Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Negative Click Repositories

The topic of "negative cost" repositories has been doing the rounds in the blogosphere. Chris Rushbridge has rebadged it as the negative click repository on the grounds that there is a positive cost associated with setting up and using a repository. I think I would rather talk about value or profit - the final outcome when you take the costs and benefits into consideration. Do you run a positive value repository? Is it frankly worth the effort? Are your users in scholarly profit, or are you a burden on their already overtaxed resources?

Chris quotes from Cavlec's (imaginary) repository apologist who attempts to defend a very high-cost, low-benefit repository. But he then goes on to treat that passage as if it were a factual evaluation of a real repository, a damning piece of evidence on the fundamental uselessness of repositories. It isn't! Ulysses Acqua is a straw man and his repository is a caricature of a real repository. I certainly don't accept that he describes my repository and I can easily answer yes to many of those questions. So while I'm not complacent and I recognise that there are many new services I want my repository to offer, I think we're not doing too bad on the value scale already, thank you very much.

Negative click/positive value. It's a nice rhetorical stance and a useful banner to rally the troops to, but let's not flagellate ourselves unduly. Let's recognise where good value exists and promote it! Lets foster new services around the material that repositories capture, manage and expose. Otherwise we'll just give up and run to the next bandwagon which will always sound more enticing because it has less experience with dealing with real practice!

Anyway, I think that I am in violent agreement with Chris, so to show solidarity I will do what he asked and list some positive value generators: publicity and profile (CVs, Web pages, displays, adverts for MScs/PhDs/staff), community discovery, laptop backup and asset management.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting. I don't think Ulysses' repository is a caricature. I myself can only do marginally better than he can, because I have server access and can do batch uploads and design work. Recall, however, that when I interviewed for my job, I was told outright I would not have that access!

    And I know a lot of repository managers who don't. Consider all my campus IR contacts. They're the face of the repository on their campus, and THEY don't have server access!

    You're a programmer, Les. I'm not, and most librarians aren't. And at least on this side of the pond, repos are set up without appropriate customization/programming support. (Or IT-outsourced.)

    I wish Ulysses was a caricature. I truly do, because he ought to be. But I contend that he's not. You can't judge by the IDEALses and KnowledgeBanks of this world.