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V I I . 6
C h a l l e n g e : D eve l o p i n g c o - o p e ra t i o n c a p i t a l
Co-operation capital is a key area to the success of cultural heritage institutions in the
networked environment.The many strategic partnerships and alliances developed in the
Internet business world in the last decade testify to the fact.While companies focus on their
core business and assets, they also form partnerships and co-operate with others to succeed
in new markets.Today, cultural and memory institutions will have to adapt to this concept.
It is not a completely alien concept to these institutions, in particular for libraries co-
operation has traditionally been central to many of their operations (e.g. OPACs, inter-
library loan systems).Yet, in the new environment they and other institutions face the
challenge to define the "digital commons", in for example building and offering shared
digital libraries or archives.
As Abby Smith, Director of Programs, CLIR, writes with regard to the library sector:
"Building digital libraries also puts libraries in a new relationship with one another in the
as-yet ill-defined digital commons. One thing this digital commons does not reward is
competition among libraries.The digital commons rewards co-operation in building
collections, in sharing resources, and in developing standards for interoperability." (Smith,
In discussing issues of co-operation, experts pointed to many opportunities co-operation
can bring to their institutions and the cultural heritage field in general.This chapter will:
describe shortly some general advantages of co-operation,
focus on the importance of co-operation in building rich environments for digital
cultural heritage,
and address the issue of cross-domain co-operation in the cultural heritage sector.
General advantages of co-operation
It is clear that co-operation has costs associated with it and that a cost-benefit analysis, if
anyway possible, might not in each case result in an overall gain.Yet, there are many
advantages that might or might not be directly linked to financial issues.
Strength in negotiations with commercial players
A major opportunity of co-operation lies in the strength it gives to institutions in dealing
with commercial players from the cultural industries."Co-operate, co-operate and co-
operate" is the conclusion and recommendation Charles Oppenheim, Professor of
Information Science, Loughborough University, UK, draws from a description of the strong
position library consortia can gain in negotiations with information industry players.
Strategies and tools of library consortia include for example, ability to bulk buy large
amounts of electronic information for a fixed fee (e.g. the National Electronic Site
Licensing Initiative service) or agreed statements of policy outlining principles by which
each library will abide by, e.g. with regard to appropriate subscriptions prices for electronic
journals. (cf. Oppenheim, 2000)
Legitimise existence and public funding
Co-operation is also seen to be a major factor in legitimising the existence and public
funding of cultural heritage institutions. In particular smaller institutions with special
subjects seem to experience a pressure to legitimise their existence and the work they do. As
Jan Baeke,Netherlands Filmmuseum, Amsterdam, describes the situation of an institution