Today I travelled up to Sheffield to attend the Digital Collaboration Colloquium organised by the Life-Share Project (@LIFE_SHARE #lifeshare). I was tempted not only by the content but also by the format – a packed programme encompassed 30 minute presentations, an hour of pecha kucha sessions and a panel discussion.
I have to say that I had a great day. All of the speakers were engaging, all the presentations made interesting and useful points, and the room came up with a varied selection of questions for the panel, who handled them with aplomb. It was totally worth the 5 hours or so spent travelling, and I didn’t find my attention flagging at all despite my 04:45 start.
Checking back through my notes, I have filled 22 pages of my notebook – no mean achievement considering I was being quite selective about what I recorded! I’m not even going to begin to try to type out everything I wrote down – instead what I’m going to do here is pull out some of the common themes (as I saw them, and in no particular order) and also to note the points I felt would be most useful to take back to my workplace.
Social media is great for engaging audiences and building communities.
Online tools (Google docs, Skype etc) also enormously helpful for facilitating collaboration. That said, meeting in person is really worthwhile, and regular face-to-face contact can be instrumental in ensuring progress is actually made and that realistic timescales are set in the first place.
Digitisation projects can provide great opportunities for engaging new audiences in surprising and interesting ways (eg. scanning documents in public, crowdsourcing transcriptions, or knitting) and in novel venues (eg. theatres and stately homes)
Large digitisation projects can be complex, sophisticated and attractive – but are they sustainable?
Software and hardware are both cause for concern – issues around upgrades, storage, migration and obsolescence need to be considered. Open standards and releasing API can help.
Partnership working is not only desirable but often necessary – many digitisation initiatives are simply too large for a single institution to take on. Collaborative working also allows partners to share equipment, training and expertise.
It is important to establish what the project needs to achieve and who contributes what – eg. by agreeing a memorandum of understanding at the outset of the project.
Relationship management takes time, and it’s never too early to be considering who would potentially become a useful partner, and making contact with them. That said it is also necessary to be a bit selective – partnerships need to be mutually beneficial.
Collaborative relationships can be based on whatever suits the need of the project, whether that be shared needs, collections, values or geography.
Systematic ongoing in-house digitisation can take place alongside special projects, and in some ways this is the best model as it allows internal funding to maintain the regular work whilst attracting external support for (arguably more exciting) stand-alone features.
Digitisation projects should be undertaken in response to need, for specific teaching or research needs, for a particular audience, or because you hold a unique collection (sometimes the decision is systematic/strategic, in other cases it’s based more on professional judgement). Chances are you’ll end up reaching unexpected people/places too though.
OCLC report from 2008 ‘Beyond the Silos of the LAMs’ sets out the 5 stages of the ‘Collaboration Continuum’:
Projects mentioned during the day:
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