Cross-Sector Collaboration


I recently mentioned in a blog post that I thought it would be useful for the library profession as a whole if there was greater cross-sector working. In a time where money is tight and staff numbers are being reduced, it makes sense to pool and share information.

It seems as if many members of the library profession see their area of interest/work as unique to their organisation – public libraries deal more with fiction, a wide range and level of readers (0 to 100+) and informal learning; academic libraries concentrate on research, development and formal learning; specialist libraries deal with group of users based on a specific profession/subject area. I also think that this attitude of ‘We are unique!’ can come across in library services in the same sector providing the same services to a different local area.

The focus appears to concentrate on the differences in services we provide and not the similarities, which is strange, as the similarities outweigh the differences. Maybe some information professionals just want to actively keep their services unique… it helps to justify their role??

I also feel as if some people will immediately dismiss the ideas/practices of library services in another sector as irrelevant, because they are again emphasising the differences in the services and not the similarities.

Library services appear to be constantly re-inventing the wheel on a project where someone else has already thought through the same project/problems and has solutions that may be relevant.

We should be taking advantage of these ideas/solutions from outside our own sectors and use them to develop our own library services. We need to ask if there are similarities between what we are doing and what other library services (public, academic or specialist) are providing, no matter how vague the connection may appear. If we don’t, I feel we will be missing out on some great opportunities to develop the library profession as a whole… and if we don’t develop we will get left behind.


4 thoughts on “Cross-Sector Collaboration

  1. libwebrarian


    I think you make a great point, there often isn’t that much cross-over between people working in public and academic libraries. There’s a bit of a connection sometimes in areas like marketing for libraries but often very little in some of the core areas. As someone who spent over 20 years working in public libraries before moving to academic libraries I was struck by how separate the domains were – although in the first month I’d come across about a dozen things that we could have used in public libraries but simply hadn’t come across.



    • Thanks Richard
      I’ve been to a few events where the majority of people attending are from an academic background and, like you, I often sit there and think why aren’t public libraries doing this or that? For example, Virtual Learning Environments would be great for those public library members who are using libraries as an informal method of learning – just an added extra that would help them formalise their approach to study if they needed to.

      I recently saw someone suggesting that we could all move one library to the left for a day (ie work in a library you’re not familiar with) – maybe that idea would be a good way to develop cross-sector working, or maybe if public libraries were partnered with local academic libraries that could work as well??


  2. Interesting post Gary, it’s something I’ve been thinking about recently too. At the Librarians as Teachers event yesterday it was almost all academic librarians, yet I can see it would have also been useful particularly for school librarians, but also public and special librarians too – after all, we’re all involved in some form of information literacy support.

    I’m particularly interested in the joint academic/public library project in Worcester, maybe it will highlight some of the similarities and differences between the sectors and encourage more cross-sectoral work? Or is that just wishful thinking?!

    • Hi Jo
      I imagine the marketing of events has something to do with the emphasis on who attends, but then I suppose that those who organise the events might not see the link to other sectors too.

      The joint academic/public library project sounds like a step in the right direction. I’ve not heard about it before. I’ll have to go and find out more information about it. It’ll be interesting to see where it goes.


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