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Establishing an Institutional Repository

From the Introduction
The 2003 edition of the annual Association of College and Research Libraries' (ACRL) Environmental Scan identifies institutional repositories, among others, as an "emerging issue that may affect the future of higher education [and] academic libraries" (ACRL, 2003, p. 3).

Establishing an institutional repository is not a simple, quick, or inexpensive undertaking. To many, an institutional repository is just technology--a combination of a Web server, relational database, and data storage accompanied by a wide spectrum of functionalities. But the building or purchasing of the technology is just one part of an institutional repository project, and perhaps the easiest part.

Far more time and effort goes into the less tangible aspects of an institutional repository, such as building advocacy, garnering collections, and determining policies. This issue of Library Technology Reports guides you through the process of establishing an institutional repository at your organization, from conceptualization to actualization, encompassing both the technology and the intangibles.

This report answers the basic, yet complex, questions of what an institutional repository is and why one might be of value to your organization. The report also discusses specific policy, use, and technical decisions that will result in a detailed checklist of functions and features of the ideal institutional repository system for your organization.

Chapter 7, "Institutional Repository System Overviews," gives an overview of the currently available institutional repository systems, both commercial and Open Source, against which you can compare your customized checklist. This report provides enough information to enable you to be informed in your decisions as to whether an institutional repository is appropriate for your organization, how it potentially may be used, and which of the available systems best fits your needs.

Although the vast majority of institutional repositories are found at universities, many other types of institutions could benefit from an institutional repository. For instance:

  • A society or association could establish an institutional repository to facilitate the sharing of digital documents among its members, such as a collection of audio samples of languages from around the world compiled by members of a linguistics society.
  • A public library could use an institutional repository to collect historical documents from the community and share them with the world, such as images of the Erie Canal.
  • A high school might use an institutional repository to hold student e-portfolios that could be included as part of the students' college or job applications.
  • A medical research center could create an institutional repository to help with the sharing of datasets, as required by some federally funded grants.

An institution with a need or desire to share digital content over the long-term could benefit from establishing an institutional repository.

About the Author
Susan Gibbons is Assistant Dean for Public Services and Collection Development at the University of Rochester, River Campus Libraries, Rochester, NY, USA. She holds a Master of Library Science (MLS) degree as well as a Master of Arts degree in history from Indiana University. She also holds a professional MBA from the Isenberg School of Management, University of Massachusetts.

Ms. Gibbons held library positions at Indiana University and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst--where she directed a two-year Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant focused on electronic book use in public, academic, and school libraries--before moving to Rochester in 1999. She has published and presented on various library information technology topics, including institutional repositories, electronic books, and library course-management systems.