OCLC’s Beyond the Silos of the LAMs report

Just a few days after the Picnic08 discussions of ‘openness’ comes a very timely report from the OCLC on cross-sector collaboration between libraries, archives and museums (LAMs) titled Beyond the Silos of the LAMs. Diane Zorich, Günter Waibel and Ricky Erway are the authors of the report.

The report is the result of a series of workshops with particular institutions. The notion of a ‘collaboration continuum’ is particularly useful – “As LAMs move from left to right on this continuum, the collaborative endeavor becomes more complex, the investment of effort becomes more significant, and the risks increase accordingly. However, the rewards also become greater, moving from singular, “one-off” projects to programs that can transform the services and functions of an organization.” (pg 11).

The report is bursting with usefulness. In discussing the reposnse to a changing network environment;

LAMs are increasingly aware that they are not primary Web destinations and that most users are directed to resources through search engines or through portals specific to their areas of interest. They also see that much of the social interaction they hope will take place on their sites now occurs in community networking spaces such as Flickr and Facebook.

While some LAMs are trying to ameliorate this situation by putting their content where the users are (for example, by adding links to Wikipedia pages or placing images on Flickr), these efforts are exploratory and have not yet altered the fundamental strategy for collection access or the primacy of the campus Web site. The discussion exposed an underlying tension between the vision of seamless collections access and community engagement on local Web sites, and the shift in online user behavior where access and engagement now occur at a broader network level. (pg 15).

Or looking at the reasons why institutions find collaboration difficult;

Unfortunately, incentive and reward structures for collaborations are largely absent in most institutions. More strikingly, existing incentive structures often position LAMs so they compete with one another in ways that discourage collaboration. For example, when performance plans use metrics that focus on the success of individual departmental efforts and activities, departments will naturally promote their own activities to the exclusion of all others. One of the workshop participants succinctly summed up this conundrum as follows:

“We have spoken long about cross-institutional collaboration. The reality has been though…that we are measured against each other and then you do take naturally a possessive attitude.”

The absence of incentive structures for collaboration inadvertently fosters competitive behavior in other areas as well. For example, the proprietary sense of ownership of collections and databases that exists among some LAMs is perpetuated in an environment where collaboration is not promoted through an incentive system. (pg23)

This is an incredibly important report at this juncture where technological options, global funding uncertainties, and changing audience expectations, are beginning to align to force our hands with respect to institutional collaboration, effective cross search and resource discovery.

Now, having read the report, if you are a GLAM with a design collection, come and add it to D*Hub, the Powerhouse Museum’s hub for design – as the t-shirt would say, “ask me how”. Or, if you’d like to propose something collaborative with the Powerhouse Museum collection then make contact.

2 replies on “OCLC’s Beyond the Silos of the LAMs report”

Thanks for your kind words, Seb. I have to say, witnessing the discussions among library, archive and museum professionals during our workshops, and having them come together around joint projects has been one of the more gratifying experiences of my career. I’ve posted a short follow-up with news from some of the workshop sites which I think you’ll find interesting – see

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