FDLP Modeling: Looking at Existing Library Networks

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FDLP Modeling: Looking at Existing Library Networks

Work on developing models for the FDLP of the future continues. Ithaka S+R is now looking at existing library networks. Their approach and how you can contribute to this phase of their research are described below:

First, a brief update: thank you for your initial suggestions in response to our post launching the environmental scan component of our project. We are in the middle of conducting our own research for the scan, and soon we will use this website to highlight some areas where we’d particularly value the assistance of the library community in helping us to better understand certain topics.

In parallel to our work on the environmental scan, we’ve begun planning for the second deliverable defined by GPO: a report on existing models of library networks, consortia, and depository programs. The goal of this report will be to explore the different ways in which libraries organize themselves to perform projects or provide services and collections, and to think about how these models could be applied in the FDLP. We don’t expect that existing models will offer a perfect fit for the FDLP, but we hope that we’ll be able to identify strengths and weaknesses of different kinds of approaches that might be applied to various aspects of the FDLP.

We’re only beginning our planning for this paper, but we’d like to share the broad structure that we’re imagining with the community, and we’ll hope for both your general feedback and your help in addressing a few specific questions. Generally, we’re imagining categorizing library networks into three broad buckets:

  • Affinity groups of librarians: This group will contain professional societies and other organizations that bring together librarians around a common set of interests, ranging from the very broad (such as ALA) to the much narrower (such as the Federal Documents Task Force of GODORT). We will explore the implications of different scales and scopes of focus, and consider the roles played by these various kinds of library groups, including information sharing and the development of the shared values of the library community.
  • Member-driven library organizations: This group will consist of formal “library networks” – that is, groups of libraries that have banded together around a shared set of goals or common concerns. In this category, we plan to examine established networks of libraries (rather than the not ad hoc networks formed around a particular problem, which would be considered in the next category). This category would include everything from institution-level collaborations that incorporate a library network (e.g. the UC system, the Five Colleges of Massachusetts) and networks of libraries with varying degree of mutual trust relationships (e.g. ASERL, the Oberlin Group) to  government-organized library networks (e.g. the College Center for Library Automation, state library agency roles/networks) and larger networks where members’ relationships with one another is to a great degree mediated through a central body (e.g. OCLC, CRL). We will explore the implications of different ways in which libraries elect (or otherwise come to be) allied with one another, considering the strengths and weaknesses of different kinds of groups of libraries for particular kinds of problems.
  • Programmatic library collaborations: This group will contain collaborations that take action to address a common opportunity or concern. Most of the actual programmatic collaborations of the above member-driven library organizations would fall into this category. This category will also contain mission-driven collaborations that don’t necessarily arise from the needs of a pre-existing set of libraries but rather identify a common problem and attempt to aggregate libraries around its solution, and ad hoc/one-off projects that bring together a group of libraries to address a single shared problem. Again, we will consider how each of these models offers unique strengths and challenges in addressing certain kinds of problems.

We are still in the process of defining, and refining, these categories as well as relevant sub-categories, so they may yet change in response to feedback we receive. At this point, we believe that many depository library programs contain elements of all three of these categories and therefore will be examining them in the context of all of these models.

Within and across these categories, we will explore a number of questions, including the advantages and disadvantages of each type of library network and its potential relevance to the FDLP. Given key values of the FDLP (values such as preservation, integrity of collections, and broad public access), we believe it will be especially important to investigate the dynamics and components of well-functioning trust networks, including their membership, scope, governance, associated incentives, and so forth.

We would welcome feedback on the broad structure we are developing for this deliverable, and on particular questions we should be exploring in this paper. We’d also appreciate pointers to networks or collaborations you think we should be sure to understand, especially networks of state and/or public libraries, which are such an important part of the FDLP but may not have the same level of collaboration infrastructure to support them as do academic, law, and federal libraries. Thank you for any reactions or suggestions you are able to provide.