually attend the annual conference. Many more don’t. Which is another reason to ask – Why don’t librarians collaborate more? In this new frontier of librarianship, doesn’t it seem important for librarians to collaborate and share their experiences? Most organizations call it sharing their “lessons learned.”

There are many librarians who are creating success stories in their local library, and how many share those with their colleagues?

How many colleagues call up or visit their neighbor to see what challenges they are facing and successes they have achieved?

How many organizations have a means to routinely share their success stories?

What obstacles exist that prevent librarians from sharing their achievements – problems – issues – challenges?

Doesn’t sharing experiences with colleagues equate to professional development? Who doesn’t need professional development?

My suggestion – If you want to be a successful 21st Century Librarian, COLLABORATE MORE WITH YOUR PEERS!


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15 responses to “Why Don’t Librarians Collaborate More?

  1. Collaboration is definitely part of the job. We preach it in our schools — we have to practice it. I’m not sure I need a lot of formal associations or organizations or committees to make it happen — I can create those opportunities for myself. I have found that other librarians and professionals want to collaborate for the most part, all I have to do is ask. At my school, I started a collaboration group that works with teachers on lesson planning. The group includes me, our IB coordinator, and our TAG coordinator. The middle school librarians in my district get together once a month for a long lunch and collaboration session. A group of librarians in my area (from several different districts) get together once a month for dinner and have even set it up so that attendees can receive credit for attending. Librarians from the public library system have offered to work with us in our schools. I have never called a librarian asking to make a visit or share ideas and been told they didn’t want to. All it takes is a phone call. I wonder how many librarians out there are collaborating large scale and you just don’t realize it because they are taking the initiative on their own.

  2. I’m a middle/high school media specialist in an independent school.To me collaboration takes place through listservs, blogs, e-mail and school visits. The “professional” organizations I belong to include corporate, academic, elementary and special librarians. While I love interacting with these folks, there isn’t a lot they can share with me that has much meaning to what I do. Independent school librarians have a conference each year where we meet, connect and share, then we stay in touch through a listserv. Collaborate? Share? You bet we do!

  3. Given the parlous state of school library and public library finances collaboration is absolutely essential. We have two ongoing collaborative programs with our local school district that bring both library staffs together to promote reading in the schools. It redounds to both our benefits and helps in working with our policy-making body.

  4. Janet

    Check Out http://collaborativelibrarianship.org for some ideas on this topic.

  5. How about researching stuff together? Too often the academic librarian-types don’t work with the public librarian -types, and we could do a lot for each other.

  6. We have begun a Kansas City metro and surrounding area (both Kansas and Missouri) College Readiness Dialogue where public, private, and alternative school librarians come together with academic and public librarians to talk about how to best prepare students post-secondary. We held our second annual meeting last month (11/11) and plan to continue it in the future. And, it is FREE to attend. So far, we’ve had over 90 school librarians (and invited educators) attend with 14 colleges and universities represented. Also, major library systems are participating.

  7. Pingback: The Daily News: 16 December 2011 | Finding Heroes

  8. Sarah Flowers

    There is in fact a joint AASL/ALSC/YALSA committee on school and public library cooperation: here’s a link to their wiki: http://wikis.ala.org/readwriteconnect/index.php/AASL/ALSC/YALSA_School/Public_Library_Cooperation.

    In addition, as YALSA president, I am working with the ALSC President to present a joint presidents’ program at ALA Annual in Anaheim 2012. In addition, the ALSC and YALSA Executive committees have been meeting together to discuss how we jointly serve the middle-school years (12, 13, 14 years old).

    And for years, AASL, ALSC, and YALSA have had a joint executive committee meeting at both ALA Midwinter and Annual, and a joint membership reception at Midwinter. So we do try to find out what we’re all doing and how we can cooperate.

    Sarah Flowers,
    YALSA President

    • Thanks so much for the additional information. I think most librarians are aware of the higher level collaboration efforts, and hope that something useful will emerge from the efforts.
      I should have been more specific in directing my comments toward the large majority of librarians “out in the field” who work largely in isolation on a daily basis. They get bogged down dealing with every day issues, when they might benefit from more frequent exchanges with their neighboring librarians who are dealing with the same issues, and share experiences for the purpose of developing common solutions.
      “Two or three heads are always better than one.”

  9. Have you heard of the new OA journal Collaborative Librarianship?

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