Institutional Repositories IR History Purpose  Term Paper

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When a submitter submits information, it is transformed into a data file or bitstream, which is organized into a similar data set. The item is then grouped with similar items into metadata, and is indexed for searching. Communities are then created that correspond to specific parts of an organization, such as departments. This allows DSpace to function well in multi-disciplinary environments. The end user is then able to browse, search and locate information from a vast amount of sources, and can also then download or view the material (See Appendix 1 for flowchart) (Dynamic Diagrams, 2007).

These two repository platforms have seen a large jump in usage over the last several years, according to a study by Lomangino (2006). In the study, research showed the usage of Eprints has risen from 125 repositories to over 200 between 2004 and 2005. According to the Registry of Open Access Repositories, there are currently 227 known repositories using Eprints, and another 258 using DSpace (2007) (See Appendix 2).

Additionally, there are 617 repositories that currently comply with OAI standards all over the world (See Appendix 3) (Lomangino, 2006).

Also in 2002, the IR community received another boost in a paper published by the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition that supported the use of institutional repositories (SPARC, 2002). In addition to offering several supportive arguments for the use of repositories, SPARC gave two convincing rationales for the use of institutional repositories that may have helped speed their implementation and acceptance. First, SPARC pointed out that IRs:

centralize, preserve, and make accessible...intellectual capital [while] forming part of a global system of distributed, interoperable repositories that provide(s) the foundation for a new disaggregated model of scholarly publishing (SPARC, 2002, pg. 6).

In other words, SPARC noted the need for a system that would function world wide, and would provide a base for all repositories, so end users could see a seamless experience across disciplines. They believed the IR would "un-bundle" the formal academic publishing model and open the market to a vaster audience (SPARC, 2002).

Further, SPARC noted that IRs could serve as indicators of an institution's academic excellence. They pointed out that while faculty publication in journals reflected the host university's excellence, IRs could contrite the intellectual property of such institutions, creating a combined database that reflected the value of their research. While the increase in visibility could show a higher level of academic prowess, SPARC noted, this increase could translate into concrete remuneration, such as increases in funding from private and public sources (SPARC, 2002).

However, SPARC also pointed out that there were barriers to the implementation of IRs. First, any alteration of the scholarly publishing model, that of peer-reviewed journal publication only, could certainly cause those within the system, such as publishers, faculty, and librarians, to fear the new IR format. There was no question that large journal publishers could easily halt the IR process, since their subscriptions made their publication possible. To soothe this concern, however, they also noted that the library market as well as authors were dissatisfied with the system as it was, and were demanding a new format. IRs, according to SPARC, were the solution for all members of the community (SPARC, 2002).

Further, SPARC pointed out the limitations of the scholarly journal method of publication, stating that IRs could expand the readership and availability of research materials. They harshly criticized scholarly publishing, pointing out that their price increases and monopolizing of the industry only served to further reduce the audience of academic research. IRs, then, could function as a barrier for such actions (SPARC, 2002).

Since that time, IRs have been steadily increasing, as has the usage of IR software. Greenstone, another open source multilingual digital library platform has been one of the fastest growing platforms. Established in 1995, Greenstone arose from a project designed to compress text. It began with a collection of 50,000 technical reports (Witten, et al., 1995).

By 1997, the project coordinators began working with Human Info NGO, and helped them to create a searchable CD-Rom collection of humanitarian research. This extended the original program, in that it was originally designed to work on Linux systems, and was thus adapted to run on Windows-based platforms. Looking to the future, the team also back developed the program to run on early versions of Windows, since developing countries were still using such products (Witten, 2003). Since its inception, Greenstone has been back fitted to be OAI compliant, and to communicate with DSpace and other software platforms (Bainbridge et al., 2006). Currently, Greenstone operates in over 70 countries, is downloaded 4,500 times per month, and runs on many operating systems, including the iPod. Further, the reader interface is run in over 40 languages (Bainbridge et al., 2006).

It is clear that IRs, and the software that supports them, is increasing rapidly. Although there are still barriers to the usage of such repositories, such as a loss of data if subscriptions of libraries are limited, as well as the lack of physical representation in the digital age. However, as Chan (2004) notes, such barriers are small in light of the vast benefits of IRs. Their implementation can be cost effective, can improve teaching and research, and can mean long lasting preservation for research material (Chan, 2004). Additionally, with such platforms as DSpace, EPrints, and Greenstone, researching in an IR can be quick, effective, and stable across language barriers, operating system variables, and disciplines. IRs are thus a cost effective, useful tool for institutional organizations.


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