Monday, April 09, 2007

Institutional repositories

When you think about the information your organization needs to have access to -- and those materials that your users want to access - what do you think of? Likely your answer will depend on where you sit in the organization. You might, for example, think of the materials that are in the archives. If you work in the "communications" department, you might think of current and historic press releases, annual reports, and other documents that talk about the institution. If you're in human resources (personnel), you might want access to current and old employee manuals, employee files, union contracts and other documents that are important to how the institution relates to those that work for it. And if your a user (consumer), you might want information from the institution that tells you about its products and services, its history and its financial standing.

In many institutions, the documents above may be in different files (paper or electronic) and perhaps even stored in different buildings (or locations). The danger is that as those materials will be maintained in separate systems rather than combined -- in some manner -- into an institutional repository.

One definition of an institutional repository is "an online locus for collecting and preserving -- in digital form -- the intellectual output of an institution, particularly a research institution." While an institutional repository is focused on collecting and preserving, many organizations -- especially for-profit organizations -- have been looking into knowledge management. According to Colquhoun-John Ferguson & Scott Goldie, "Knowledge management is...[an] area which has introduced a methodology for the planned capture and re-use of organisational knowledge."

Re-use. It is a simple word, but what are your expectations of reuse? Mine are that I can take something that I created before, modify it and save it as a new version. Yours might be that you can continue to modify the same document, save it with the same name, and have the IR/KM do version control for you. Someone else might want to continue to refer to the same document, until it is replaced with a new version, and then wants that old version to be archived (but not deleted) so that it is part of the institution's history.

As I look at institutional repositories online (e.g., Georgia State University), I know that my view of them is broader than how they are currently being defined, at least in academia. But should we limit what an institutional repository is? Can it be -- function as -- a knowledge management system? Maybe like many other things, the definition is in the eye of the beholder. In my eyes, the institutional repository should be a place for the entire institution. What do you think?


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1 comment:

anne beaumont said...

These comments apply both to this post and to your earlier one about weeding insitituional repositories.
It depends upon the type of library and your responsiblities, and also to some extent the abilities of your hardware and software.
The State Library of Victoria has legal deposit requirements to preserve some of its digital items in perpetuity - those which were 'born digital'.
We have material where the analogue is the version we need to retain in perpetuity (if possible) and we could re-create the digital version if necessary. However if the carrier medium, such as audio tape is no longer viable, our digital version needs to be preserved.
We also have resources which have no need to be preserved, but may well need to be re-purposed, for example digital versions used in exhibitions, web pages etc.
We are about to go to tender for a Digital Object Management System. Originally we were thinking we would have to invest very heavily in hardware to back all that up to the same extent. However when we found out that some of the available software could deal with files on different storage regimes, the potential expenditure on storage diminished considerably.
It may also depend on whether you have a separate Records Managment System for corporate records - and whether such have to go to another repository - in our case the Public Records Office of Victoria.
A different library in a different type of organisation is likely to have a different response I think.