Turkish Delights (Rahat Lokum) Flavour One: Collaboration and Resource Sharing (Rosewater)

By Philip Keates

 If you’ve seen any of the photos from our training week in Istanbul – photos of food, of drink, of ancient wonders, of sunlight on the Bosporus – you will almost certainly have also heard me or Lizzy stressing (maybe in a rather defensive tone) that we sat through more than 30 presentations during the course of our five-day not-holiday. In an attempt to divide up the sharing of our endeavours according to Smithian principles, I assigned myself – foolishly, as it turns out – the task of passing the fruits of these presentations onto you. During the few brief respites I’ve had in the last few weeks from my usual showboating metadata artistry, I’ve been going through my copious (if occasionally cryptic) notes, and it’s been dawning on me just how much information was thrown at us.

Rather than swamp you all with one huge, baggy blog post, I’ve decided instead to put together a series of thematically organised posts – possibly six in total, each to be more exciting than the last. Or at least not less exciting, which I suspect would be impossible. So, if you wake up one day thinking “gosh, I’d really love to learn about how they do ILR in Turkey”, for example, then you need only read the following post. If, on the other hand, you suffer from, say, an irrational hatred of Information Literacy, then the merest glance at the title of my next post would be enough to warn you off, and no-one need know. As can be seen, the blog posts will be presented as if flavours of Turkish delight. Because they will be delightful, and are from Turkey. Sue me.

As a wise polymath and Renaissance man (in other words, not really an expert in anything), I will refrain from passing judgement on that which I relate, and merely pass on what I’ve seen and heard. So it’ll basically be like Herodotus, only with fewer griffons. And rather more stuff about libraries. If you want to know about anything in more detail, just drop me an email or ask me in person, and I can show you the slides and material in question, and potentially pass your details on to the relevant source of wisdom.

Without further ado, let’s begin with a proper heavyweight bruiser of a topic – collaboration.

To immediately break my own rule about presenting without comment (and to attempt to adopt from this point onwards a more professional tone), one of the things that struck me most during the week was how strong the collaborative spirit was, both in Turkey and beyond, when compared with the competitive attitude towards higher education provision in the UK. Where a UK university would often not think twice about hosting the same course as a neighbouring institution, and would ensure that they too spent the money to provide all the resources they could for their students, we got the impression that Turkish universities will, to a large extent, avoid duplicating courses and materials, and instead share materials around the country as required. Arguably, this allows them to achieve more with less.

I’m certainly oversimplifying the issue, and I imagine that geographical considerations must mean that courses are, to some extent, duplicated across the country. I am also sure that, for the most part, UK Higher Education librarians are inherently collaborative types, wanting the best for all users of the system, and I recognise how ILL in the UK does provide a certain amount of resource sharing. But it seems to me that the attitude towards resource provision differs between our countries, quite fundamentally, at an institutional – or, perhaps more accurately, political – level. How true this really is, and how much it stems from government policy, I can’t say – but it’s certainly interesting to consider.

Anyway, on to the actual data…

Phoebe Leung, from Lingnan University, Hong Kong , mentioned some of the ways in which Hong Kong University libraries work together. Her university works with an integrated LMS, running Alma and Primo in collaboration with seven other government-funded universities in Hong Kong. Hong Kong university libraries also work together through the Joint University Librarians Advisory Committee (JULAC), which was responsible, through its Learning Strategies Committee, for putting forward the idea for the InfoLit4you IL MOOC – of which much more next time.

Sub-national collaboration is also strong in Turkey, as Naz Ozkan, Koç University ANAMED Branch Librarian, showed us. She talked about Bibliopera, the Beyoğlu research centres network. Beyoğlu (historically known as Pera) is a region of Istanbul just across the Golden Horn from the old city. It’s home to a number of small libraries that punch well above their weight in research terms, two of which (those of the Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations (ANAMED) and the Netherlands Institute in Turkey we visited. Some of these libraries, such as those of the Swedish research institute in Istanbul and the Consulate General of Greece in Istanbul, are held within consulates, so used to be quite hidden from many potential users. In order to better promote their resources, it was decided to create a single web portal and union catalogue. It was particularly interesting to hear about the challenges to be faced in bringing together the catalogues of institutions that might be geographically close together, but which belong to union catalogues in different countries, and which may have to rely on IT staff located thousands of miles away.

On a larger scale, Burcu Muratoğlu spoke about ANKOS, the Anatolian University Libraries Consortium. ANKOS, a member of the International Coalition of Library Consortia (ICOLC), has more than 170 member libraries within Turkey, and is possibly unique in that it has no budget and is entirely staffed by volunteers. Despite this, they manage to achieve far more than just the mediation between vendors and universities for which the consortium was originally founded. As well as providing common policy agreement and increasing the purchasing power of its members, ANKOS also provides continuing staff education, exchange programmes, workshops, and more, through its ANKOS Academy. It also holds the yearly ANKOSLink conference, and oversees the Turkish National Union Catalogue (TO-KAT).

Emine Cengiz of Koç University mentioned ULAKBİM, the Turkish Academic Network and Information Centre, a governmental organisation that provides the infrastructure for research and education within Turkey – so, roughly analogous to our JISC and JANET.

Both Emine and Ertuğrul Çimen, MEF University Library Director talked about inter-library loans (ILL) within Turkey, the running of which has undergone a number of large changes over recent years, and which now seems to operate at a scale and efficiency to make Turkish academic librarians quite rightly proud. Previously, ILL worked through printed forms, faxes, a regular postal service, and email attachments, and suffered from a lack of usage, a long processing time, low service quality, and the absence of reliable statistics. Then, as mentioned above, ANKOS expanded from purchasing syndicate to so much more, and it was decided to overhaul the national ILL system. From this, KITS, the Interlibrary Loans Tracking System, was born.

KITS is a real-time, online, multi-user system, which operates under a GNU licence and is freely available to all ANKOS members. It includes an online filing system, request monitoring, comprehensive statistics, and the ability to add notes and to directly email users. An electronic document transfer tool, and more, have been added over the years. One of the many advantages of such a system is that the ILL loan policies of all participating institutions are declared and recorded centrally, for all users to know. It sounds brilliant, basically.

Finally, an example of a different type of collaboration. Kim Buschert from the University of British Colombia told us about her experiences working in partnership with the Canadian wine industry! A project was undertaken, with governmental support, to increase the brand recognition of Canadian wines, and it was recognised that universities could play a vital role in the process. Her library was key in providing project management, literature reviews and research, and venues for discussion. She was able to emphasise to collaborators the librarian’s role in providing trusted information, and of ways to use it effectively. She saw her role as an extension of the ‘embedded librarian’ model, and said that the employment of a librarian was viewed very positively by the wine industry as an alternative to taking on a consultant. She even suggested that such collaborations between government, industry, and higher education might provide new funding models for librarian positions in the future.

A lot to think about! If you survived this post, tune in next time for a look at Information Literacy provision across the world.


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