Institutional Repositories (IR), where data information is stored in a central location, are changing the way university libraries handle the distribution of information because they are now producers of the information and data. Tyler O. Walters specifically uses the example of Georgia Tech’s IR SMARTech, hosted by the Digital Initiatives Department. This new technology is a complete scholarly game changer, and it’s university-wide.
For the future, as it grows, new standards and rules will need to be developed for IR. This digital archive of university-created materials is diverse and extensive, giving the researcher a large playing field of resources at their fingertips. Walters also explains that many different information specialists create a digital library initiative (DLI) unit to act as a “conduit for other departments within the library, exploring the contributions these areas can make to IR development” (215).
DLI units have shifted from solely archives and special collections to focusing on the larger issue of HOW this affects “scholarly communications” in universities. It takes all of the departments of the university to come together to use this system to meet the needs of the students (who, in my experience, expect quick resources at their fingertips). DLI units at Cornell and Tennessee, Walters explains, have various activities which encourage not only student participation, but the individual departments’ participation to create content as well. All of this promotes growth of the IR throughout the university. The question is- how is all of this maintained?
Georgia Tech created its own Digital Initiatives Work Group (DIWG) that includes a librarian and/or department manager, and two other librarians and skilled professional personnel. The elements of managing a university’s digital intellectual output creates a pyramid of sorts, with the base consisting of behind the scenes set up and programming of the IR. It then moves up to user training and marketing, which would be more towards the front side of things (This is my understanding, although I could be wrong about this.) The manager of all of these areas and the created metadata has to be familiar with it all (creation, maintenance, and migration).
Walters points out, “For libraries to set new scholarly communication trends and support the SPARC agenda, well-developed IRs will be necessary” Many specialists come into play. Making all of this available are the developing IR “engineers” to design the interface, making it useful an easy for the user. For public libraries, marketing is extremely important to gauge the needs to the surrounding community– not everyone is a scholarly researcher. What do they need? Who is the community? Knowing the answers can create a more scholarly experience. Another example are those of archives and special collections that hold university materials. They will work with the DLI unit to collect for the IR. Archivists also are key for promoting the value of university documents and objects; therefore, they protect them for the future.
To sum all of this up, libraries are no longer passive receptors of information; rather, they can create it and engage other institutions and departments to do the same! It’s a brilliant plan, and I’m curious to see what the future holds for the expanding IR field. What new positions will be created? How far will it go? Chances are, even if you’re not specifically a librarian, you will be exposed and involved in this new, exciting world of Institutional Repositories.