Which repository?

I recently posted under this title on the Streamline blog and it has raised one or two issues in the consultancy phase of our institutional repository project that I wish to explore further in an appropriate forum i.e this blog. Although this is primarily of interest to the respective project staff at Leeds Met, I am, of course, also interested in the opinions of others external to the organisation.

I have been grateful for the input from the Streamline project team and cross project work is obviously extremely valuable in that it brings together different perspectives; in this case, precisely what we require from our repository software.

The start-up phase of the (institutional repository) project will focus on an Open Access research archive, however it is extremely important that whatever solution we opt for is extensible to other types of repository content (Streamline, for example, is looking at the work flow associated with the use of learning object repositories and is developing a suite of tools and practices that will reduce the administrative impact of this on teaching and research staff.) Moreover, looking towards the future there is a broader issue that we do not commit ourselves unnecessarily to a plethora of discrete information silos that become impractical and expensive to integrate.

As I have discussed with my colleagues, in terms of the specialised functionality required by an Open Access research archive, personally I was swayed by the demonstration from (drum-roll) Eprints and, to a lesser extent, bepress’ Digital Commons. There have been concerns raised about Eprints’ (and others’) search interface and while I’m not certain that I necessarily share these concerns I presume the interface could, in any case, be heavily customised to our needs.

NB. A colleague at a recent networking event suggested that there is very little evidence that people actually search institutional repositories at all and tend to come to an IR through Google or another search engine (I realise this is hardly an argument in favour of a flawed search interface but it does illustrate how an IRs priorities may differ from a those of a more general repository).

It could certainly be argued that IntraLibrary, DigiTool and HarvestRoad Hive would represent a more holistic repository solution for the University as a whole and (obviously) the respective costs of each platform will also need to be taken into account. The other crucial factor is time-scale with the (start-up) project funded until March 2009 by which time we are commited to having the (institutional) repository embedded in the work flows of the respective departments of the University and to having a “representative body of content”. Pragmatically this means we need a functioning repository as soon as possible so that I can move on to what will be the meat of my role; promoting the IR and the principles of OA to the research community and getting the repository populated – we know from others’ experience in the sector that this is likely to be the biggest challenge of all.

Right now however, the burning question (for me at least) is “Which repository?”

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