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Institutional repositories

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By Margaret Adolphus

What are institutional repositories?

When asked about the future of libraries, David Nicholas, professor of library and information science at University College London, and editor of the journal Aslib Proceedings, suggested that librarians are moving into publishing to offset what he saw as their shrinking conventional role (Nicholas, 2007). Institutional repositories (IRs) can be seen as an aspect of that trend.

An IR is a collection, in digital form, of the research of a scholarly institution such as (commonly) a university: an ongoing archive of its intellectual capital.

Here are some definitions of IRs:

" ... a university-based institutional repository is a set of services that a university offers to the members of its community for the management and dissemination of digital materials created by the institution and its community members. It is most essentially an organizational commitment to the stewardship of these digital materials, including long-term preservation where appropriate, as well as organization and access or distribution" (Lynch, 2003, quoted in Barwick, 2007).

" ... a digital archive of intellectual product created by the faculty, research staff, and students of an institution and accessible to end users both within and outside of the institution, with few if any barriers to access" (Rajshekar, 2005, quoted in Doctor, 2008).

IRs enhance the visibility both of the university and the individual scholar, who thereby stands to increase the amount of times he or she is cited, an all important measure of academic performance. The whole culture is one of openness, and making knowledge as freely and widely available as possible.

Concern that scholarly communication is dysfunctional, restricting access to the institutions who can afford to pay subscriptions to publishers' databases, has led to the open access movement, self-archiving and the growth of open access journals. IRs are a logical development and one that provides greater structure and searchability than just uploading documents to departmental web pages.

IRs contain a wide variety of document types, depending on the policy of the institution. Most common are the outputs of research: journal articles, pre-prints, conference papers, technical reports, working papers, theses, book chapters, computer programs, presentations, technical manuals, etc. Grey literature is as important as published outputs.

Some will also contain other items such as convocation addresses, student handbooks, as well as teaching materials: in fact, Tjiek (2007) quotes sources which suggest that a repository should be integrated with the university's course management system and display e-learning features. In practice, however, most institutions will probably be content to provide a basic repository which concentrates on research.

While most repositories are institution specific, some are subject-based, for example Saarland University's SciDok for science and PsyDok for psychology, see Herb and Muller (2008). Others include, or specifically concentrate, on local resources. Desa Informasi (Information Village) is an IR created by Petra Christian University in Surabaya, Indonesia, part of whose remit is to collect information about the locality (Tjiek, 2007).

IRs contain not only textual material (although on the whole, that predominates), usually in PDF format, but also digital images (for example, Desi Informasi contains photographs of old Surabaya) as well as audio and video.