Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

Working Together: Building Collaboration between Librarians and Information Technologists

Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

Working Together: Building Collaboration between Librarians and Information Technologists

Article excerpt

CNI's Working Together professional development program is designed to provide institutional teams of librarians and information technologists with the tools they need to work collaboratively on projects of mutual interest and need. The development of the Internet and networked information content has provided the impetus for many collaborative projects on campuses, bringing together the content and service skills of librarians and the networking and technical skills of information technologists. The Working Together program provides participants with a conceptual framework for successful collaboration, a means of analyzing collaborative situations, and a process for developing successful collaborations in the home institution.

The Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) was formed in 1990 by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and two computing organizations, CAUSE and Educom. The heads and governing bodies of CNI's sponsoring associations felt that bringing together the content expertise of librarians with the networking expertise of information technologists could help enrich the developing Internet, which had up to that point focused primarily on large scientific experiments and communication between scientists. The CNI founders believed that the Internet could become a virtual library for the academic community, and that librarians could develop, select, and service content while technologists built a network infrastructure for higher education and the larger community.

Early in CNI's history the program of work was organized around themes, including architectures and standards.commercial publishing, transformation of scholarly communication, directories and navigational services, and government information. These themes primarily addressed network content and technology issues. Two additional themes--Management and Professional Development, and Teaching and Learning--addressed the impact of the network and networked information on institutions, the information professionals within those institutions, and on users. Several years after the launch of CNI, working groups were constituted to develop projects and programs related to each theme. The Management and Professional Development working group took as one of its charges the need to systematically address the process of collaboration between campus librarians and information technologists.

CNI's Working Together program was developed in the early 1990s by the working group on Management and Professional Development.[1] Working Together is a workshop planned to provide institutional teams of librarians and information technologists the opportunity to develop techniques that increase the effectiveness of collaborative efforts. The workshop also allows teams the opportunity to begin planning processes for specific collaborative projects. From its inception, one of CNI's goals has been the integration of efforts supporting the overall information resources and services mission for institutions. Bringing together librarians and information technologists to facilitate genuine partnership activities was a way of working towards one of CNI's goals.

Early discussion of the workshop by the working group focused on differences in the cultures of librarians and information technologists. The group discussed ways in which those differences might be addressed in a positive light during the workshop. However, the group soon decided that such emphasis might result in a negative atmosphere, emphasizing stereotypes instead of commonalities. The focus shifted from "culture" to "collaboration."


Librarians have contracted services from computing centers for a number of years. However, these contractual relationships have little in common with the genuinely collaborative projects that many groups wish to develop in the networked environment. In a contractual relationship, one party states its goals and provides resources, usually financial, to a second party that provides the needed service. …

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