Last Wednesday I was fortunate to be able to attend a seminar on E-Repositories presented by the ALIA Information Science SA and the Joint University Library Staff Development Group, which is a collaboration between the three Universities here in Adelaide.
The speakers were:
- Katie Blake, from the ARROW Project
- Jenny Quilliam, from the University of South Australia
- Amanda Nixon, from Flinders University
- Steve Thomas, from the University of Adelaide
It was an excellent afternoon and I came away with a full page of notes and things to think about. Some of the issues I’d like to highlight here.
Vendor Support vs. Community Support
There was some discussion about the benefits of vendor support vs. the benefits of community support. Of the four speakers two were talking about the ARROW project and the associated commercial VITAL software from VTLS. The others concentrated on DSpace, which is an open source application. This is an interesting area which I think could be explored further. For example, in what circumstances would an organisation choose a commercial product over an open source product, and what benefits do they perceive as gaining by making such a choice?
Creating a sense of ownership
There continues to be a debate, often heated, about how content in a repository should be organised. Should it be organised into strict collections that reflect the structure of the institution, or should it be more “organic” and driven by those submitting to the repository. By having those submitting to the repository design the structure a sense of ownership can be developed and this can in turn assist in gaining acceptance of the repository. Others feel that such a structure will make data migration more complex at a future date and makes it harder to find content. I look forward to watching both systems of organisation evolve.
Copyright is a very big issue with repositories. Strategies need to be put into place to assist those submitting items to the repository to ensure that the content they add is copyright cleared. One example provided during the seminar was a collection of over 30 documents that were submitted for inclusion. Unfortunately only a small fraction could be used because they were publisher copies which are not allowed for inclusion in a repository by some publishers.
Access Controls and Embargos
Considerations such as the following are increasingly being thought about:
- What do you do with items that should be made available to the university community only?
- What do you do with items that are commercially sensitive and should not be made public?
- What do you do with items that can not be put into a repository now, but can in the future once an embargo period has passed?
There are no “hard and fast” rules for addressing these issues and they are, I suspect, going to need to be addressed by all universities that have repositories. These types of issues are particularly relevant to universities in Australia who are trying to come to terms with the impending Research Quality Framework.
Handles and persistent identifiers
The issue of handles was raised. A handle, or other persistent identifier, essentially provides a layer of abstraction between the repository and the URL used to retrieve a specific item. It is useful in ensuring the item has a URL for the entire life of the item. If, for example, a university changed repository solutions the URL used to gain access to the repository may change. By updating the record in the handle system for the item the handle URL will continue to be valid. A similar persistent identifier scheme is the Digital Object Identifier.
I would like to take this opportunity to offer my thanks to the speakers, and to those that organised the day. I think all of the participants gained something from attending.