Embracing the Perfect, Imperfect Project – harnessing Local & Family History Collections and Collaboration in South Australia.

In 2021, the State Library of SA (SLSA) in partnership with LibrariesSA Network embarked on an ambitious project to deliver improved collaboration for discovery and access of local and family history collections (otherwise known as local studies) in South Australia. The plan was to implement a new framework and digital platform designed to collect, connect and share South Australia’s stories by bringing together state-wide local knowledge and curating the exploration experience.

Sounds like the perfect project, right? That is until you consider the wants and needs of complex stakeholder groups, insecurity about customer benefits and challenging the status quo. There is never a perfect time to launch a project, but with an endorsed project brief and a healthy dose of determination the project set about tackling problems to solve and adapting to changing circumstances. An agile approach to the project was adopted early with the project brief re-written and scope re-aligned.

Although the budget and timeframes were clearly defined, this approach did allow for learning and discovery along the way. The intended project outcomes had not changed, the means of getting there did. A key element of the framework has been to leverage the expertise of the SLSA and LibrariesSA professional staff to improve community outcomes and reduce inconsistency in services. This has expanded the scope of the project and required the formation of new partnerships. In doing so we had to consider how we work together differently and what this may mean for the future. With solid preparation and investigation, the project plan has been implemented. Although not all mistakes have been avoided, the project is much closer to achieving its initial goals.

With the support of the SLSA Executive, and endorsement and funding from the Libraries Board of South Australia the project team has been trusted to take measured risks, to be adaptive, ask for help to explore new possibilities.

Jo Cooper

Project Manager, State Library of South Australia

Author Bio

Jo Cooper is the Project Manager – One Card 2.0 at the State Library of South Australia (SLSA). Jo has a passion for driving innovation and excellence in the field. With over 25 years’ experience in libraries, and working on complex projects, Jo has successfully led numerous initiatives that have transformed library operations and services.

Jo’s expertise lies in strategic planning, and stakeholder management, risk assessment and evaluation, enabling her to navigate challenges and deliver projects on time and within budget. Her strong leadership skills and ability to inspire and motivate teams have been instrumental in achieving great outcomes. She believes in the power of collaboration and actively seeks opportunities to partner with stakeholders to enhance library offerings.