Re: Institutional Repositories

From: Stefan Gradmann <stefan.gradmann_at_RRZ.UNI-HAMBURG.DE>
Date: Tue, 27 Dec 2005 21:05:53 +0100

Richard, Leslie (& all the rest),

> On 23 Dec 2005, at 10:12, Richard Poynder wrote:
>> Amongst the different roles I have heard people argue that IRs
>> can/should play are:
>> a) as a repository for a university's research output, with the aim
>> of increasing access to that research, and so enhancing its impact
>> b) as a tool for preserving and curating a university's research output
>> c) as a tool to assist a university in its digital publishing
>> ambitions, and
>> d) as a tool to enable universities offer digital courseware and
>> online learning services.
>> Would others agree that IRs are viewed as potentially assisting in
>> all these tasks?
> You have qualified the repository role for (b), (c) and (d) as "a tool
> for ...". Tools are used by human agents to reduce the amount of
> effort to achieve an end, but they do NOT perform that task in and of
> themselves. It is certainly true that repository software (in and of
> itself) does not preserve, curate, publish or engage learners in
> learning, but it may be deployed in such tasks by sufficiently
> motivated human managers who control and configure (and adapt?) the
> repository's actions.

I think Leslie has introduced a very useful distinction in the paragraph
above: even if the primary role of a repository (i. e. a software
implementation with a specific functional concern in mind) may be
clearly confined to roles a) (and maybe b)) that implementation as a
whole (or some of its components) may of course play an additional role
as a tool in functional contexts such as c) and d) (and others). To
further extend this view: some of the more generic software components
used to build the repository implementation may of course be used as
building blocks within the same institution's e-science architecture or
as part of that institutions CRIS environment, to name just two examples.

All this, however, does not primarily affect the repository
implementation, which basically remains a repository, whatever different
uses may be made of its components in the same institutional context!

Identical building blocks within different functional paradigms ... to
use a very simplistic comparison: the fact that printed books are
displayed in systematic order, using cataloguing metadata (such as
Books in Print) in a bookstore would never make anyone pretend that such
a bookstore was actually a library after all: these two functional
paradigms (lending vs. selling books) are sufficiently discrete to allow
for the same building blocks being present without much risk of
confusion. This is not true for the distinction between DLs and IRs,
alas, and the reason (to put it sharply!) probably is the vague and
confusing notion of 'Digital Libraries' itself, a badly coined (even
though suggestive) metaphor that tends to be semantically omnivorous
just because it has so little *specific* semantic value itself ... (huge
topic: I'd better stop here!)

> In answer to your question therefore, I agree that IRs can "be viewed
> as potentially assisting in" tasks (b), (c), (d), but that they should
> be viewed as actually performing task (a).


> PS I think that the advantages of the repository as a focus for
> achieving other tasks (b-d and beyond to many other letters of the
> alphabet) should definitely be explored by information science
> researchers, preferably in receipt of generous amounts of funding. I
> happen to class myself as one such researcher.

I'm with you, Les: where's the money ("generous amounts of funding")?
This was a Pavlov's reflex - sorry ...

> PPS I also think that the Class-A repository purposes should not be
> eclipsed by the thrill of the unknown that (b) - (z) offer. But that's
> always the problem with research - once the solution becomes well
> understood, the problem becomes uninteresting.
> PPS Lest anyone think me naive, there is a lot of effort that has to
> go into a Class-A repository. But there will always be issues of tool
> adoption, maintenance, best practice etc that surround the use of any
> tool.

Best regards -- Stefan Gradmann

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Received on Tue Dec 27 2005 - 21:49:50 GMT

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