My Thoughts on Institutional Repositories

Institutional Repositories: Trends and Issues

What is an Institutional Repository

At the core, an Institutional Repository is dedicated to collecting, preserving and providing access to all the intellectual property that an organization creates. In their early years, repositories focused on collecting thesis and dissertation leading to the ETD movement. Today their collecting scope is much wider. They may include such a variety of things a archival material, faculty/student research data, organizational records. In a way, a repository can be seen as

What runs the repository?

There is not a standard model for how to create a digital institutional repository. There are as many hosted solutions as there open source solutions to creating an IR. Each has it benefits and drawbacks. Some such as Fedora require far more technical support on the back end than systems like DSpace. Also where a hosted system may have no technical requirements, there are always software limitations that must be considered. The major trend seems to create a flexible repository platform that can have different “views” or access points built on top of it.

Hosted/Vendor Provided Systems

Open Source

  • Dspace#
    • Built in search and interface. Provided by Duraspace
  • ResourceSpace
    • designed for organizations that distribute/sell content. Seems geared toward images
  • Fedora#
    • newest architecture is called Hydra
    • provided by Duraspace


How to provide access?

Access is one of the most important functions of a repository, but there are situations where access may need to be limited. Any system should have the needs of the primary user at it core, but beyond the simple interface. The interface depends upon the repository running underneath it. Will it be like D-Space that comes with a built in interface

No discussion of access is complete without mentioning how digital objects are to be described. There are many, many metadata and organizational standards that could play into a IR system. Each standard represents how different constituencies understand content. IR’s are also considering how to implement user generated metadata effectively. Another issue to consider is how the repository works with metadata and how it can go between multiple metadata schema. Below are a few standards that impact institutional repositories.

  • RDF (Semantic Web) – Resource Description Framework
  • Dublin Core
    • metadata for online content
  • MODS -Metadata Object Description
    • a schema for a bibliographic element set that may be used for a variety of purposes, and particularly for library applications.
  • METS – Metadata Encoding and Transmission Standard
    • a standard for encoding descriptive, administrative, and structural metadata regarding objects within a digital library.
  • EAD#- Encoded Archival Description
    • for the presentation of structured finding aids for archival collections
    • new version due out this year
  • MARC
    • for cataloged publications.
  • OAI – Open Archive Initiative
    • protocol that allows metadata for digital material to be harvested.
  • OAIS – Open Archival Information System
    • ISO standard for how to structure a digital repository

Adoption of the Cloud

While it appears that large institutions are still locally hosting their content, many are seeking cloud based systems to serve as either backups to local systems or to complete store content. Some institutions, including Georgia Tech, are migrating their hosting of digital objects to cloud storage. These include some of the following.#

  • Amazon S3 (variable cost)
  • Peachnet Cloud Storage (1000 dollars per year per terabyte through USG)
  • DuraCloud (From Duraspace)

What are some policy issues to consider?

The greatest issue to consider when thinking about an institutional repository is the purpose of the repository. What is it going to collect? What will it reject? Who are its potential user? These are just a few questions to consider when thinking about a repository, but these are administrative issue. Beyond administering a repository, thought needs to be given to how an institutional repository fits into the mission of institution. Does it complement and support that mission? Does it build capacity in certain aspect of the institution?

At an academic institution, an IR can support the mission in a variety of ways from the publication of student/faculty research to storing public relations media and to the documentation of institutional change. In many respects, the IR is amorphous and will fit any need an institution has, as long as there is broad support for the mission of the IR. There are some broad policy issues to consider.

  • Do faculty get P&T credit for publishing work in the IR?
  • Does the campus want to participate in open access?
  • Did shared governance have a say in deposit requirements and policy?
  • How is the repository managed and who is responsible for various components from archiving, technical support, access to metadata creation?
  • What are the potential copyright and privacy concerns to address?
  • Is there a need for a “Dark Archive” where digital content is archived without public access?
%d bloggers like this: