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A Digital Commons Success Story

I’m spending most the day in Track D: Collaboration Strategies and Tools.  Collaboration has always been an important feature of information organizations, but new tools are appearing that, as with nearly every other area of our field, are giving us access to new capabilities and bringing about significant changes.  Here are 4 features of collaboration:

  • Communications
  • Information sharing
  • Organizational perspective
  • The “group think” approach

Jim DelRosso

Jim DelRosso, Digital Projects Manager at Cornell  University, led off the track with a success story of building online connumities around a digital collection.  One reason that people come into physical libraries because of their collections.  But how do communities form around digital collections?  First they take an interest in the collection, which leads to ownership and then to investment.  Interest means finding out what users want and need and figuring out what to do when these things differ?  What is the value that we offer to our patrons?  Once that is determined, we can build better collections, and we can market more effectively.  So for example, at an academic institution like Cornell, a significant outreach to faculty is a major component of the library’s marketing.

Once interest has been established, we can start to develop a sense of ownership in our customers by allowing users  to contribute or sponsor content, which will lead to user-organized content.  In a digital collection, multiple users can contribute content and organize  it.  At the ILR school at Cornell, a large amount of user-organized and user-sponsored content is being uploaded. 

Tagging,  networking,  and browsing all give users a sense of ownership, which will lead to a sense of investment  in the collection.  Investment means that users interact more directly with the collection and also more directly with librarians about the collection.  Then they will ineract more directly with each other, which leads to a community.  If this does not happen, digital collections will just be servers warehousing documents and will not be used.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and CIL  2010 Blog Coordinator

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