Bright Lights, Big Conversations

LYRASIS started this new year with a whirlwind tour we titled the LYRASIS Leadership Forums: A Community Dialogue. The goal of the forums has been to hold lively interactive discussions with influential leaders from the archives, library and museum communities on issues such as e-Resources, Community Supported Software, Open Source, Digitization, Digital Asset Management and Open Access Resources. All of these are extremely relevant issues both for the future of LYRASIS and for our community of members. We hope that the dialogue and ideas generated by these sessions continue and lead to even more collaboration and discussions about issues impacting us all.

How did this begin? LYRASIS’ new CEO, Robert Miller, wanted a way to engage with our communities leaders, but knew we had to be cost sensitive in the age of reduced budgets. In October, LYRASIS applied and was awarded a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that funded this effort to gain deeper insight into issues and interests that impact our collective communities. With much planning and coordination between departments within LYRASIS and with the help of our Board of Trustees, we hosted the first forum January at the Robert W. Woodruff Library of the Atlanta University Center, a member, on January 14, 2016. To date, we have completed 7 forums and are planning 6 more before we share our summary in June.

After the inaugural forum in Atlanta, our tour headed north, just in time for snow storms hitting the Mid-Atlantic – but that didn’t stop us or members from getting together in New York and Pennsylvania. As a blizzard hit New York City over the weekend, many of us boarded planes and trains to meet at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria for our second forum. Big ideas continued to come through in the Big Apple from the discussions including  DuraSpace’s CEO, Debra Hanken Kurtz, as a speaker, as the announcement just came through that LYRASIS and DuraSpace boards have approved an “intent to merge”.

Our next stop found us at the Free Public Library in Philadelphia, on January 28th. Here, we met up with more familiar faces as well as legacy partners and friends from PALCI, Temple University and Drexel University.

Our first three forums were a success and we received great feedback from those who attended. Here are just a  few quotes we received from each of the Forums:

We [LYRASIS] delivered what we promised in the forum–definitely interesting talk and topics. We should do this more–bring people together to collectively figure out the problems and have stronger communications among us.

It was great to have an open dialogue on these topics with eagerness and excitement. The Forum is a positive sign that something can be done or get done.

I have felt for years that LYRASIS had become only PO’s I signed every year. This forum gave me much more understanding about the organization and the value.

Our Board member, Joe Lucia, gave us his perspective from the Pennsylvania Forum he attended saying that the Forum was a “lively, thoughtful and passionate discussion of key issues related to the evolving social and cultural role of libraries and related cultural memory organizations. The most valuable dimension of the gathering, though, was a focus on the technical, infrastructure, and talent requirements of the current environment, with some compelling suggestions about the way an organization like LYRASIS can help us meet those needs.”

With this momentum, we journeyed in February to a few places where the weather might play a little nicer. We headed to Los Angeles, CA, Charlotte, NC and Salt Lake City, UT to meet with select members and partners. We saw and heard a range of ideas about how LYRASIS services have the opportunity to further serve and engage archives, libraries and museums. This feedback is a huge asset  for us as we move forward with members, potential members and the intent to merge with DuraSpace. It was also good to see those who work collaboratively already in states like North Carolina, where the conversation echoed the need of global scale, communication and strong relationships. As a takeaway we do want to work together to see how can we use this as a larger scale model for all of LYRASIS. Collaboration creates impressive results and pooling of resources. The February Forums gave us many things to think about as we continue to move forward. Some of the feedback were heard included:

Small libraries don’t realize their assets and the value of them they need help with this—LYRASIS could help with this.

If LYRASIS can help articulate where we can consolidate and help us better express to colleagues on campus on what the strategy is – justifying cost and benefit, explaining our role in a larger ecosystem – that would be very helpful.

The bigger the community gets, then the costs for staff, etc. goes down. We have no control over vendors, but we can control our community.

We [LYRASIS] didn’t talk about content acquisition and subscription cost. The rate that journal subscriptions increase is hard to manage and is not sustainable. Why do we base costs on FTE? How can we band together to keep this cost under control?

From there we gathered in our nation’s capitol at the Library of Congress to meet with a mix of members and non-LYRASIS members to broaden the discussion. Here too, the sentiments were echoed. There is a need for practical and sustainable resolutions, trusted tools and partners.

The information, topics and themes we’ve gathered along the way are invaluable feedback and will be helpful for our future decisions with new products and services, support and relationships. We now have 5 more Forums to complete in the spring as well as a 13th virtual Forum Summary by June. Our next forums will be in these cities: Indianapolis, IN, Columbus, OH, Tampa, FL, Denver, CO, and Boston, MA

To see images from the Forums, presentations and more, please visit our Leadership Forum area. If you are interested in joining us at one of the remaining Forums, please email Jennifer.Bielewski@lyrasis.org with your preferred Forum location.