Instant Ideas and Collaboration
For the upcoming #uklibchat on creative collaborations, we are very pleased to present a feature article by Gary Green, Digital Services Lead at Surrey Libraries, on the importance of collaborating with others, factors important to the success of partnerships, and a case study of collaborative cooperation – the Guildford Maker Space project.
During the past few years in public libraries I’ve been increasingly involved in collaborative working with a range of partners, including within public libraries, other library sectors, and partnership formed with organisations and individuals outside of the library sector completely. A significant amount of day-to-day work in my team, Digital Services, is a collaborative effort with other teams in the Library Service – in fact much of the work of the library service is most effective when that collaboration happens and ideas can be pooled from different teams focusing on (for example) stock, well-being, learning, technology. Most recently, along with other members of my team, we’ve been increasingly involved in working with the team whose primary focus is outreach work. With them we’ve run making and digital storytelling sessions with a focus on looked after children and those with mental health issues and we are currently discussing how we can work together on a digital angle for the Summer Reading Scheme.
When I look back on the library related activities I’ve been involved in over the past few years, so much of it has involved collaboration with people and groups outside of Surrey Libraries – not all have been as part of my day-to-day job, but some has. Here are a few examples to give you a feel for how broad the range of collaboration has been:
Steps need to be taken to form collaborations and one of the key steps is to assume at the beginning that individuals and organisations (particularly outside of the library sector) do want to collaborate with you and your organisation. In the past I’ve made the mistake of thinking that there aren’t collaborative opportunities with some potential partners, for a whole range of reasons.
I’ve been wrong about these assumptions on many occasions, and the majority of the time the responses I’ve had have been positive and have led onto some kind of collaboration with shared goals and interests, and that working partnership has developed over time to encompass further collaborations.
What I’ve realised is that it’s important to find potential collaborators outside of your library sector and even outside of libraries – there are links and common interests to be found, even though they might not be obvious at first. One of the most important things libraries can do as potential collaborators is to highlight that libraries have broader and more valuable roles to play than old stereotypes portray.
Collaborative working works well when those involved benefit from it on all sides. Benefits achieved from projects I’ve been involved in include the sharing of skills, time, and costs to achieve a common goal; as well as gaining wider perspectives on projects that include ideas input from outside your own team, library service and sector.
As a more specific example, one of the key projects we are working on in the public library service is a Makerspace at Guildford Library. Through this project we’ve found that individuals and organisations are keen to support the initiative and collaborate on different aspects of it. As is the case with public libraries in general the Makerspace is intended to be for the community and as part of this a broad range of partners, collaborators and supporters have been involved in helping develop the project, including individuals such as:
Carlos Izsak who had the idea of a portable makerspace (Makercart) – our initial starting point with the makerspace – and has been key in helping us practically develop this project.
Marieme Jamme who has helped develop and supported our children’s coding and women’s tech clubs under the banner of iamtheCODE.
We have also had individuals offering to share their own skills as well as learn how to use the Makercart kit, and freely support workshops, events and initiatives.
Other key partners include Surrey County Council, Guildford Borough Council, and the University of Surrey, who again have been key collaborators and have helped form the vision for the makerspace and supported it on a strategic level.
On a collaborative level the local making community has worked with us to help develop our own makerspace, including University of Surrey EARS ; and Surrey and Hampshire Hackspace, and various other individuals. Though we haven’t collaborated directly with others further afield we’ve had so many discussions with many people who have set up their own makerspaces and they have helped give a focus to our ambitions for the Guildford Makerspace.
One of the important things about the collaboration on this particular project is that everyone involved (individuals and organisations) comes at it from different angles, and has different ideas and skills to share and sees opportunities for different groups of potential makerspace users than the library service itself might have seen at first. However, the key point is they are all key supporters of the project, no matter what role and level they play in helping us develop it.
And finally, if there was a single point I’d emphasise in relation to collaborative working I’d say don’t be afraid to approach individuals or organisations you’d like to collaborate with, even if you think they might say “No.” If you’ve seen the potential for collaboration with them you just need to highlight that common shared interest you’ve found, and demonstrate that working with libraries will be of benefit to both sides.
Gary Green – Digital Services Lead, Surrey Libraries