Deepening the Conversation

thinking about questions of authority, technology, learning, and 2.0 in academic libraries

Collaborative workspace in the digital library?


I’ve spent most of the last two days in an online conference that didn’t really work for me. The whys and wherefores and ponderings I’ve had about online conferences may become fodder for another post, but not this one. This one is about the good thing that came out of attending a conference that didn’t match what I wanted: I put some energy into articulating what I had been hoping to learn.

The conference was about building collaborative learning environments. Much of the conference was billed as happening in their virtual Learning Commons, which is what explicitly led me to sign up for the conference; I wanted to see what a virtual Learning Commons built by Educause would look like, how it would behave (It ended up being a Ning community).

One of my greatest strengths is that I see new ways to solve problems, and new ways to move forward. A long time ago I stopped being surprised that no one else was seeing what I was seeing.  I am generally accustomed to that most frustrating search, for something that doesn’t exist. But I never get used to that feeling of being all alone. I want to lean on work done by other people, I want to move small increments forward. I like being on context, I thrive on being in community. Far too often professionally I’m seeing a way through that no one else has acted upon or written about.

Today? What I wanted from this conference were tools and ideas for creating non-classroom based virtual collaborative spaces. The digital component of the Learning Commons, the online space where students gather to work on classwork, passion work, student organization work. The workspace of the digital library. With collaborative tools in place, access to the library’s resources, IM and document sharing, video conferencing, storage to leave work in a safe space…

Does it sound self-evident as a next step to you? It started to for me. And now, now I’m seeing that this may be huge leaps into the future. I’m trying to see what the baby steps might be, and starting to think about how to flesh out my assumptions about the desirability of such a space, and its applicability. I’m starting to feel a touch overwhelmed at the thought of creating this (I breathe more easily when I think maybe all I need is a particular sort of LMS, like Moodle or Blackboard).  I feel over my head, and am hoping I’m not really a couple laps in front.

Are you working on a project like this? I’d love to see what you’re doing!


3 thoughts on “Collaborative workspace in the digital library?

  1. All I can say is that Ning didn’t work for me and Pbp (Phb?) whatever…wiki’s don’t work for me either.

    I love the idea of a collaborative workspace, but for that to succeed you have to have people who want to work together. When we were working on the NSM for ACES/CPLA it was a mess to try and get everything coordinated because we were using email (or at least I was) and keeping things on the G://drive…but it didn’t feel like collaboration and sharing.

    Keep up the good work.

  2. Rudy,

    Great post! As I see it, there isn’t (and may never be) a single platform solution to this kind of need (what that usually ends up as is an unwieldy giant tool that tries to do too much and succeeds at none of it usability wise). Instead, what I’d like us (by that I mean my own school) to do, for example (and I have nothing substantial to share except my own small-scale LibGuide: is provide various options for digital commons and collaborative efforts.

    We are in the process, for example, of getting unlimited Elluminate access, which means we could theoretically provide rooms for students to use and collaborate with themselves. A concrete step we are taking soon is to offer online librarian office hours for students, and brown-bag meetings for faculty via this platform. It’s just one example, one tool, but I think that kind of usage, as you point out, will become more widespread over time.

    • Dana, you’re the second person to recommend Elluminate for this kind of thing, and I will definitely be looking into it.

      I’m really curious, if ESC offers shared collaborative workspace for its students in any way? I struggle with whether what i want to do is fill a library need, or if I’m carving out a space for the library in a campus issue? As a distance campus, I’m wondering if you all have already made inroads on that question?

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