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 So, before it goes unpublished, I just post it here.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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