In this 21st century, effective collaboration is no longer an option for libraries but certainly a necessity. The world around libraries is changing rapidly (Pinfield, Cox, & Rutter, 2017) Nowadays, universities are facing financial cutbacks, pressures for accountability, and changing nature of the library users which always lead to increasing client expectations particularly around the student experience (Hickman, 2017). Rapidly changing technologies, in areas such as social media and mobile technologies, are impacting on how, where, and when students and faculty access library services. More fundamentally, the services university libraries have traditionally provided can be seen as under threat. As such, libraries must join hands to connect together to provide all the necessary information for their users as postulated by Rangathan.
Collaboration by libraries can help to avoid duplication of effort and provide efficiency savings, streamline work processes and free up time for more value added activities. It can also increase the profile, visibility, credibility, and influence of the library and library staff internally and externally. On occasions, library staff learn new skills and behaviors during collaboration work and these can subsequently be applied to the individual’s work in his/her own department or institution.
From a user perspective, internal collaboration by the library can help to provide a more joined up service delivery, with a single user interface to different services or a reduction in the number of times data input is required. Involvement by users in the collaborative process can help to identify new and enhanced services that are relevant to users’ needs and more user friendly, with university staff and students often becoming more familiar with library services through involvement in the process. External collaboration in particular can help to provide a wider range of services than the partners could provide individually.
Library collaboration can accomplish one or more of the below mutually beneficial objectives (SUN, 2019)
1. Cooperate in the exchange of information relating to the activities in the current trend of librarianship;
2. Library Users of each Institution can visit the other to participate in Library Tour, Excursions and other activities to promote international friendship and cooperation between the two parties.
3. Provide Reference Services through email, online chat, or telephone and if possible
answer within 24 hours of receipt.
4. Exchange of scholarly published articles from printed and electronic materials.
5. Collaborate in organizing local or international conference
6. Invitation to attend any conferences hosted by either institution.
7. Conduct cultural projects, a mutually agreed in writing between the parties prior to commencement of the activity
Challenges of Collaboration
Atkinson (2018) in his own classical thinking enumerated some challenges which he noted that for a collaboration to be successful there will be a number of barriers and constraints to overcome. There can be significant differences in culture and working practice between the participants. Achieving the necessary cultural change can take time. Some staff may be resistant to change and not see the benefits of collaboration, there can be a real or perceived loss of professional or institutional identity, and staff may be uncomfortable or uncertain working outside their normal professional boundaries and comfort zones and feel isolated from their normal working colleagues. Staff involved in the collaboration may not have sufficient autonomy in allocating their time and effort, and, if they retain some of their normal responsibilities, there may be competing priorities.
He further identified that, at a department or institution level, there may be difficulties associated with participants having different strategic goals, structures and priorities, with consequent difficulties in establishing a common approach or specification acceptable to all. It can be difficult to maintain the balance between protecting the policies and priorities of the participants while leveraging the opportunities that come from shared approaches. For example, there may be a need to give up local control of systems and services. Without this, there may be limits to the opportunities for effective collaboration and implementation of new initiatives.
In Skyline University Nigeria, we believed that no any library can stand on its own. As such, we strived to link up with all the academic libraries in our midst and beyond so as to create a viable library collaboration. Sequel to this, Skyline University Nigeria Library has signed an MOU with Yusuf Maitama Sule University Library, Kano, Federal University Dutse Library, Jigawa State and recently Sule Lamido University Library, Kafin Hausa, Jigawa State. The purpose of the MOU is to establish friendship, cooperation in research, culture and to support quality library services for both the two parties.
Atkinson, J. (Ed.) (2018). Collaboration and the academic library: Internal and external, local and regional, national and international. Oxford: Chandos Publishing [CrossRef]
Hickman, B. (2017). University libraries need to start putting the student first. Guardian Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/2017/aug/03/university-libraries-need-to-start-putting-the-student-first
Parsons, R. (2016). SCONUL shared services: A toolkit for library collaboration. London: SCONUL Retrieved from: https://www.sconul.ac.uk/sites/default/files/documents/1611%20Toolkit_for_Library_Collaboration.pdf
Pinfield, S., Cox, A. M., & Rutter, S. (2017). Mapping the future of academic libraries: A report for SCONUL. London: SCONUL Retrieved from: https://sconul.ac.uk/sites/default/files/documents/SCONUL%20Report%20Mapping%20the%20Future%20of%20Academic%20Libraries.pdf
Skyline University Nigeria (2018) MOU Draft of Skyline University Nigeria Library.
Universities UK (2015). Efficiency, effectiveness and value for money. London: Universities UK [CrossRef] Retrieved from: https://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/policy-and-analysis/reports/Documents/2015/efficiency-effectiveness-value-for-money.pdf
Mr. Kabiru Danladi Garba, is the Head Librarian, Skyline University Nigeria. He has his MLA in Library and Information Science as well as his Ba/Bsc Library and Information Science from Bayero University Kano, Nigeria.