RLI 283 Metastatic Metadata 34 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC 2013 Collaboration, however, means more than top-down mentoring. In several ways, UPP participants were encouraged to help themselves by helping others. SCUA began, for example, by seeding a local authority file to facilitate consistency among participants, but asked UPP participants to refine, correct, and extend the file as they went along. More importantly, SCUA encouraged participants to contribute to a project e-mail list where anyone could post—or answer—questions regarding content, strategy, standards, or technology. Although SCUA staff members took part, a handful of UPP participants rose to the challenge and rendered highly effective service to their peers, crossing departmental boundaries with abandon. The ultimate impact of UPP, the authors hope, lies as much in facilitating a culture of cooperation on digital work as in facilitating digital skills. Communal Purpose Intentionally small in scope and simple in design, the UPP trained a total of 26 volunteers in three sessions, of whom 17 completed at least one box and four reenlisted for a second session. Only one-third of volunteers came from the professional ranks, although professionals comprise over 40 percent of the aggregate staff. Given the heavy workload in the library and reluctance to enforce participation, SCUA anticipated that some individuals would not be able to fulfill their five-hour weekly shift—many could not—and others would drop out. Five of the nine professionals failed to complete a session. The day-to- day pressure of work simply overwhelmed good intentions. For all the effort, however, two measures of productivity stood out. First, UPP participants corrected and encoded approximately 3,100 images during the project, over 180 for each person who completed the course and second, nearly 20 percent of the libraries’ total staff volunteered to take part. The stellar performance of the paraprofessional contingent was particularly noteworthy, as was the generous support they provided for one another. For them, UPP represented a respite from their regular workday and an opportunity to contribute directly to the libraries’ future. Participants singled out the collaboration, hands-on mentoring, and support for acquiring new skills as critical to their experience. Rather than fear change, paraprofessionals embraced it. One staff member even continued to volunteer three months after the end of UPP. Given the limited duration of the project and its voluntary nature, and given the limited time commitment of participants and the emphasis on training, the modest productivity of this experiment seemed reasonable. A Versatile, Collaborative Workforce Reflecting on this experience, the authors speculate that one of the implicit factors in the success of UPP was the quiet extension of the staffing model employed in SCUA to the rest of the library. Like most special collections departments, SCUA is not so flush with staff that it can afford to dedicate individuals to discrete functions. In fact, SCUA has consciously rejected such specialization in favor of having curators who engage in the full range of departmental activities, and SCUA has sought to build a departmental culture emphasizing versatility, cross-training, collaboration, entrepreneurship, and collective problem solving. The reasoning is simple: Skills in modern libraries are highly integrated and top-flight service demands functional experience across regimes. The demands of the future workplace require a flexibility
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