Sunday 30 September 2007

Just How Long Does it Take to Establish a Successful Repository?

On Thursday I went to the Open University's official opening of Open Research Online, their Institutional Repository. It's currently the third biggest IR in the UK according to ROAR (if you ignore our ECS school repository which isn't run at institutional scales), and it looks to be running at a good sustainable rate of growth, with daily deposits coming from across the institution. It's been five years since the OU first started their eprints repository, and in that time it has gone through several iterations, and several management teams.

Like Southampton, the OU's repository is driven by the needs of the UK's Research Assessment Exercise - broadly speaking that means very high quality metadata and a preference for paper evidence with a distrust of electronic documents. So that's not helping their full text ambitions, but after November 2007 we will all be able to revert back to chasing content! Of course, research assessment and research management will continue to be a driver for repositories in the UK (and Australia, and sooner or later everyone else) but there are bigger fish to fry.

Brigid Heywood, the OU's Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research, spoke powerfully at the opening ceremony about the joint missions of a university and its repository as knowledge sharing environments and the need (through constant management support - and haranguing if necessary) to encourage and stimulate change in researchers' perceptions and actions.

Trish Heffernan is their repository manager and has done a fantastic job. I've seen her speak at a publisher's meeting where she told the delegates that they had to change or go out of business (while playing Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin"). The rest of their library team are just as highly charged!

It is so exciting to see an institution that has started to embed the repository into its institutional psyche. They've got a long way to go yet, but a well-informed and talented library team, an impressive set of contents and an energetic and supportive senior management sound like a winning formula!

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