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Library, Archive and Museum Collaboration


An investigation into the incentives and strategies for deep and transformative collaboration among libraries, archives and museums (or LAMs).




Libraries, archives and museums (or LAMs) coexist in a variety of organizational settings and face increasing pressure to provide more integrated access to their collections. Universities and other large institutions have a vested interest in being able to share their holdings of unique and rare materials from their various archives, museums, and special collections in a unified way with their community of researchers and learners. Integrated access to collections is just one example of how libraries, archives and museums can maximize their efficiency and impact by working more closely together. How do these three communities respond to increasing economic and end-user pressures for greater integration? Shared data, services, technological infrastructure, staff, and expertise can unlock greater productivity within institutions, as well as create online research environments more aligned with user’s expectations.




Libraries, archives and museums (or LAMs) collect, manage and share. Although the type of materials may differ, and professional practices vary, LAMs share an overlapping set of functions. Fulfilling these functions in collaboration rather than isolation creates a win-win for users and institutions.




RLG Programs conducted an investigation into library, archive and museum collaboration. This project initially focused on campus or campus-like institutions that have one or more libraries, archives, and museums. Of particular interest were data, content, or service relationships where significant savings can be realized, where content or services are made accessible to new users or where managing or using collections is made easier. Finding—and taking advantage of—synergy among the libraries, archives and museums should then allow each individual institution to focus their efforts on the unique things that only they can do.

The Smithsonian Institution, Yale University, Princeton University, the University of Edinburgh and the Victoria and Albert Museum were selected for a day-long meeting on-site with RLG staff and a facilitator. The goal of each meeting was to deepen existing library, archive and museum collaborations, and identify new areas for joint work. After each meeting, a report was prepared about the individual institution's progress and aspirations, and shared with campus colleagues and administration. The report Beyond the Silos of the LAMs: Collaboration Among Libraries, Archives and Museums (.pdf: 334K/59 pp.) compiles all five institutions' experiences, as well as findings from campuses that participated in conference calls, plus views of outside experts. It highlights the projects each partner site committed to, and extrapolates the environmental factors which can catalyse or hinder collaborative efforts.

Following up on the workshops and the publication of the report, three panels at the American Association of Museums (AAM), the American Library Association (ALA) and the Society of American Archivists (SAA) spotlighted the leadership role RLG Partners are taking in integrating their LAMs. The sessions were sponsored by the Joint Committee on Archives, Libraries, and Museums (CALM), and organized and moderated by OCLC Research staff. "Yours, Mine, Ours: Leadership Through Collaboration," a forum hosted by the Smithsonian Institution for the RLG Partnership in the Fall of 2010, continued the discussion.

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More Information


Conduct your own LAM workshop.



Günter Waibel