E-Repositories in South Australia

Posted September 29th 2006 @ 12:00 pm by

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:

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 management

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.


  1. CW
    September 29, 2006 at 12:16

    Cheers, Corey – great overview of all the issues!

  2. neilgodfrey
    October 6, 2006 at 15:26

    Re the copyright question I am curious to know the state of play that Creative Commons has among Australian academia? The issues we have now are the consequence of legislation designed for different media and technologies and the long term solutions will be in a widespread shift of outlooks among all parties. A short term partial solution re repositories will lie in (a) academics learning to routinely submit their versions of papers to repositories and (b) academics being persuaded to maintain some measure of rights when they submit for publication. Both changes fall on those in the know, e.g. libarians, to be catalysts for education, I think.

  3. Peta Hopkins
    October 21, 2006 at 12:05

    Mark Sutherland and I are writing a conference paper for Information Online 2007 which will look at the factors that a small institution would consider in choosing between open source or off-the-shelf products for an institutional repository.

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