Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

Building an Open Source Institutional Repository at a Small Law School Library: Is It Realistic or Unattainable?

Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

Building an Open Source Institutional Repository at a Small Law School Library: Is It Realistic or Unattainable?

Article excerpt

Digital preservation activities among law libraries have largely been limited by a lack of funding, staffing and expertise. Most law school libraries that have already implemented an Institutional Repository (IR) chose proprietary platforms because they are easy to set up, customize, and maintain with the technical and development support they provide. The Texas Tech University School of Law Digital Repository is one of the few law school repositories in the nation that is built on the DSpace open source platform. (1) The repository is the law school's first institutional repository in history. It was designed to collect, preserve, share and promote the law school's digital materials, including research and scholarship of the law faculty and students, institutional history, and law-related resources. In addition, the repository also serves as a dark archive to house internal records.


In this article, the author describes the process of building the digital repository from scratch including hardware and software, customization, collection development, marketing and outreach, and future projects. Although the development of the repository is ongoing; it is valuable to share the experience with other institutions who wish to set up an institutional repository of their own and also add to the knowledgebase of IR development.

Institutional Repository from the Ground Up

Unlike most large university libraries, law school libraries are usually behind on digital initiative activities because of smaller budgets, lack of staff, and fewer resources. Although institutional repositories have already become a trend for large university libraries, it still appears to be a new concept for many law school libraries.

At the beginning of 2009, I was hired as the digital information management librarian to develop a digital repository for the law school library. When I arrived at Texas Tech University Law library, there was no institutional repository implemented.

There were very few digital projects done at the law library. One digital collection was of faculty scholarship. This collection was displayed on a webpage with links to PDF files. Another digital project, to digitize and provide access to the Texas governor executive orders found in the Texas Register, was planned then disbanded because of the previous employee leaving the position.

I started by looking at the digitization equipment in the library. The equipment was very limited: a very old and rarely used book scanner and a sheet-fed scanner. The good thing was that the library did have extra PCs to serve as workstations. I did research on the book scanner we had and also consulted colleagues I met at various digital library conferences about it. Because the model is very outdated and has been discontinued by the vendor and thus had little value to our digitization project, I decided to get rid of the scanner. I then proposed to purchase an EPSON Perfection V700 flatbed scanner, which was recommended by many digitization best practices in Texas. For software, we had all the important basics such as OCR and image editing software for the project to start.

For the following several months, I did extensive research on what digital asset management platform would be the best solution for the law library. We had options to continue displaying the digital collections through webpages or use a digital asset management platform that would provide long-term preservation as well as retrieval functions. We made the decision to go with the latter.

Generally speaking, there are two types of digital asset management platforms: proprietary and open source. In some rare occasions, a library chooses to develop its own system and not to use either type of the platforms if the library has designated programmers. There are pros and cons to both proprietary and open source platforms. Although setting up the repository is fairly quick and easy on a proprietary platform, it can be very expensive to pay annual fees for hosting and using the service. …

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