Why the future of your library depends on others’ knowledge


Like most libraries, my library in Madrid is facing new and challenging resource constraints, user requirements, and technology demands. Some areas are called on to do more work with fewer staff and lower funding. And all are dealing with user expectations based on global commercial powerhouse brands like Google, Apple, and Amazon.

What we have found at Complutense University is that the key to meeting major local challenges is to recast them as shared global opportunities.

Who do we share them with? All other libraries, worldwide.

Community accelerates innovation

At last month’s EMEA Regional Council Conference in Marseille, I had the chance to meet live with many colleagues who will be part of my library’s future success. Conferences like this are an important part of advancing the profession and establishing connections for future cooperation. And they are a primary method of sharing knowledge, best practices, and encouragement.

javier presenting_480Approximately 300 participants from 24 countries attended this tenth annual membership meeting, which was held at the Palais du Pharo. The theme was “Change the Game”, which, for me and my library, means thinking about all our activities within a cooperative, global framework. Any program or problem may feel like a local move … but it’s taking place on a worldwide board.

In my presentation, I emphasized the importance of cooperation and innovation as the keys to our future. I believe working together in a global community is the only way for libraries to innovate, redefine themselves, and thrive in the dynamic environment of the 21st century.

Why not go it alone and take sole responsibility for your library’s future? Why is a community necessary for innovation? I believe we are at a point where it is simply impossible to get by without massive cooperation among libraries. Why?

  • It multiplies resources. Sustaining the ongoing investment in technology and the fast pace of product development is not within the reach of most libraries locally, by themselves, or in a regional network. A global platform enables libraries to share costs and spread the expenses over thousands of organizations.
  • It optimizes efficiency. Shared services help eliminate replicas de relojes redundant local practices that isolate the internal work processes of a library. Sharing work through a cloud-based system offers an opportunity to examine ways we’ve always done things and change workflows.
  • It generates novel ideas. Sharing information and experiences with colleagues worldwide brings out new ideas that otherwise wouldn’t surface. Community, not competitivity, is a safe environment that nurtures an honest exchange of how we can make our libraries better.

For example, over the past few years, our library has joined several global initiatives to operate more efficiently, respond to change faster, and raise our visibility both locally and globally. Some of those international projects are:

  • Google Books
  • HathiTrust Digital Library
  • WorldCat and WorldShare ILL
  • WorldShare Management Services

Our participation in all of these initiatives allows us to manage resources more effectively and provide a new level of service to our users. These programs are innovations that require partnerships and cooperation. If we are innovating to meet the challenges of a connected, global audience, it only makes sense that we do so at the same scale.

You can learn more details about the Complutense story by viewing this video and reading this case study. We also are featured in a member story on the OCLC website that provides some background.

Cooperation creates community

The past successes of library cooperation are well known. ILL, metadata standards, online catalogs to name a few. Today, we need cooperation worldwide. It’s the same collaborative spirit of community but on a global scale with shared data, shared services, and shared ideas in the cloud to put innovation on a faster timetable.

Thank you to all who planned and attended this powerful event. It was a great chance to share knowledge around this important theme and remind each other how much we have in common.

Highlights from the 2019 EMEARC are available for viewing on the agenda page of the conference website. View these presentations for ideas and insights on how to change the game for your library and your community. And you can find additional community engagement resources at oc.lc/community-engagement