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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

The World Digital Library Initiative

At the Library of Congress’s World Digital Library (WDL) initiative, they have a vision—to create a digital library from the world’s major cultures.  Keynoter John Van Oudenaren stressed that this is NOT a mass book digitization project, but one to promote international and intercultural understanding and awareness, provide resources for educators to match the needs of a globalized wireless world, acquire rare and unique content of interest to scholars and the general public.  Its partners are UNESCO, national libraries and other cultural institutions, and the technology community.  

Expecting to launch in September 2008, the WDL has an ambitious plan for acquiring content and constructing a sustainable international network.  The website will be designed to appeal to the new generation of Internet users, and it will feature multilingual content and searching capabilities, which is a highly complex undertaking.  Some other features include:

  • A high quality, fast, and seamless user experience
  • The ability to search and browse a large volume of content
  • Content in multiple formats
  • Educational content for teachers and students
  • Social networking features
  • Adjustments for developing-country conditions with low bandwidth infrastructures
  • Mobile device solutions

 See Jane Dysart’s post below for a link to the great video that John showed at the conclusion of his talk.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and CIL 2007 Blog Coordinator

Polaris Version 3.3 is In Production

Polaris Library Systems announced that its new version 3.3 of the Polaris Integrated Library System is in production and the company is working with several beta test libraries, including Pierce County Library System, Washington, and Fayetteville Public Library, Arkansas. John Richardson, director, library partnerships at Polaris kindly provided a demo for me of some of the new features—at their booth #118. He claims the new engine addresses many of the issues raised by Karen Schneider’s “OPACs Suck” posts. 
He said the company worked for more than 2 years on developing a brand new search engine. In fact, they rewrote the entire engine using Microsoft .NET architecture. New features include a “did you mean?” functionality (using an open source dictionary), relevancy ranking (using tag weighting), and faceted search capabilities (similar to what Endeca offers) for helping users to narrow and refine searches. It also uses AJAX technology to eliminate pop-up windows.  
There’s lots more to tell, so stop by the booth if you’d like to see it. Also, Mike McKenney, the ILS software engineer of Pierce County is giving a Cybertour presentation 11:30-11:45 AM on Wed. He’ll discuss how the library integrated the new Polaris engine into an existing content management system. Polaris also plans to offer some Webinars in early May—check their Web site.  
News Bureau Chief, ITI