Columbia and Cornell Libraries Announce ‘Radical’ Partnership

Collaboration is old news. “Radical collaboration” is the way of the future. That’s the idea behind a new partnership announced by the libraries at Columbia University and Cornell University.

Called 2CUL (pronounced “too cool”) after the partners’ acronyms, the project will first focus on how the libraries can jointly transform their operations (and save money) in three areas: managing electronic resources and other nuts-and-bolts library work, building global-collecting capabilities, and creating a digital-preservation infrastructure. Those “mass-production activities” will require developing a shared library-management system “in which we would both be able to see and work seamlessly,” said James G. Neal. Mr. Neal is vice president for information services and university librarian at Columbia.

Although it is in no way a merger, the venture will require Mr. Neal to work hand in glove with Anne R. Kenney, the university librarian at Cornell. In an interview, Ms. Kenney said that “the developement of personal ties and trust is really critical” if 2CUL is to succeed. “We’re going to have to find ways to redirect our resources and be very innovative together,” Mr. Neal added. As “Empire State Ivies” with extensive collections, strained finances, and a history of sharing ideas, Columbia and Cornell are natural partners, the librarians said.

As for seed money, 2CUL has been given a $385,000 planning grant by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Ithaka group, a nonprofit organization that helps promote the use of technology in higher education, has been recruited to help plan and manage the partnership. “This is a ripe opportunity for research libraries, but it could also be infectious for other parts of the academy,” Ms. Kenney said.

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