Memorandum of Understanding Workshop: Creating a Process for Successful Digital Collaboration




Currier, Brett D.
Mirza, Rafia
Williamson, Peace Ossom

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When working on digital projects, it is necessary to utilize experience in various departments within and outside of the library. A planning document called a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) serves as an agreement between all stakeholders, which will likely include multiple library departments. In order to set expectations, an MOU can assist in the following ways: (1) Evaluating current and potential infrastructure; (2) Determining whether funding is needed or available, (3) Establishing clearly demarcated responsibilities and outcomes for each individual participant, (4) Accounting for and settling potential disagreements, and (5) Serving as a project management plan.

Many faculty members, librarians, and other higher education staff members have experience working individually on projects, but not large scale, multi-phase, interdepartmental, collaborative projects that require project management as a priority. The goals of this workshop are to introduce participants to a method of project management suitable for digital projects, to provide participants with the opportunity to practice the negotiations necessary for creating common ground around digital projects, and to supply participants with documentation that they can adapt for use in their institutions. This workshop will begin with the presenters introducing the MOU template (licensed under a CC-BY-NC-SA), followed by a presentation and discussion of its structure, where each section will be described. Participants will be able to ask questions about the document in order to begin work on their own MOU. After choosing between an MOU for a Data Services Project, Digital Humanities Project, or Scholarly Communications Project, the participants will spend time developing their draft MOU. Each presenter will lead in providing guidance for participants working on MOUs for the area of focus that falls under his or her expertise. The presenters will provide common questions or perspectives of outside stakeholders, and participants will work through common pitfalls and troubleshoot and negotiate problems with an example patron. Each participant will leave with a Memorandum of Understanding Workbook, which includes an executive summary, a MOU template, an example workflow, a document to track estimate of university support, and explanatory documents for all of the above and will have completed an example MOU around one of the three subject areas. Sample Activity: After the Workbook has been presented to attendees, each presenter will walk a group through writing an MOU on a project based on their expertise. Based on the presenters’ experience, they will emphasize the iterative and collaborative nature by presenting common issues that arise through each step of the process. Participants of each group will write a memorandum of understanding based on the template. After progress has been made on writing the draft, presenters will then present common pitfalls, roadblocks, and objections. Participants will learn how to account for the following issues: party disengagement, third party stakeholders who are not parties to the MOU, and gold-plating – which is the act of giving the partner more than what they originally asked for. Attendees will be then be given the opportunity to work through those issues with their groups.


Workshop presentation slides for the 2016 Texas Conference on Digital Libraries (TCDL).