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Cutting Through the Institutional Repository Chaos

Institutional repositories (IRs) are all the rage in academic institutions, but they are not all created equal, and there are a significant number of issues that must be considered when creating one.  Frank Cervone, Information Technology Librarian at Northwestern University, helpfully tried to bring order out of the chaos in his presentation.

Libraries are moving into new roles related to information collection and must deal with a wealth of non-traditional materials.  Because of changes in the nature of scholarly communication and electronic publishing, they also have new roles in information dissemination.  Their role is no longer focused on just what happens in the library, but it has expanded to encompass the entire organization.  These trends have propelled libraries into the forefront of creating and managing IRs. 

A major concern of IRs is long-term access; consequently, each item in a repository must have a unique and persistent identifier to accommodate platform migrations.  Unfortunately, access is usually not a concern for the original creator.  However, good digital stewardship requires one to consider access right from informaiton creation.  And in transferring data to a repository, it is not sufficient to just transfer the bit stream; one must also preserve the internal structure and content layout.  Fortunately standards are available to help; one of the most relevant is the OAIS Reference Model.  There are also a number of software solutions and "toolkits", for example, LOCKSS, DSpace, E-Prints, and dPubs.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Informaton Today and CIL 2007 Blog Coordinator

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