Repository Services?

Got to musing about this having read the report on the JISC funded White Rose project which had some interesting things to say about repository services.  Bit of a rushed post I’m afraid, but I thought it worth recording my notes

Clearly any services have to be derived from an understanding of the requirements of users. Why would they want to use a repository at all? How can the capture of research outputs contribute to a personal or institutional research profile?  How can it help grant holders fulfil grant related open access obligations. Of course the more services we can offer the more visible the repository becomes. 

Ideas included import of Refworks/Endnote databases or come to that bulk import of full text which would be useful because researchers are understandably reluctant to duplicate effort in creating metadata.  It would also be useful to share repository metadata with other internal and external systems. 

Some things we might want to consider that White Rose did – Researcher behaviour – investigate researcher awareness, motivation and workflow though a survey of  their existing archiving activity. 

Interoperability with other univ. systems (such as the library catalogue, Blackboard Content Store and so on) 

Advocacy at a departmental level, which might include production of regular statistical reports of downloads thus emphasising the benefits of using the repository. 

Offering a copyright checking service. (Well we do, sort of.) 

And to finish on a bigger question. Should the repository be a high profile service or should it be, in effect, invisible? I think the answer to that is that it starts high profile and then gets embedded. But how?

Repositories Meeting – reflections

I thought it might be useful to try and pick out a few themes from last weeks JISC repositories programme meeting and have a little think about what the programme has achieved, and what implications it might have for the use of the repository at Lincoln.

First there is little doubt that the programme succeeded in creating lots of new repositories of which ours is one. It also brought together a lot of people with a technical background, a lot of people with library backgrounds and even the odd educational developer. (That would be me I suppose!)   But a new phenomenon comes with a new set of problems and the most urgent one facing the meeting was the question of converting the repository from a “project” into a “service.”  From our perspective the question is how do we change the Lincoln Repository (Not its formal name – we’re still working on that at the time of writing) from something that is the concern of a few people meeting together in a room to something that impinges on the institutional consciousness on a scale that, say, Blackboard, does.  How do we ensure that researchers have the confidence to use it. How, for that matter, do we define what research is? 

One potential solution, broadening its constituency to include learning objects was discussed at the meeting,  although not without any conclusion. I have slightly mixed feelings about this, and did raise the question of quality of the learning objects that might be included. Although I know not everyone agrees with me I am not sure that the repository is the appropriate place for a short lived set of Powerpoint slides. The more of this kind of stuff is in the repository, the more “poor results” are going to be turned up by searchers and that might have consequenses for the reputation of the repository. On the other hand, who is going to make decisions about what is of suitable quality? We don’t want to discourage people from using the repository, and if storing a handout or two in it encourages people to deposit their research alongside their teaching materials I can live with it. I’m also sceptical of having multiple collections. When I worked in libraries I could never see the point of having “special collections” separate from the main sequence of books.  All it meant was that things got shelved in the wrong place and nobody could find them.  Anyway  the discussion at the meeting didn’t really resolve the issue, possibly because it isn’t resolvable in a way that will satisfy everyone.  Perhaps the answer lies in the way we manage metadata. Maybe we could hide LOs from Google, limiting them to user only access.

Secondly, and just focussing on research there is the issue of discipline based versus institutional repositories. We had a very interesting presentation on a crystallography repository at Southampton. One of the ways that this had promoted interest among users was by offering subject specific metadata that addressed particular needs within the crystallography community. That of course raises the rather obvious question of why a Southampton based crystallographer would want to use Southampton’s Institutional repository rather than the subject one and I suppose the answer is that the Institutional repository should offer services that the subject one doesn’t. 

That raises the third point – what exactly are the services that an institutional repository can or should offer to its clients. Among the suggestions were easy deposit of material, simple metadata creation, statistical and analytic services, rss and other feeds  – for example, information about who looks at the material in your repository. Of course we already offer some of these and any other ideas would be very welcome!  But really there is another client that we should not ignore, and that is the institution itself. Why should an institution bother with a repository? The real challenge is to produce legible products and evidenced outcomes from the whole programme that sell the idea of the repository to the senior management of the institution. There’s an inevitable chicken and egg air to this though because the repository won’t achieve any tangible outcomes until it gets a critical mass of content. But it won’t get that without a reason for people to use it. So if there’s any lesson to take from the two days it that’s we have (as a community) done a tremendous amount of hard work, and achieved a great deal. Only thing is…

… the REALLY hard work begins now.

Oh, and as a mildly amusing aside did you know that there is actually a Repository Road in London SE18. Apparently it leads to HaHa road. Not sure what to make of that!  (I’m not making this up – check out David Flander’s blog for proof!)

Plugged into the mains again!

My laptop, that is, not me! Just had three very interesting sessions about working with the repository community, working with repository developers and working with repository stakeholders, followed by two very interesting round table discussions about a) the role of learning objects repositories and b) longer term sustainability of repositories. Fortunately for me, everyone has been gaily twittering away, all afternoon, so if you want to get a picture of the event search twitter for the #rpmeet tag. And I don’t have to write it all up from memory. Isn’t Twitter a wonderful thing?

Embedding your digital repository.

Just for a change, we hosted one of the SUETR workshop events at Lincoln, and in spite of the weather we had a reasonably good turnout of about 15 people from across the sector.  (And, I have to say it was a nice change to go to one of these events and NOT have to drag myself out of bed at some unreasonable hour prior to trudging to some distant location!)

Anyway, the event started with a presentation from me about what we’d been doing with our repository at Lincoln – Modesty forbids that I review myself of course, but I’m hoping to try and make the talk as available as a podcast, which I will post just as soon as I’ve worked out how to do it.  But my theme was about the challenge of building and maintaining a dual purpose repository  (i.e. one that has both research papers and learning objects in it) – We started out trying to build a learning object repository that could handle research, and have ended up with a research repository that can handle learning objects.  I won’t bore you with those issues here, (I’ll bore you with them in the podcast instead!) but go on to the rest of the day.

Next we had Sally Rumsey from the University of Oxford who talked about using the repository to develop a global brand – Obviously Oxford already have quite a powerful brand, and they have taken a rather different approach to their repository. They base their repositories on Fedora which in fact as a sort of base database that can feed data to to a variety of repository interfaces. Sally, perhaps not surprisingly was very insistent on the importance of having good technical support. She admitted that as a librarian she had had no idea how far she could push the boundaries of what could be done when you started to work with a software developer.

In the afternoon we had presentations from Lucy Keating of Newcastle University who rather than talk about Newcastle’s repository gave us a thought provoking overview and raised a lot of questions about how we might persuade colleagues to start depositing their research into our repositories  by adding value to the content that was already in the repository. The final speaker was Mary Robinson from Nottingham, who has been working with the Repositories support team. I’ve run these together, not out of any disrespect to either speaker, both of whom were excellent, but because one of the things they talked about was the importance of ensuring that the data in your repository could be harvested by other services. There are a number of services such as OAISTER, ROAR, INTUTE and OPEN- DOAR that bring together data from multiple repositories, thus allowing repository users to search across repositories and indeed to allow repository managers to share knowledge about improving the infrastructure.

Interspersed through the presentations was a great deal of useful discussion about promoting repositories among colleagues, develop statistical analyses to show researchers who was accessing their work, how we could promote open access as a public good.

I’m afraid time and pressure of work has prevented this being a very long post, but I’d welcome additional comments from those who were present if they feel I’ve missed anything.

Required reading for repository rats.

I like the title “repository rat” Sadly I can’t claim the title as my own – it was coined by Dorothea Salo, whose blog ought to be required reading for all those involved with repositories.

Anyway a couple of useful looking posts popped up on my Google Alerts this morning. I mention them just to remind us all that having built the  Lincoln Repository our work is far from finished. The build it and they will come model doesn’t really work – we have to identify the problem that the repository can solve (and it has to be a real problem that users have, not one we think they might have. Anyway, more here and here.