Open ecosystems: The heartbeat of modern librarianship

This year’s OCLC Global Council area of focus is “Libraries and Open Ecosystems.” Through this lens, we are hosting leadership discussions on topics that are important to libraries, including the New Model Library, open research, and metadata challenges. We are also exploring what it means “to be open”—which, I believe, is the essence of what all modern libraries are striving for.

As a member of Global Council, I find great value in discussing subjects like this with colleagues from libraries of all types all over the world. Through the topic “open ecosystems” we are united by a common mindset and shared interests. While, at the same time, we realize that our institutions can be as unique and diverse as the communities we serve. How we work together on core issues while respecting local and diverse needs is both a great challenge and a wonderful opportunity.

What is an “open ecosystem?”

Our exploration of “open ecosystems” through our hosted webinar series touches on numerous ways that libraries support “openness,” but central to our discussions is an acknowledgment that libraries by their very nature are open as we provide opportunities for all and ensure that participation in library activities are inclusive. We also discussed how our strategies for moving libraries towards a greater embracement of “open” are focused on long-term orologi replica sustainability. Sharing data and services is also foundational to the ecosystems that libraries operate in—shared data flows freely, directed by software or interfaces that both connect libraries and allow for specific library localization.

Libraries actively work to provide seamless, powerful services that can be networked efficiently and leveraged locally. #OCLCnext Click To Tweet

Library activities are already defined partly by openness. We reinforce the free flow of knowledge, reach across institutional and geographic boundaries, and work with many partners to support our communities and users. Being “open” is part of our brand. Even as different local goals, traditions, affiliations, and funding systems make the details of openness challenging, libraries seek ways to create connections and expand services to break down access barriers and make information available to all.

Open opportunities

In contrast, the default operating systems of the world are rarely open. Competing commercial interests often create and maintain closed platforms and interfaces. Geography and nationality sometimes set up roadblocks to information and creativity. Libraries, however, are actively working to provide seamless, powerful services that can be networked efficiently and leveraged locally.

We saw this with the COVID-19 pandemic. Many libraries increased digitization of content and the virtualization of programs based on local needs. But they did so while connecting to each other, learning from peers, and partnering with like-minded organizations. Library workers are experts at connecting communities to new information, and this was a critical skill during the pandemic. We are also experts at documentation and collaboration. Taken together, this meant that libraries often provided not just critical infrastructure but also the means to evaluate and distribute life-saving information to individuals and the broader community.

Open yourself to change

Many of the library workers I talk to are eager to participate in making our resources and programs more open but aren’t sure where to begin. What a wonderful problem to have. If this describes you, a good start is to build your personal network.

  • Connect with like-minded people within your library, and then at other libraries and in partner institutions, departments, and companies.
  • Identify shared challenges.
  • Create urgency around common topics.

For leaders looking to be more open, I’d specifically recommend connecting with your staff first. Open data and technical infrastructures are important, but developing interest in the topics you identify will be key to your success. Encourage staff to share new concepts and aspirations. There’s a good chance you’ll identify more opportunities than you have time or budget to address. But you’ll provide room for new, surprising results.

I also encourage you to participate in our webinar series and engage with other OCLC members. We all have diverse ideas and varied resources, but when combined, we can be so much more influential and effective. In an open ecosystem, there can be as many answers and gains as there are participants. What you bring to the equation increases the possibilities for all of us.

Register for the upcoming webinar and access on-demand recordings by visiting the Global Council website.