Building an institutional repository in a time of very tight budgets
This poster presents an overview of an exploratory initiative to examine and assess the viability of developing an institutional repository system at a teaching-oriented mid-size university with minimal monetary commitment. A need has been identified for an institutional repository and necessary steps have been taken to implement it. Faculty and staff from several departments worked together to create a prototype Institutional Repository using DSpace, an open source repository software. This repository represents a unique endeavor, in that it has been instituted at a non-research based university, and the creators have chosen to involve students in the planning, design, implementation, and documentation stages of the project. In addition, the university's Library Science students will also be involved in creating and maintaining collections. This poster focuses on the steps taken to set up and maintain a quality Institutional Repository at Valdosta State University without placing a large demand on the institution's resources.
Institutional repositories (IRs) provide a potential solution for creators of digital content to ensure the proper long-term stewardship of their creations. However, some institutions have been hesitant to implement IRs because of fears that an IR would be too expensive to maintain and most universities with IR programs as of 2005 tended to be large research-oriented universities with extensive funding for their repositories (Lippincott & Lynch, 2005). According to the Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR) which monitors overall growth of IRs worldwide, the majority (over 60%) of IRs still belong to research-oriented institutions (Brody, 2009). However, as IR technologies mature and their value and impact are better understood, institutions with limited resources will capitalize on their benefits and build their IR programs (Mueller, Shellhase, & Wrenn, 2009). This paper provides an overview of efforts and experiences of a group of faculty and students to implement an IR with limited resources at Valdosta State University.
Overview of the Institution
Valdosta State University (VSU) is a regional university in South Georgia with programs up to the doctorate level and is part of the University System of Georgia. About 11,000 students (spring 2009) are enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs in the university.
The need for an IR at VSU became apparent from informal conversations with the library staff and MLIS faculty, from a lack of standards-based and reliable means to preserve and disseminate the VSU community's intellectual output including theses and dissertations, and from challenges (e.g., loss of scholarly materials) posed by VSU's migration to a new web publishing platform. Valdost State University's digital repository (Vtext) (http://vtext.valdosta.edu) was developed as a pilot project to create a system to centralize, present, and preserve the intellectual output of our scholars and students in ways not currently supported by traditional library and publication models.
The need for an IR at VSU was first recognized in early 2007 and a pilot project was initiated as a collaborative effort by the University Archives and Special Collections, the Automated Systems Department, and the Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) Program. Knowing that any funding for such a project was limited due to budgetary concerns, an open source solution was chosen as a way to move forward with the project. The open source program DSpace provided the software necessary for VSU's IR project. This was a logical step, as DSpace is an unofficial standard platform for IRs across the University System of Georgia.
Planning and Initial Steps
The project at VSU has taken certain steps to implement the repository that can serve as a model to other institutions with similar characteristics. The process began with informal conversations among the faculty members at the library and MLIS Program and these initial interactions have quickly led to formation of a community of practice focused on improving scholarly communication at VSU.
The community laid out a short term plan mainly focused on exploring VSU's information environment as a first step. The process began by identifying willing parties including students within the library and in the MLIS Program and evaluating how their skills could be best applied to the project. Next, VSU's current web presence of digital content created by faculty and students was surveyed to identify candidate materials that could be stored in the repository. Materials suitable for a repository were found on a number of faculty and departmental homepages and in student theses and dissertations. Because Valdosta State is not a large research institution, teaching materials were also identified as an important source of content. Since the existing copyright release statement used for theses and dissertations did not address dissemination of such materials online, a new voluntary electronic thesis and dissertation copyright release form has been developed and the Graduate School has agreed to distribute this form to graduating students.
The next step in the project was to find the server space to host the pilot repository. The Automated Systems unit provided a web space to install and experiment with DSpace software and provided technical support for the software. The project also experimented with different work flows for uploading material for future content submission.
Setting policies and procedures for the repository was an important component of the development process. The project needed to set metadata guidelines, file types controls, and copyright controls. It should be noted that policy development can potentially be one of the more time-consuming steps in setting up a repository. However, the Vtext team has chosen to save time by surveying other policies and adapting them where appropriate. Already, VSU has received permission to adapt existing policies and guidelines from other established repositories such as at Georgia Tech and at the University of Texas at Austin.
To further streamline the appearance and workflow for DSpace, the Manakin interface (XMLUI) is set as the default interface to edit the look and feel of DSpace and personalize it to the institution's needs. Manakin uses Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) to customize the DSpace interface. In addition to providing a more appealing interface than DSpace's native interface (JSPUI), the Manakin interface has the ability to spell out error messages if there are any inconsistencies in metadata fields and workflows, for example. A staff member with extensive CSS experience from the library's Automated Systems unit volunteered to learn and customize the Manakin interface to fit in the university's existing web presence and Campus IT guidelines. The only drawback to Manakin interface was a steeper learning curve for an average user to customize it.
There has been one notable cost ($50 registration fee and/or the $50 annual service fee) associated with DSpace. Providing a persistent identifier to DSpace content requires a subscription to Handle.net services, a system to provide unique persistent identifiers for online resources. A persistent identifier is essential for a successful IR because it ensures that the material can always be found using the same URL despite server changes, installation updates, and other routine repository upkeep.
Future Research & Conclusions
The initial steps for setting up an institutional repository on a limited budget can seem easy. However, it is important to note that ensuring the repository's sustainability on the same limited budget requires careful planning. The project team's plans for the future are focused on a minimal cost approach to maintain VSU's IR. Plans are in place to use volunteers and interns to upload faculty and student content so there will be even more incentive for creators to deposit their materials in the repository. In fall 2009, research will be conducted to assess faculty's attitude toward such a scholarly communication medium and to identify their concerns with existing models offered by the university and the library to preserve their intellectual output. A faculty outreach program will be designed based on the findings of the study to raise awareness about the repository and inform faculty and students about hosting and making their scholarly works available to the public thorough Vtext. Faculty outreach activities will be initiated in the second half of the semester. The primary focus for future goals is on ensuring that faculty members have as much incentive as possible to upload material to the repository and that the uploading process is easy enough to keep contributions coming. Vtext is also a partner in the GALILEO Knowledge Repository (GKR), a program created to promote and enhance IR initiatives across the University System of Georgia institutions.
The results of the preliminary efforts to develop an IR program at VSU on a limited budget have been promising. With little required funding, the project has set up an IR community. The project plans to continue to expand, with the ultimate goal of implementing a sustainable IR for the university.
The project to create a sustainable IR at VSU serves as an example of how an institution can create a repository despite limited resources. By using open source software, working with existing employees, and benchmarking, the goal of a sustainable repository for medium to small sized institutions is a plausible one.