Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Online Repositories Enliven the Information Lifecycle

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Online Repositories Enliven the Information Lifecycle

Article excerpt

It was just a few years ago that online repositories were established as an ideal platform for hosting persistently accessible digital artifacts, chiefly manuscripts on their way to publication. Since then, the platform has continued to evolve and increase its usefulness, particularly as a lively zone for discovery and teaching. Two fundamental value points have extended the platform's potential. The first is the most obvious: From the start, online repositories were designed to encourage multiple instances of online content, both pre-publication and post-publication. This ubiquity reinforces the well-known principle, "Lots of copies keep stuff safe"--which remains important. Stable repositories have become points of reference for the discovery process, which is a benefit to library users.

The second value point is less obvious and is only now coming into focus. Repositories have become collaborative spaces with extensive links to rich and diverse information resources. As a result, the pre-publication universe of digital media has gained importance. Repositories act as useful starting places for research and retain their usefulness as finding aids. This new liveliness has boosted their value as teaching and research tools across institutional boundaries. Repositories continue to create opportunities for librarians to offer innovative services. With that in mind, I will address their potential and offer two forecasts for their future.

Synergy Across Content Type

Repositories are ideal sites for manuscripts, articles, and supporting files; most research universities host many in a variety of disciplines. A steady stream of working papers and policy briefs now finds its way online, and they are frequently posted at partner institutions. However, in recent years, a new player has arrived (although with different goals but similar cross-disciplinary potential): the data repository.

Data repositories align naturally with document repositories, and each resource can add value to the other. Working papers and policy briefs often see heavy download traffic that can continue for years. This is not trivial--such papers are effective gateways for research groups to make their work widely known. Likewise, papers that link to datasets increase the value of the data and spur further creativity; papers and the data can grow together. The result is an increasingly dynamic sphere of activity at the pre publication zone of the information lifecycle.

Data science generates its own excitement, but paper repositories can increase the value and relevance of data sources as well as other kinds of information. Additionally, they also can build audiences in new ways. For example, faculty members and doctoral students focus closely on the recent work of their colleagues--this is well-known. But historians, policymakers, and other self-motivated scholars want access to the full range of historical research, not just the most recent 5 years' worth of publications. Repositories can improve access for all cohorts of motivated users in pursuit of original scholarship--and also act as ongoing finding aids in their own right.

The liveliness of repositories goes beyond links to data and related content. They have aligned effectively with another important digital tool: full-scale publishing services that are tailor-made for academics and others. Pressbooks (pressbooks.com) is one of these services, and the firm promotes itself as a way to "produce professional, platform-agnostic outputs of educational resources in multiple formats...." Open source publishing alternatives abound, offering a similar, turnkey approach to publishing. Posting early versions of a new work has become an avenue for authors to launch many types of projects, including open source scholarly monographs, textbooks (commercial or open source), and ebooks aimed at Amazon's huge (and self-perpetuating) content ecosystem.

Repositories are prime testing grounds to work on writing and research, and they will not disappear as universities embrace platform-agnostic solutions. …

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