Archive | März 2015

Domestizierte Neuheit: Das Kreativitätsdispositiv und Öffentliche Bibliotheken

„The answer to one of your questions, though, is that I’m in love with all of you except the part I don’t like. That’s the part of you that’s like all the other girls I see. The part of you that thinks everyone – even Hunter – has to settle down sooner or later with a nine to five job and a mortgage on the house and two chrome-covered cars in every garage and a slew of stupid, happy neighbors and nothing to look forward to but eternal manipulation by forces you never took the trouble to understand. That’s the part of you I don’t like, and the part I’ll never like.” (Hunter S. Thomson, (Letter to Ann Frick, 1959), 1997, 176)

“Grundsätzlich basiert das Regime des Neuen, welches das Kreativitätsdispositiv in allen seinen Segmenten hervorbringt, auf der Struktur des Neuen als Reiz. Was zählt, ist die Hervorbringung und die Rezeption immer neuer, möglichst intensiver Reizereignisse, die jeweils allein in ihrer Gegenwart interessieren. Hier geht es nicht darum, besser zu sein, sondern anders.“ (Reckwitz, 2012, 327)

Die Hauptargumentation in Die Erfindung der Kreativität von Andreas Reckwitz (Reckwitz, 2012) lautet, dass sich beginnend spätestens in den 1960er Jahren und dann verstärkt seit den 1980er Jahren ein Kreativitätsdispositiv ausgebildet hätte, welches aktuell die gesellschaftlichen Sphären dominieren würde. Insbesondere würde es auf die Arbeitswelten und die Konstitution der Individuen wirken, aber nicht nur.

Dispositiv ist dabei, im direkten Anschluss an Foucault, als Anordnung wirkungsmächtiger Diskurse, Leitsätze und Moralvorstellungen zu verstehen, die durch gesellschaftliche Institutionen und Entwicklungen umgesetzt und in gewisser Weise als „selbstverständlich“ etabliert würden. (Foucault, 2000) Dabei ist diese „Selbstverständlichkeit“ von Dispositiven – bei Foucault die um Sexualität und Überwachung, bei Reckwitz das um Kreativität – immer geschichtlich erwachsen und auch als Antwort auf vorherige Krisen der gesellschaftlichen Moral zu verstehen. Das Kreativitätsdispositiv, welches Reckwitz nachzeichnet, ist als Reaktion auf eine tatsächliche oder wahrgenommene Motivationskrise der Angestellten und Arbeitenden, aber auch der Individuen in der gesamten Gesellschaft zu verstehen. (Ganz explizit versteht es Reckwitz als theoretische Weiterentwicklung der Arbeit von Chiapello und Boltanski, welche zwei Kritiktraditionen innerhalb des Kapitalismus ausmachten – die „Arbeiterkritik“, welche sich am Wert sozialer Gerechtigkeit orientiert und die „Künstlerkritik“, welche die Entfremdung durch Arbeit in den Mittelpunkt rückt – die sich über einen längeren Zeitraum gesehen regelmässig in ihrer Wirksamkeit abwechselnd würden. (Boltanski & Chiapello, 2003)) Und gleichzeitig sind alle Dispositive nicht so ewig, wie sie sich selbst präsentieren, sondern immer offen für Veränderungen – schliesslich haben sie immer andere Dispositive als vorherrschende abgelöst, insoweit ist immer die These zu stellen, dass auch sie abgelöst werden.

Gleichwohl sind die jeweils vorherrschenden Dispositive wirkmächtig: Sie werden benutzt, um Menschen, Strukturen, die Lebensgestaltung, die Arbeitsbedingungen und gesellschaftlichen Ziele zu definieren und zu bewerten; sie werden auch als Grundlage der Subjektivierung der Menschen vermittelt und also mehr oder minder von Menschen genutzt, um sich als Subjekte zu konstituieren. Insoweit sind Dispositive keine Pläne, den es gibt niemand, der oder die ihre Durchsetzung im Gesamt planen und steuern würde oder könnte; aber sie sind auch nicht nur unbedeutende Worte.

Kreativität als Normalfall

Das Kreativitätsdispositiv, dessen Entstehung Reckwitz nachzeichnet und das er als aktuell grundlegend begreift, setzt voraus: dass (a) alle Menschen kreativ wären und es auch sein wollen, das heisst dass sie alle Potentiale hätten, die es zu entwickeln gälte, (b) das dieses Streben nach Kreativität, also die Umsetzung der eigenen Potentiale, grundsätzlich motivierend wäre (und zum Beispiel von Firmen und Einrichtungen gefördert werden müsste, um wirtschaftlichen Erfolg zu haben, weil sonst die Mitarbeitenden unmotiviert wäre) und das (c) Menschen, welche ihre Kreativität nicht umsetzen, scheitern würden. Daraus ergibt sich in der Gesellschaft eine ständige Anforderung an Menschen, kreativ zu sein. Das muss nicht unbedingt heissen, Dinge zu schaffen (obwohl es das oft auch ist), sondern ebenso, den eigenen Alltag als ständige Möglichkeit zu begreifen, die Welt aufgrund ihrer Kreativität zu bewerten: Ist etwas neu und anregend (kreativ) oder nicht? Beispielsweise die Konsumangebote, das Lebensumfeld, die Urlaubsziele? Als kreativ und damit erfolgreich gilt, was anregt und Aufmerksamkeit erheischt.

Sichtbar ist, dass diese Anforderungen leicht zur Überlastung führen können, dass ihnen auch nur durch ständige Überbietung des schon Dagewesenen oder aber ständigem Interessenwechsel nachgekommen werden kann. Gleichzeitig wird, historisiert man den Anspruch an Kreativität – wie es Reckwitz tut – schnell sichtbar, wie sehr solche Aussagen, dass zum Beispiel alle Menschen potentiell kreativ seien und auch sein sollen, ein Dispositiv und keine „natürliche“ oder „selbstverständliche“ Aussage darstellen. Historisch wurde hier ein Bild, das noch ein Jahrhundert zuvor als abseitig und tendenziell krank galt – der einsame Künstler, das a-soziale Genie und so weiter – über mehrere Schritte ins Positive gewendet. Dies begann, wie die meisten Dispositive, von den Rändern der Gesellschaft her, ausgehend von Subkulturen (insbesondere seit den 1960er mit ihrer Kritik an der Konformativität der Gesellschaft und der „normalen Biographien“) und selbstgestalteten Avantgarden (vor allem in der Kunst), aber es wurde schliesslich erst gesellschaftlicher Mainstream und dann unhintergehbare Anforderung. Dabei geschah dies immer auch im guten Willen. Es geht nicht unbedingt (nur) um Vereinnahmung non-konformer Subkulturen, sondern tatsächlich darum, dass zum Beispiel die Wirtschaft, aber auch die Bildung, nach besseren Wegen suchte, die Individuen zu steuern und zu unterstützen (beim Produktiv sein oder beim ein-besseres-Subjekt-Werden).

Allerdings, darauf weisst Reckwitz recht weit am Beginn und noch einmal ganz am Ende seiner Studie hin, mit der Etablierung des Kreativitätsdispositiv einher geht eine Produktivmachung der Kreativität für die gesamte Gesellschaft. War bei Avantgarden (beispielsweise der Arts and Craft-Bewegung, dem Surrealismus, aber auch anderen) oder Subkulturen (zu denken ist hier beispielhaft an die Kommunebewegungen der 1960er und 1970er Jahre) die Kreativität immer in den Dienst einer Veränderung gestellt, ist sie heute ein Selbstzweck. Die Dadaistinnen und Dadaisten im Zürich 1915 wollten mit ihren kreativen Handlungen und der Gestaltung ihres Lebens die Kunst und darüber die Gesellschaft aufrütteln, schockieren, ändern und wurden deshalb auch zum Teil von der Gesellschaft abgelehnt; die Design-Studierenden, die heute, 2015, im gleichen Haus der Zürcher Altstadt im Cabaret Voltaire einkehren, müssen kreativ sein, um das Studium zu bestehen und darauf folgend im Arbeitsmarkt zu reüssieren – aber sie wollen es auch. Das Dispositiv, kreativ zu sein, ist ihnen im grossen Teilen zur Selbstverständlichkeit geworden. (Und nur, weil es der gleiche Ort und genau 100 Jahre später ist, ist es so offensichtlich.)

Formen des Neuen

Reckwitz unterteilt, was zum Verständnis der Veränderungen über die Zeit sehr hilfreich ist, das „Neue“, dass durch die Kreativität jeweils hervorgebracht wird, in drei Formen (Reckwitz, 2012, S. 44):

  • Neues I: Das Neue als Stufe (also als fortschrittliche Überwindung des jetzigen Zustandes, eine Form der Neuheit, die eine ständige Weiterentwicklung in Richtung einer besseren Entwicklung, einer besseren Gesellschaft oder einer besseren Kunst anstrebt; kurzum: eine Revolution oder zumindest ein grosser Schritt im Vergleich zum Vorhergehenden, der aber dann auch ein gewisses Ende bedeuten soll, egal ob der „International Style“ als „letztmöglicher Stil“ oder der Kommunismus als letzte Entwicklungsstufe der Gesellschaft).
  • Neues II: Das Neue als Steigerung und Überbietung (also ständige Verbesserung des Vorhandenen, insbesondere verständlich als neue Technik, die besser ist als die Vorhergehende oder naturwissenschaftlicher Fortschritt; kurzum: das, was in den Forschungs- und Entwicklungsabteilungen grosser Betriebe in den 1950er und 1960ern erarbeitet wurde, war dafür prototypisch, wobei es bei dieser Form des Neuen immer weiter geht, alles immer noch besser werden kann).
  • Neues III: Das Neue als Reiz (also das „neu-entdeckte“ Restaurant, die bislang unbekannte Strassenecke, das anregende Urlaubsziel oder das überraschend neuartige Essen; kurzum: ein Neues, das wenig verändert, ausser neue Veränderung – und wenn es die der eigenen Person ist – anzuregen).

Von oben nach unten gelesen wird „das Neue“ das durch Kreativität hervorgebracht wird, domestiziert. Oder auch anders gelesen: Die Kreativität wird in eine bestimmte Richtung hin interpretiert. Die Aufforderung an die Subjekte ist es, kreativ in diese eine Richtung zu sein: nicht etwas verbessernd (Neues II) oder gar grundsätzlich umstürzend (Neues I), sondern kreativ als ständige Anregung im Alltag. Die gesamte Gesellschaft wird damit argumentativ auf ständige Veränderung gestellt: Firmen, Einrichtungen, Städte, Menschen sollen in ständiger Bewegung begriffen werden und begreifen sich auch so – man denke nur an die regelmässig neu geschriebenen, fortgeschrieben und wieder über den Haufen geworfenen Strategiepapiere –, aber nicht, um etwas zu verändern, sondern weil andere Firmen, Einrichtungen, Städte und Menschen sich ständig verändern würden (und es unter dem gleichen Dispositiv auch tun). Damit wird Kreativität aber zu einem Selbstzweck, der das Leben tendenziell interessanter und offener macht (und wir leben ja auch in einer Gesellschaft, die, trotz aller Rückschläge, offener und interessanter ist als einige Jahrzehnte zuvor, obgleich nicht soviel auf der Kippe zu stehen scheint, wie Ende der 1960er – was aber dem unterschiedlichen Verständnis von „Neu“ nach nur konsequent ist), aber auch neue Formen der Scheiterns (persönlich und als Institution) etabliert: Wer nicht genügend Kreativität entwickeln kann, geht daran zugrunde – manchmal tatsächlich durch Krankheiten wie der Depression, deren rasante Verbreitung ganz offensichtlich in einen Zusammenhang mit den steigenden Ansprüchen, kreativ zu sein steht. (Vergleiche auch Menke & Rebentisch, 2010)

Das Neue und damit die Kreativität ist im aktuellen Kreativitätsdispositiv erst einmal nicht mehr umwerfend oder verbessernd, sondern „nur“ spannend oder interessant. Reckwitz (2013) bespricht ganz am Ende seines Buches Auswirkungen und mögliche politische Reaktionen auf dieses Dispositiv (unter anderem das Ausprägen einer Kreativität, die nicht auf Neues zielt oder sich dem „Anregenden“ verweigert – was in der zeitgenössischen Kunst zum Teil tatsächlich ausprobiert wird, womit sich ein gewisser Zirkel schliesst, weil diese Kunst sich wieder ausserhalb der gesellschaftlich prägenden Diskurse zu stellen versucht). In diesem Text hier aber, nach dieser Darstellung, einige Anmerkungen im Bezug auf bibliothekarische Fragen.

Öffentliche Bibliotheken und das Kreativitätsdispositiv

Auffällig ist, dass die Beiträge, die sich aktuell im deutschsprachigen Bibliothekswesen zu Makerspaces, Fablabs und ähnlichen Einrichtungen finden (u.a. Nötzelmann, 2013, Abresch, 2014, Meinhardt, 2014, Vogt, 2014), genau in dieses Dispositiv passen: In ihnen wird gemeinhin angenommen, dass die Menschen – vor allem die Jugendlichen – kreativ sein wollen und müssen. Daraus folgend müsse ein Raum geschaffen werden, welcher diese Kreativität ermöglicht. Ob diese Anforderung überhaupt vorliegt, wird in den Texten nicht wirklich thematisiert (in der Praxis sieht es etwas anders aus). Doch davon abgesehen ist die Kreativität, die in Makerspaces und ähnlichen Einrichtungen gefördert werden soll, überhaupt nicht auf irgendetwas Veränderndes abgestellt. (Dies ist in den Anweisungen zu Makerspaces sichtbar, die zumeist davon ausgehen, dass nach der Nutzung der Geräte und des Raumes alles wieder in den immer gleichen Normalzustand versetzt werden kann.) Es geht um Kreativität und Anregung um der Kreativität und Anregung willen. Einzig Vogt (2014) spielt kurz mit Verweisen auf die Start-Up-Szene in Köln auf eine mögliche wirtschaftliche Bedeutung des Makerspaces in Köln an. Grundsätzlich aber zielt die Kreativität nicht darauf, ein Neues II oder gar Neues I zu produzieren, sondern immer ein Neues III.

Das ist keine Besonderheit von Bibliotheken. Auch andere Makerspaces sind so eingerichtet und argumentativ begründet. Weitere Einrichtungen folgen dem gleichen Diskurs. Abresch (2014) diskutiert das Thema zum Beispiel explizit im Zusammenhang mit Schulen. Aber es ist auch auffällig, wie leicht diese Begründung akzeptiert wird, so als wäre sie selbstverständlich: Alle Menschen wollen kreativ sein. Das genügt einigermassen als Grundbegründung, obwohl es eben nicht selbstverständlich ist. Es ist etwas historisch neues, dass Kreativität so hoch geschätzt wird. Und es ist etwas, dass auch nicht per se gut sein muss.

Eine zweite Auffälligkeit ist, dass die Vorstellung der ständigen Veränderung um der Veränderung willen (beziehungsweise begründet mit der ständigen kreativen Veränderung der Gesellschaft und anderer Einrichtungen) in der Weise, wie Reckwitz sei zeigt, auch bei der Steuerung von Bibliotheken zu finden ist. Mehr und mehr Bibliotheken akzeptieren die Vorstellung, dass die gesamte Gesellschaft (egal, wie dies gefasst ist, und wenn es einfach nur als „Bedürfniss der Kundinnen und Kunden“ oder „wechselnder Konkurrenz“ behauptet wird) sich ständig verändern, wenn auch nicht radikal neu schaffen würde – halt Neu III – und darauf selber mit ständiger Veränderung zu reagieren sei. Diese Veränderung selber müsse kreativ, offen und anregend sein, und eben möglichst wenig starr auf reine Verbesserungen hin geplant (Neu II) oder gar radikal (Neu I) anders. Bezeichnend für diese Form der Steuerung sind Veränderungsprozesse, die als Projekte (vor allem in der Schweiz zum Teil sogar mit festen Projektstellen) gefasst sind, welche erfolgreich vor allem dann funktionieren, wenn sie das Mitdenken möglichst grosser Teile der jeweiligen Bibliothek anregen – also Kreativität einfordern und nutzen, gleichzeitig aber dadurch auch offener und partizipativer funktionieren, als Anweisungen „von oben“.

Ebenso bezeichnend ist der spezifische Diskurs von Innovation in Bibliotheken, wobei diese generell als Notwendigkeit vorausgesetzt zu werden scheint (oft begründet damit, dass Einrichtungen, die nicht innovativ wären, im Rahmen der sich ständig verändernden Gesellschaft untergehen würden) und gleichzeitig kaum klar ist, was Innovation im Rahmen von Bibliotheken bedeutet, abgesehen von neuen technischen Lösungen (die oft aber auch ohne den Begriff der Innovation, einfach als Weiterentwicklung, eingeführt werden könnten).

Zuletzt muss auch auf die strategischen Planungen, niedergelegt in regelmässig in kreativen Prozessen fortzuschreibenden Strategiepapieren, verwiesen werden, welche in den letzten Jahren (im deutschsprachigen Raum nicht nur, aber stark von ekz.bibliotheksservice beziehungsweise SBD.bibliotheksservice gefördert) einer wachsenden Anzahl von Bibliotheken als Notwendigkeit präsentiert wurde (wobei bekanntlich die Akzeptanz dieses Vorschlags in den Bibliotheken sehr unterschiedlich ist). Auch dieses Mittel der Steuerung, das darauf setzt, die Kreativität der jeweiligen Bibliothek – also des Personals – zu aktivieren und für sie zu nutzen, folgt dem Kreativitätsdispositiv: Es wird ständig Neues geschaffen, dass aber nicht umwerfend oder verbessernd, sondern fluide auf vorgebliche oder tatsächliche gesellschaftliche Ansprüche reagierend sein soll. Relevant ist auch, dass es als Vorschlag existiert, der umgesetzt werden kann – und nicht als Anweisung.

Damit präsentieren sich die Bibliotheken, anders als sie es vielleicht selber verstehen (zum Beispiel, wenn sie sich selber in Berufsbilddiskussion als zu wenig veränderlich und zu viel traditionell beschreiben), als Einrichtungen, die sich im Mainstream gesellschaftlicher Diskussionen und Entwicklungen befinden. Reckwitz (2012) weist zurecht daraufhin, dass das Benennen eines gesellschaftlich prägenden Dispositivs die Möglichkeit eröffnet, darüber nachzudenken, was die unintendierten Folgen dieses Dispositivs sind, was an ihm zu verteidigen oder abzulehnen wäre und auch, worauf dieses Dispositiv antwortet und ob diese Antwort die richtig ist. Damit beginnen mögliche politische Fragen – auch wenn es gerade nicht einfach möglich ist, sich ausserhalb des gesellschaftlichen Raumes zu stellen, den dieses Dispositiv hervorbringt. Das Befragen des Dispositivs und das Leben „im Dispositiv“ gehen einher, solange es aktuell ist. (Foucault, 2000) Bibliotheken scheinen – wie andere Einrichtungen auch – mitten im aktuellen Kreativitätsdispositiv situiert zu sein. Damit haben sie auch die Möglichkeit, dies aktiver zu gestalten, als einfach dem Dispositiv zu folgen. Sie können es ebenso gut ignorieren oder abstreiten, aber auch damit würden sie sich politisch verhalten. So oder so: „Kreativität“ (von Nutzerinnen und Nutzern) – genauso wie Innovation – kann nicht einfach als selbsterklärender Grund für Veränderungen oder strategische Entscheidungen angenommen werden. Das alleine würde nur soweit tragen, bis sich ein nächstes Dispositiv etabliert, welches versuchen wird, auf die Unzulänglichkeiten des aktuell vorherrschenden zu reagieren.

Literatur

Abresch, Sebastian (2014) / Bibliothek und Schule : Makerspace in der Praxis. 19 (2014) 2, 56-57, http://www.bibliotheken-nrw.de/fileadmin/Dateien/Daten/ProLibris/2014-2_ProLibris_WEB_01.pdf

Boltanski, Luc ; Chiapello, Ève (2003) / Der neue Geist des Kapitalismus. Konstanz : UVK, 2003

Meinhardt, Haike (2014) / Das Zeitalter des kreativen Endnutzers : Die LernLab-, Creatorspace- und Makerspace-Bewegung und die Bibliotheken. BuB 66 (2014) 6, 479 – 485, http://www.b-u-b.de/pdfarchiv/Heft-BuB_06_2014.pdf

Menke, Christoph ; Rebentisch, Juliane (Hrsg.) (2010) / Kreation und Depression : Freiheit im gegenwärtigen Kapitalismus. Berlin : Kulturverlag Kadmos, 2010

Michel Foucault, Michel (2000 [1978]) / Dispositive der Macht. Über Sexualität, Wissen und Wahrheit. Neuauflage. Berlin: Merve Verlag, 2000

Nötzelmann, Cordula (2013) / Makerspaces – eine Bewegung erreicht Bibliotheken. Bibliotheksdienst 47 (2013) 11, 873-876, http://www.degruyter.com/view/j/bd-2013-47-issue-11/bd-2013-0099/bd-2013-0099.xml?format=INT

Reckwitz, Andreas (2014 [2012]) / Die Erfindung der Kreativität : Zum Prozess gesellschaftlicher Ästhetisierung (suhrkamp taschenbuch wissenschaft ; 1995). 4. Auflage. Berlin : Suhrkamp Verlag, 2014

Thomson, Hunter S. (1997) / The Proud Highway : Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman 1955-1967 (The fear and Loathing Letters, Volume 1). New York : Ballantine Books, 1997

Vogt, Hannelore (2014) / Makerspace, Digitale Werkstatt und Geeks@Cologne : Ungewöhnliche Veranstaltungsformate in der Stadtbibliothek Köln. BuB 66 (2014) 4, 295-297, http://www.b-u-b.de/pdfarchiv/Heft-BuB_04_2014.pdf

What Could Be Gained From a Theory of Library Cooperation?

[Note: The publication of this text was declined by the journal it was written for – which most certainly is the right of the editors. Nevertheless, I do not have the time to rewrite the text; especially since I wrote this text nearly six months ago and my interests have shifted. So, before it goes unpublished, I just post it here. Not the best practice, I know.]

A point of departure: The complexities of Switzerland

Switzerland, where I work as a library scientist, is a strange, small, and complex country. Based on a highly decentralized system of 26 federal organized states – the cantons – and a strong autonomy of the municipalities, with four different language regions, and a long tradition of local self-government, it is a country that seems to constantly try to define itself anew in contradicting ways – both liberal and forward-looking at the one hand and proudly conservative and traditional minded on the other – and looking for a bonding centre. At the same time, most of the political and social debates are not carried out in the open, but behind the scenes, with several unspoken conventions. As Switzerland is one of the richest countries in the world, more often than not the solution for frictions between the states, municipalities or other institutions seems to be more money and autonomy given to some institution – despite an overall discourse of financial responsibility. This leads to different parallel institutions and discourses. For me – an East-German – not all of those social games are comprehensible, much of the debates probably even happen outside of my gaze.

This complexity structures the landscape of libraries and systems of library cooperation, too. Different forms of library cooperations exist and libraries seem to have a different position in different regions of Switzerland. The cooperative systems are variable as well and at the same time it is not easy to understand their inner workings. For instance: there is one library system in the canton of Ticino – “sistema bibliotecario ticinese” (sbt) – which includes nearly every library in that canton, no matter if university library, school library or public library. But in the neighbouring canton of Grisons there are different systems of cooperation. One, the regional cooperation, consists of public libraries of all three language groups of the canton (German, Italian, Romansh), but none of the libraries of the University of Applied Science, the University of Applied Pedagogy, the Theological High School or the Higher Vocational School, all situated in Chur, the largest town in the canton. At least the University of Applied Science in Chur is member of a larger cooperation – “Netzwerk von Bibliotheken und Informationsstellen in der Schweiz” (nebis) -, which includes academic libraries in the German speaking part of Switzerland and some in the bi-lingual regions. The public libraries of Grisons are also members of the “Ostschweizer Bibliotheksverbund”, a cooperation of public libraries in the German speaking part of Switzerland and the principality of Liechtenstein, which operates in German – except in Grisons, where libraries of Italian and Romansh-speaking communities are members as well. In the French speaking part of Switzerland, a separate library cooperation – “Réseau des bibliotheques de Suisse Occidentale” (RERO) -, exists, which includes nearly all libraries in that area, no matter which type of library. It all is a complex system, especially as this is just the structure. But what do those cooperations actually do? Who pays for what in those cooperations? Who governs it and how? This always is a complex question. Fortunately, I have colleagues from Switzerland who are more acquainted with the social forms of Swiss life, so I was able to figure out some of those questions in the years of my residence.

Translating as an eye-opening act

As one would imagine, such a system is not only complex, it is also fragile. When in the beginning of 2014 some of those cooperations seemed to make abrupt changes – always without a published notice, although “everybody” knew it – it made a colleague and me suspicious. Some of the cooperations of academic libraries tried to merge or at least find new forms of cooperation, one of the bi-lingual French/German cantons opted to leave the RERO. And this were just the changes we became aware of. Most likely there are other things happening. At the same time, there is a long tradition of failed attempts to establish one library cooperation for all of Switzerland, although this idea comes up again and again. (Dora, 2012; Neubauer, 1998)

We assigned ourselves to the task to help foster a more open debate between the Swiss libraries concerning their cooperation and wrote a short text about the coming changes of the library cooperations in Switzerland, laid out points of discussions we thought would be valuable points of departure for such a discussion and called for an open debate. (Schuldt & Mumenthaler, 2014) The text itself was published in German. When the editors of the journal we were publishing in asked for an English translation of the abstract, we encountered an unexpected problem: How to translate the form of library cooperations existing in Switzerland into English?

This is not a trivial question. The library cooperations in Switzerland tend to have different forms than library cooperations described in the library literature in other languages. In German they are called “Verbund” or “Verbünde” in plural. This name is used in Germany, Austria, and Liechtenstein, the three other countries with German as official language, too. Sometimes, they are translated into “consortia”, but that doesn’t really fit. “Konsortien” are used in German speaking libraries as a name for cooperations charged with the negotiations with publishers about ejournals, ebooks, and other electronic media. There is, for instance, a Swiss-wide Konsortium for academic libraries – in contrast to the failed nationwide cooperation of all libraries. If we would translate “Verbund” into consortia, how would we translate “Konsortium” then? We could translate “Verbund” into network, at least the sbt with its “sistema” and the RERO with its “Réseau” – both of which translate to “system” or “network” – in their names would suggest this. But then again: the “Verbünde” are not really networks, as they most often have a headquarter with more or less power. Sometimes – notably in the Verbünde in Germany – they even have a growing staff of IT-personnel. Is it still a network when such a headquarter exists?

Interestingly enough, the discussion about the right translation seemed to take the same length of time as the writing of the text alone – and seemed more profound. In the end, we stressed the importance of the union catalogues the “Verbünde” provide and settled with the construction “the landscape of union catalogues and their hosting consortia” (Schuldt & Mumenthaler, 2014) for the abstract. But this was just a compromise. The longer the discussion lasted the more it became clear, that library and information science lacks a theory and nomenclature of different forms of library cooperation. It is hard to compare the forms of cooperation in-between one country or a small number of countries – like Switzerland, Germany, Austria and Liechtenstein, which would be fitting because of the German language as common denominator – let alone cooperations of more diverse countries. But this is not all. When we took a look into the literature on library cooperations, we found quite different predictions about the outcomes of those cooperations, different ideas why those cooperations turned out the way they did and so on. We also found a tradition of library cooperation and library networks. They are not new, they are not a child of the information age and electronic publishing or electronic union catalogues. Those cooperations are somehow tied to their respective country – as I had to learn in Switzerland -, but all of them, in every country, seem complex and somehow confusing. (e.g. Blin, 2013) Complexity in library cooperation is not a feature of one country. Library cooperations, especially in larger contexts, are a field of many predictions, but few concrete empirical knowledge or theoretical sound reasoning.

I do not set out to produce such knowledge or theory in this article. Sure: It would have helped my colleague and me to predict the future development of the Swiss Verbünde, if such a tested theory of library cooperation exists. Likewise I do believe that such a theory would help to explain the outcomes, possibilities, struggles, and failures of library cooperations in the past and the future. But such a theory can only be a result of a wider debate in library and information science, which must also include empirical testing of the predictions made. What I try to do in this article is laying the ground for such a discussion. Based on the literature on library cooperation I will introduce topics that such a theory of library cooperation will have to tackle. Those topics tend to emerge nearly every time library cooperation is discussed and are usually not empirically tested or theoretical sound. At the end of the article I will try to answer the question if library and information science and the libraries itself will gain something from such a theory.

 

Literature review: A historical reminder

It is hard to track down the origins of library cooperation. And maybe it is not that important in the first place to find the prime example of cooperation. But it is worth mentioning that the discussion of library cooperations is not a new thing. In 1935 John Henry Pyle published an astoundingly extensive study of cooperation between libraries in different European countries, including democratic, monarchist, fascist, and communist countries. (Pyle, 1935) Even in his troubling times, he already envisioned that one day the whole bibliographic world would be interconnected internationally. For his time being, he concluded that (1) there were no international, but at best only national systems of library cooperation, (2) that an international library cooperation – including interlending between different countries – would have to be developed bottom up, and (3) that for the time being, the national libraries of the different countries should cooperate.

This book is interesting not only because of his historic value, but also because most of the topics that were covered later in time, when different forms of library cooperations were discussed in the years to come until now, were already covered in this study. Besides the vision of an interconnected bibliographic universe and library world, there is for instance the idea that efficiency and standardization should be the leading topics in every decision made concerning library cooperation. That may sound modern, but we can find it in different periods (Pyle 1935, Brummel 1965, Cook 1982, Binder 1990, Woodsworth & Wall 1991). This fact should concern us when we think about a theory of library cooperation: Nearly all the texts who set out to describe a good system of library cooperation declare something – efficiency and standardization – as vital, but nearly always also conclude that up until now – whenever this ‘now’ actually is – this efficiency and standardization has not been reached.

For whatever reason, this 1935 study still seems to be one of the most comprehensive studies on library cooperation. In the process of writing this text, I found myself more often than not come back to this book. For comparison, a recent roundup on European library systems organized and published by Frédéric Blin (Blin, 2013), while certainly interesting and more complete in number of the countries covered, does not give such a concise and systematic insight into the rationales behind library cooperation.

A publication comparable to the one of Pyle is the report on the preparation of union catalogues, published in 1956 by Leendert Brummel (Brummel, 1956). This book, written with an international perspective – or at least the perspective of the Global North and the socialist states of Brummels’ time -, reminds us that much of what we would perceive as extremely recent relating to library cooperation has actually been thought and talked about for decades. For instance, Brummel talks about a world of library cooperation that has the tendency to become closer tied over time on a national and international level – years before the internet and in times of high political tension.

Another batch of studies that I found very helpful when thinking about a theory of library cooperation are the investigations of Nadia Caidi on the projects to establish national union catalogues in Eastern-European countries and South Africa in the late 1990s. (Caidi 2003, 2004a, 2004b) Initiated and paid mainly by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, projects in Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Latvia, Estonia and South Africa tried to establish such catalogues. Caidi undertook the task to examine those projects and tried to come up with explanations on the very different outcomes and project processes. She described the catalogues as “social artefacts”, where the technological solutions are just a small part of the total outcome. More defining for the success and shapes of the resulting union catalogues were factors of power, knowledge, national traditions of library systems, local resources, and social conflicts between and within libraries. The investigations of Caidi reminds us that the forms and shapes of library cooperations are always different – some more and some less – and that they are almost always results of social processes. If we don’t take this into account, we would find ourselves probably always wondering, why we do not just have one perfect worldwide system of library cooperation yet, as this would seem to be the most efficient solution.

A recent text of Paul M. Blobaum (Blobaum 2014) on a Hospital Library Consortia in Chicago recalls another important fact: discussions and projects about library cooperations have taken place for a long time, different forms have been tested, evolved, organised and abandoned. He reports on a consortia in Chicago that exists for more than 45 years, although such consortia of hospital libraries are not discussed in the literature anymore. Cooperations of different shapes, forms and with different functions do exist. It seems that libraries tend to cooperate, no matter what, but in very different forms. Ren (Ren 2014) examines such different forms of cooperation between public libraries in the state of New York. A theory of library cooperation would have to tackle the question, why and how libraries choose their specific forms of cooperation.

 

Essential topics of a theory of library cooperation

In what follows, I try to map out essential topics a theory of library cooperation will have to include. I will shortly discuss those topics, mostly to show their complexity and why quick and short answers usually don’t satisfy.

Functions and forms of library cooperation

The functions, tasks, structures and forms of library cooperation are manifold. Although some of the cooperations start with a clear focus and set of functions, these foci seem to shift and functions seem to be integrated, shared, dropped or refocused. This is positive trend, as such the cooperations can adjust themselves to changing environments. But it also leads to very different forms of cooperation and, it would seem, to very different requirements for the members of the cooperation.

It would be a great help if a nomenclature, based on the reality of library cooperations, could be established. A good model for such a nomenclature could be the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED), provided by the UNESCO. (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2012) ISCED offers a map for comparing the educational systems of different nations that integrates as much as possible different forms of educational organisations. One concern for ISCED is the fair representation of those institutions. A nomenclature of library cooperations comparable to ISCED would include:

  • forms of cooperations of different size (from local to national or international, from a few libraries to virtually all libraries of the world) and different types of libraries
  • different levels of formality (from completely informal cooperations to established structures with their own spacial infrastructure and governing bodies, like the German and Swiss “Verbünde” mentioned above)
  • it would allow the assignment of different functions to the different forms of cooperation (such as, but not limited to, interlibrary lending, union catalogues, shared projects like digitization, policy making and enforcing, standardization, management and maintaining of electronic systems, and consortia in connection to electronic media, printed media or library furniture)
  • different forms of organization of cooperation (from decentralized to highly centralized)
  • it would not be designed exclusive, but would allow every library to be part of different cooperations in different roles
  • it would manage to reveal the different roles of member libraries of those cooperations and of different forms of governance
  • Another important question, which is of absolute importance although only seldom researched, is the provision of money, time, personnel and infrastructure: Who is paying what and why, who does what? (Some functions of library cooperation suggest that personnel with special competencies is needed, for instance personnel with a background in computer science, bibliographic work or law. Who selects this personnel and why? Who pays their salary? Does this personnel accumulate power in its position?)

Some authors already tried to sketch out models of library cooperation that could be used as starting points for such an nomenclature. Woodsworth and Wall (Woodsworth & Wall, 1991, 1-5) name library networks, library cooperatives, consortia, bibliographic networks and regional networks as types of library cooperations. As shown above, those types do not include all types possible. For instance Swiss or German “Verbünde” can’t be integrated fully into those types (Homes & Kamp, 1998), so did the Danish form of a national library agency run by the Danish government (Mäkinen, Moseid & Wagman, 2013) or the Finnish consortium of public libraries which is a more or less involuntary network of libraries headed by the Ministry of Education. (Ketonen, 2014)

Woodsworth and Wall also name four types of governance: (1) totally decentralized networks (in form of a star), (2) totally decentralized networks with irregular patterns, (3) distributed centralized networks, and (4) hierarchical networks. (Woodsworth & Wall, 1991) Such a segmentation is a good starting point, too.

Furthermore, a theory of library cooperations would go beyond such a nomenclature. It would try to give reasons for the different forms of cooperation and would try to explain the outcomes of such diversity. Thereby such a theory should not try to declare one form of cooperation or a small set of such as the best possible solution. It is apparent, that libraries in different countries have formed different forms of cooperations, based on their needs, traditions and anticipated outcomes. Most of the cooperations running are results of long learning processes. They seem to fit their respective society and their respective libraries. If they doesn’t suit their environment, libraries would look for other forms of cooperation, as is apparent in the changes in Switzerland mentioned above. A theory should take all of the existing and proposed forms of library cooperation seriously. We don’t have to ask for the best form of library cooperation, as such is probably always an outcome of a specific local situation at one time. Instead, we have to ask, why specific libraries choose specific forms of cooperation.

What encourages library cooperation and what obstructs it?

If we look both at the landscapes of library cooperations and on texts concerning the hopes for efficient library cooperation, the reality becomes baffling. Library cooperations seem not to follow clear patterns. Except when they do. But even in those cases we usually find some exceptions. Again, the Swiss and German Verbünde are a good example. Switzerland has four language regions and most of the public institutions either follow the lines of these regions – although the smallest one, Romansh, seems to get “forgotten” a lot and is usually served as part of the German language region – or serve the whole country. With this background, how are the Verbünde organized? As mentioned before, two of them – the sbt and the RERO – follow those language borders closely but not completely, whereas in the German (and Romansh) language region, several networks exist without a clear pattern. If we take a look at Germany – a country with one national and some minor languages, but without explicit language regions – we find another confusing picture: seven different Verbünde, although there are 16 German states. Those German library networks don’t follow the borders of the states, except in some cases they do. One of them consist of three enclaves; one important library in Berlin did not belong to the same Verbund as every other academic library in the states of Berlin and Brandenburg, but to another Verbund. Is it all random? Certainly not, as other Verbünde follow distinctive borders, e.g. the Bavarian library network. To make this more complex: Both, in Switzerland and Germany, libraries do cooperate in projects on a national level beyond the Verbünde.

This inconsistent picture holds true for nearly every form of library cooperation. If we examine the reality, there is always some baffling strict consistency and some baffling exception. Why do certain libraries join certain forms of cooperation? Why not all of them – as the discourse on efficiency would suggest -, especially if they do cooperate on other occasions? The more we look into those local and national realities, the more possible answers occur, nearly all supported by evidence of existing library cooperations, but also contested by other library cooperations, whose existence could not be explained by this certain answers. Among such answers are:

  • Reasons of technical nature, like the amount of data that could be transported electronically in the early days of library software. (Cook, 1982)
  • Reasons of politics or policy like state borders, laws, language regions, or funding decisions, sometimes made outside of the sphere of library systems itself (Caidi, 2004b). In particular for the last point, there are more than one example of cooperative efforts, triggered by grants from outside of the library systems, which effectively ceased to exist after the money run out.
  • Types of libraries that can or can not cooperate, e.g. school libraries which sometimes form parallel associations outside of existing library systems. (Blobaum, 2014)
  • The functions that such a library cooperation should accomplish, e.g. negotiations with publishers on a national level which leads to libraries cooperating in specialized consortia which otherwise would not.
  • Reasons of governance, as good or bad governance is quite often the topic of texts concerned with the realities of library cooperation. (Newcombe, 1937; Goran, 1982; Caidi, 2004b)
  • Reasons of autonomy, both the autonomy of libraries which can be limited in a library cooperation – e.g. when big libraries dominate a cooperative institution and smaller libraries find it hard or impossible to make their voices heard – and the autonomy of institutions formed in context of library cooperations, like – again – the institutional bodies of the Swiss and German Verbünde.
  • Reasons of scale, for instance: How many libraries can and should a cooperation serve and / or include? Is there a maximal or minimal number? Does this number depend on the kind of cooperation and if so, why?
  • Cultural traditions of the countries where the cooperation takes place. Is, for instance, the library scene in Switzerland and Germany oriented towards formal organizations because of a more state-oriented culture in those countries than in the USA? Quite a lot of Swiss librarians would disagree, as Switzerland sees itself as quite liberal, but then again there is the formal structure of the Swiss Verbünde as a counterargument.
  • Question of why and by whom certain cooperation was initiated. Are they bottom-up or top-down processes? Did a institution (e.g. foundations, the state or political entities) trigger certain cooperation? Is there a “pressure of facts”, e.g. when all countries in one area of the world but one maintain national union catalogues, does this trigger the development of such an union catalogue in this specific country?
  • Personal preferences, animosities or perceptions of those in power to decide on library cooperation.
  • Cooperations as traditions, which are perpetuated although the problems they solved vanished or have been solved.

Again: A theory of library cooperation would try to explain the influence of such topics for the reality of library cooperations, leaving aside the urge to formulate a perfect solution or looking for someone or something to blame for certain unsatisfactory situations. If we take a lesson from the sociology of organizations, we could interpret the landscapes of library cooperation and the institutions, structures, formal and informal rules of governance of this cooperations as an outcome of decisions made on different levels, for different reasons and with different hopes and perceptions, forming structures which are fitted exactly to produce the effects they are creating. (Caidi, 2004a)

Such effects should again not be reduced to questions of efficiency. It would be another task of a theory of library cooperation to formulate identifiable effects of different cooperations. E.g. sometimes just being member of a library network could be such an effect, as it certifes the library as a professional organisation.

Finally, a theory of library cooperations would be task to answer the question, why, when and how library cooperations end. Some cooperations end abruptly, but a much greater number just seems to vanish to be not mentioned again. Do the rationalities behind those cooperations cease to exist? Did a cooperation has a common lifespan? Are there any regularities of the life and end of library cooperations? If so, can we use them to predict the lifespan of such cooperations?

Why do some libraries choose to be members of certain cooperations and some do not?

When we can look at the landscape of library cooperations from the birdseye view, we can look at it from the microlevel of the sole library, as well. What causes a library to become a member of a library cooperation? How does a library come to the decision to become a member, what did a library expect from that membership, how does it engage in the cooperation? Who actually does the work of cooperation – e.g. visiting meetings, disseminate information, handling books for interlending – in the sole library? And why do some other libraries choose not to engage in certain cooperations?

Again, this is not a trivial question. If all forms of library cooperations were efficient and if all a library wants is to be an efficient organization, the answer would be easy, as every library would basically check the perceived outcomes of a membership of a library cooperation for themselves and then act accordingly. A theory of library cooperation would then be able to forecast such decisions and help shape cooperations in a manner that would be most efficient for the maximum number of libraries. As we know from experience, this is not the case. Like the actual landscape of library cooperations, some of the membership-decisions of libraries seem to be explainable with perceived outcomes, whereas others don’t. From the perspective of a theory, it would be more promising to understand every library as a distinct institution with its own culture, perceptions and processes of decision-making.

One important question would be how libraries perceive institutions that, once founded as collaborative institutions, become increasingly self-sustaining and losing contact with the founding libraries. This seemed to have happened with the library network in the French part of Switzerland, RERO, where one canton chose to leave the network, most likely because the libraries of this canton felt that they could not influence the decisions of the network anymore. (Schuldt & Mumenthaler, 2014)

A theory of library cooperation would ask questions such as:

  • What level of autonomy libraries have to have to make which decisions concerning library cooperation?
  • Does a library perceive itself as part of a system or as a lone institution with links to other institutions? Do libraries – and in which forms of cooperation – tend to look more “inside” (institutional conservatism) or “outside” themselves when thinking about cooperation?
  • Some discussions concerning standardization asked if some forms of standardization are more harmful than helpful, e.g. by interfering with the solutions of local libraries. (Cook, 1982, 1) The same could be asked concerning library cooperation. Is there a point of “too much cooperation” or “too little cooperation”?
  • What influence do different characteristics of the library personnel (e.g. education, age, role in the library) have on cooperation?
  • Do the libraries in a certain cooperation share the same goals or norms? Do they establish such goals or norms in the lifetime of the cooperation? Or do they follow different goals, thereby using the cooperation for different means, e.g. some libraries for cost-saving reasons, some libraries out of a sense of responsibility and others for the betterment of their services? (Newcombe, 1937)

What is the role of the users?

Another important question is that of the role of the users. Users usually don’t appreciate library cooperation and most likely don’t really care about the cooperation a library is engaged in, as long as everything they need works. But libraries do justify their action more often than not with the interests of their users. For decades, nearly every text about library cooperation insists that the sole reason for cooperating is the profit of the user. Union catalogues, interlibrary loan, digitization projects and collaborative licences are all designed to give the users a better, wider, more individualisable access to media. (Again, this rationale can be traced back to Pyle, 1935) But then, in the process of collaborating, sometimes the interests of the users seem to be put in the background and other concerns evolve. The already cited work of Caidi (Caidi 2003, 2004a, 2004b) on the establishment of union catalogues in Eastern Europe and South Africa shed some light into different struggles, conceptual models, discussions and power struggles, that pushed the question which solution would gain the users most in the background.

If everything in library cooperation would be decided with the user in mind, library cooperation wouldn’t be so diverse and it would be possible to outline a perfect form of library cooperation. But, once more, this is not the case. Besides all other debates, there still seems to be no consent about what is best for the users. Probably, the different types of libraries have different users and user needs in mind, but that does not explain every difference in the landscape of library cooperations. It is on the other hand highly unlikely that the needs of the users get completely forgotten.

A theory of library cooperation would try to find the perceived and the actual interests of the users in the reality of library cooperations. It would also try to find traces of the power of changing user needs. Libraries are constantly concerned with the question what their future users will ask for. The rush towards electronic media and library consortia maintaining those media is only the last attempt to fulfill these needs in a long line of such efforts. But which changes in library cooperation are really caused by the needs of the users?

 

Conclusion: What could be gained from a theory of library cooperation?

A theory of library cooperation can produce more than just interesting intellectual challenges or the search for “best practices” and guidelines. It could permit insights into the inner workings of library systems, especially into questions of long-term developments and effects of library cooperations. Library and information science tends to understand libraries as institutions relatively autonomous from their surrounding, although libraries – as well as other institutions – become more and more interconnected with their environment, other libraries and institutions. A theory describing the inner workings of libraries and library cooperations would allow to understand libraries as interconnected organizations, affecting each other in the process of cooperation.

Such a theory would also lead to more realistic expectations on functionalities of library cooperation. Up until now, quite a lot of writings on library cooperations tend to seek the highest possible form of efficiency – although it is not always clear, what ‘efficiency’ in the particular context means -, notwithstanding that library cooperation nearly always fails to fulfil those expectations. A theory of library cooperation, based on the history and reality of such cooperations, would allow a different view. When those networks of libraries are not only perceived from the perspective of technical possibilities and wishes of the managerial personnel but also as social systems, the limits of the libraries, library personnel and networks can be included into the clarification of their inner workings. We could gain insights into the phenomenons of failures of ambitious plans and “underperformance” – in relation to the expectations voiced in concepts of library networks and cooperative projects – of library systems.

Furthermore, such a theory could enable the library and information science profession to connect their object of investigation – libraries and their cooperations – with theories, methods and insights from sociological studies, above all the sociology of organizations. A field like library and information science, always on the look for a clear position in between different fields of sciences, can only profit from such an interdisciplinary endeavour.

It should be clear that such a theory could not be created from the experience of one country alone – although the Swiss example proved to be a useful point of departure -, but would need the input and testing of a lively community of researchers. This text should be understood as a call for such a collaborative work.

 

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