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Partners of Equals – Libraries “Mixing Molecules” Successfully with Private Organizations
  • Win Shih

Libraries and information services have a long history of forming joint ventures or partnerships with private organizations to advance services and resources. Such alliances at once boost and boast competitive advantages as described by Professor Michael Porter of Harvard Business School, including maximization of individual resources, access to collective technology and skilled human assets otherwise prohibitively expensive and precarious to obtain solo, along with minimization of operating expenses as well as minimization of risk.

Furthermore, within such close-knit and symbiotic relationships, participants share information and expertise freely and fluidly. Information, innovation, knowledge and technologies are transferred efficiently amongst participants within a “partnership arrangement.” Moreover, technology and knowledge “spillovers” or “externalities” from one participant to others can flower along sometimes unanticipated avenues.

Having said this, partners with differing interests, expectations, or even organization cultures are prone to undermine collective efforts, fostering potential discord and conflict. Within technology-based projects, for example, libraries might lose control of their technological direction, skills and “know-how.” Thus it is critical that libraries recognize and understand fully the comprehensive scope and cumulative range of any partnership with private enterprises much sooner, rather than later, when entering into a “partnership of equals”-style agreement.

Throughout this presentation, we will analyze the synergistic relationships of a few well-known, large-scale, and technology-centric library and industry project partnerships. Specifically, we will examine the issues and concerns of the “Google Book Search” project (, “Google Scholar” (, and the “Open Content Alliance” ( led by Microsoft and Yahoo. We will also discuss ramifications and results of empirical studies of several Open Access movement projects, including PubMed Central (, BioMed Central (, and the Public Library of Science ( Finally, we will focus on the impact of a few Open-Source-based, integrated library systems and applications, such as Evergreen (, Koha (, and VuFind (

  • Partnership
Publication Date
Citation Information
Win Shih. "Partners of Equals – Libraries “Mixing Molecules” Successfully with Private Organizations" WORLD LIBRARY AND INFORMATION CONGRESS: 74TH IFLA GENERAL CONFERENCE AND COUNCIL (2008)
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