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Adventures in collaboration: library and information workers as ‘Master Builders’ of knowledge

Ellen Forsyth, State Library of NSW and Dr Rachel Franks

Wednesday 17 September 2014 – Concurrent session 17, 3:30pm to 3:55pm


Collaborations are key to much work being done in a range of different libraries. Some collaborations are accidental while others are more purposeful. This paper explores a variety of ways to capitalise on planned collaborative projects, while offering guidance for adding planning to more ad hoc projects, to facilitate better outcomes for the project as well as for the participants. There are no guaranteed systems for ensuring success, there are however, a variety of mechanisms and tools which are available that will make success more likely.

This paper, through the presentation of two very different examples (one outlining working with one other person; and another outlining working with a group) of how projects can work, exploring opportunities to not only work better but to work differently. The first example will look at experiences in co-editing a collection of essays and how working with one other person brings both benefits and challenges. The second example will look at some of the experiences in working with a multi-national group of library professionals as part of the coordination of a global effort to encourage reading through a themed Twitter reading group. Both examples will highlight some of the positives of collaboration in addition to looking at how to overcome some of the challenges that can arise when working on projects in this way. Moreover, these examples will provide frames of reference so that those who have not worked on a collaborative project will be able to relate the mechanisms and tools, discussed in this paper, back to real-world examples.

The examples utilised within this paper will explore a number of aspects around collaborative practices including ‘tools of the trade’, working with diversity, maximising long term as well as short term benefits, and transferring benefits to a broader community.

This paper will reveal how, through working with the mechanisms and tools outlined, in addition to learning from achievements and failures in the examples provided, can contribute to: capacity building, knowledge transfer and succession planning. This paper also highlights the importance of negotiations around assigning / sharing / taking credit, adapting to change throughout a project and working with different levels of availability, capacity and commitment of other group members.  These skills will really reflect Public Libraries Supporting Communities, as collaborations become more effective.

This paper engages directly with the conference theme of “Together we are Stronger” by encouraging library workers, from all areas within the information sector, to take on collaborative projects, thus realising personal and professional benefits of working in this way.

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