Libraries, Archives, & Museums: Collaboration on a Large Scale

Michael Edson, Director, Web & New Media Strategy, Office of the CIO, Smithsonian

You can tell a lot about someone by what they choose to measure…and what they measure with.

Willy Sutton.

Where the value is today in society, cultural institutions, etc.

Most of civic institutions instituted success in the mid 20th century. New physics of dreaming, global value creation, but we haven’t recrafted our dreams.

Chandra project. 

National Gallery of Art, -1% growth in attendance over last 33 years. How you feel about this depends on what you think your mission is and how you think about scale. But either way — there’s a lot of room at the top.

Hypothetical Projcet X, starts where the National Gallery of Art started, but grows at 10% a year for 33 years.

A global “audience” of collaborators (individuals, learners, fans, community) of this scale was not imaginable” 33 years ago. But it is now.

108.4 million viewers for 2013 Super Bowl. 1.3 Billion views of Gangnam Style.

TED reached its billionth video view!

Wikipedia 1.7 billion edits.

Trove, 39398 text corrections, by volunteers, today

Zooniverse, almost 800K taking part worldwide: people exploring science. Crowdsourcing climate change from several centuries possible now, based on ship logs.

OpenStreet Map — 900K registered users; contributed 14 million edits; 1.6 billion locations(?)

Kickstarter — all kinds of projects.

Room to Read — 1600 schools; 15K librarians; 10 million books; 9 million checkouts; 7.5 million children.

Many of these small groups get a lot of work done at scale.

We love our museums, libraries, and archives. We need them to be super successful… by:

  • Put the tools of knowledge creation into more hands
  • Share the joy & meaning of artistic and culture exploration with MORE citizens
  • Deepen engagement w the challenges that face our species.
  • nurture the habits of civil and sustainable society

Can this happen quickly enough?

If you’re only counting stuff, staff, checkouts, it’s not enough. If the library checkout is the standard of excellence, success isn’t possible.

Scale can be confusing.

There are more powerful ways of accomplishing museum mission than getting people through the doors.

Larry Page interview in Wired, 1000 percent improvement requires exploring the edges, asking different questions, looking at problems.

Thinking about libraries beyond big systems, door counts, and collection, and that:

  • Every library a standalone [one-off].
  • Every transaction is single event [one-off].
  • Library: what’s in it for me? [city council; governing body questions]
  • What’s the ask? [leaving something behind; research; mentoring; cognitive surplus; effort]
    • Librarians kinda pride themselves on staying out of their patron’s lives.
  • Trust is a check you’ve got to cash.

How do you get to scale?

  • Start global by default; smart people all over the world are interested in a projet and will contribute
  • Open by default [unnecessary property restrictions can suffocate a project]
  • participatory by default
  • rethink who can contribute
  • rethink the value-creation arrows
  • don’t collaborate: solve big problems [collaborate to get big work done]

GLAMS can go to 11: And when they do, new opportunities present themselves…

How can people take collaboration to a global level? It’s in the ASK. The power of the network.

Ex.: David Lee King, TSCPL: His blog posts, video, podcasts, he puts stuff online at no extra cost. Very simple. Just Internet by default & global by default and using platforms everyone could use.

If we believe in the open web, libraries and museums and civic institutions — who already have the public’s trust to archive historical data — we may need to create open portals for more digital content to be shared and stored, as businesses are shuttering services.

Scale has a z axis, as well, in depth. How do you measure the depth of an interaction, a person-to person, artwork to viewer?

Zoo visits were about learning.

Merete Sanderhoff (@msanderhoff), Researcher/Project manager, Statens Museum for Kunst (SMK) via video & Skype

Art Museums. Platform with art images + stream of comments on Twitter. Take a picture of an painting/object in a museum. Leave comments, questions, links.

Why Twitter as platform? democratic; multilingual. production is manageable. reactivate existing content. dynamically updated.

Open licenses adopted by the museums.

What has been learned? people are adopting the open licenses. users appreciate the democratic approach. they don’t participate. Curatorial voice, comments, add value, looking down at screen, not at artwork. learning curve for the technology. People may not want to use mobile while in a museum. People may want a mobile guide.

How can we make this scale? More museums…Want a more sustainable mobile tool.

Michael Anker, Senior Advisor, Danes Digital Library, “Collaboration on a Large Scale: Danish Digital Library” 


500 public libraries main and branches in Denmark. 5.5 million people. 1/3 frequent users; 1/3 occasional users; 1/3 non-users.

The Digital Library — lots of different groups involved at different levels.

Mission statement: individual citizen’s ability and opportunity to acquire knowledge…. more on his slides

The challenges ahead are only getting bigger. we can only do this together.

Several different sections to this library. Several different websites: for video, for print, for audio, for ebooks, for objects. Companies are not good at curation.

A few examples [in Danish :)]:

Formats changed dramatically over the last 30 years. CDs, then digital fights back. If you want to be ready for change and know the format that’s coming, you can’t. As a result, must have an infrastructure that changes. Curation sites that change.

Bridging the gap between the digital and physical library.

Sharing content on screens in libraries project.

Library produced content, sharing of content. Facilitation of the editorial work in the libraries.

CMS platforms. 50% of the libraries in Denmark are already sharing lots of information. Drupal CMS.

Looking ahead — making the platforms available to others.

Personalization of sites and the data gathered has relationships.

How (design model): Project (development) [ongoing] –> infrastructure –> Maintenance (operations) [ongoing]–> curation that goes into the infrastructure

knowledge=process + true information.

Ting Community to share coding knowledge [again, in Danish]

Lots of different platforms involved in this project.

eBook access use cases. target audiences; function;s different needs; architecture  All of this is up for grabs and anybody can take it.

Very interesting project.

Q&A section

Library School students advice: Michael pushes museum students to rethink the platforms they are to use, the outcomes, libraries are one of many industries that are confused about why they exist and confused about their mission. “The future has arrived, it’s just not evenly distributed yet” -William Gibson.

Libraries are buildings in community. People have to come into our place, for lifelong learning, and leave our place. This isn’t enough. Librarians spend that trust, and be learning leaders in their communities.

Train librarians to change the world. Not vocational training, a calling. Not everyone called to do this.

Single librarian libraries: everything is possible. MUST collaborate and share, to survive.

Bill Joy — Sun microsystems. Most of the smart people work for someone else.

Digital training, necessary. People aren’t being taught this enough.

Understand that technology is only a tool.

You don’t do technology for technology’s sake. Think about what you want to achieve with it. Wireframing and use cases.

Thesis about the solo librarian. information ecology. Tapping into community, institution, and can achieve a lot.

Crisis; we’re still in siloed professional categories. Library studies. museum studies. archival studies.

Digitization is one thing and affordable access is another. More digitization projects are the opposite.

Libraries with like needs could share infrastructure with like needs.