Monday, June 15, 2009

Institutional Repositories

Institutional repositories (IRs) are the focus of recent issues of Library Trends and the Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

The articles in the Library Trends IR issue provide a range of perspectives on IRs, including:

the IR as infrastructure to support data curation and long-term preservation of digital materials produced on campus; the IR as one of a set of services to support scholarly communication and openness on campus; the IR as a tool for librarian subject liaisons to work more closely with their faculty and move closer to the research process; the IR as a collaborative activity between libraries, university archives, and campus IT organizations (“Introduction,” 96).

Some interesting points made throughout:

  • There is no clear consensus around what purpose IRs serve or what their role might be in the future (“Introduction,” 90, 96)
  • The boundaries between IRs and an institution’s repository (i.e., archives) aren’t clear (“Introduction,” 91; “Perceptions and Experiences of Staff in the Planning and Implementation of Institutional Repositories,” 177; “At the Watershed: Preparing for Research Data Management and Stewardship at the University of Minnesota Libraries,” 203)
  • “Preservation—a stated goal of many IRs—is often an afterthought” (“Introduction,” 92), but IRs have a key role to play in digital preservation (“Institutional Repositories in the UK,” 129; “Strategies for Institutional Repository Development,” 144; “Institutional Repositories and Research Data Curation in a Distributed Environment,” 195; “At the Watershed: Preparing for Research Data Management and Stewardship at the University of Minnesota Libraries,” 207; “Case Study in Data Curation at Johns Hopkins University,” 212; “The “Wealth of Networks” and Institutional Repositories: MIT, DSpace, and the Future of the Scholarly Commons,” 246; and especially “Leveraging Short-term Opportunities to Address Long-term Obligations: A Perspective on Institutional Repositories and Digital Preservation Programs,” 267ff.)
  • “Materials in institutional repositories do not fit into librarianship’s traditional quality and authority heuristics” (“Innkeeper at the Roach Motel,” 104f.)

A number of interesting points are made in the ASIST Bulletin IR issue as well, including:

  • The connection between self- and institutional archiving (see 13ff. [affirmative side])
  • The importance of both preservation and dissemination (see 15 [affirmative side])
  • The broad range of “scholarly” content that can be included in an IR (see 13ff., 18 [affirmative sides])

There is minimal discussion of the roles of archivists and archives (but see 17f. [negative side]).

For a view of the relationship between institutional repositories and institutions’ repositories, see Elizabeth Yakel et al., “Institutional Repositories and the Institutional Repository: College and University Archives and Special Collections in an Era of Change,” American Archivist 71 (2008): 323-49. From the conclusion:

Given the centrality of archival and special collections materials to IRs and the perceived importance of preservation to both IR developers and contributors, this may be a missed opportunity for archivists.

Nevertheless, “Institutional Repositories (IRs) are becoming an extension of the institutional repository (archives)” (348).