Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large
ISSN 1534-0937
Libraries · Policy · Technology · Media

Selection from Cites & Insights 5, Number 3: February 2005

Session Report: ALA Midwinter 2005

ACRL Current Topics Discussion Group

Barbara Blummer, Center for Computing Sciences

The Association for College and Research Libraries Current Topics Discussion Group included three excellent presentations at ALA Midwinter.

Institutional repositories: Their place in scholarly communication

Michael Keller (University Librarian and Director of Academic Information Resources at Stanford University) explored various conditions fostering the development of institutional repositories. He noted the popularity of digital methods rather than print for publishing, teaching and communication in the academic community. He also outlined environmental factors outside of the university that boosted the growth of digital works including mass digitalization projects, the publication of government information in digital format, and major research libraries’ development of open source methods and applications for digital repositories including: LOCKSS, DSpace, and Fedora. Additional factors supporting institutional repositories discussed by Keller included: Internet 2 networks, improvements in search/discovery (Google Scholar), and digital discovery and retrieval mechanisms in development.

The presentation also provided ideas for populating digital repositories which Keller referred to as “Communities and Content” and included categories such as students and teaching, faculty schools and departments, and alumni. The speaker believes libraries need various “Tools and Services” to facilitate the creation of institutional repositories such as metadata, data management, project maintenance, digitization services and digital enterprise. Moreover, he views institutional repositories as offering new roles for librarians in digital selection, intellectual access through indexing, preservation, search assistance, and support through extraction, analysis, and presentation. The talk concluded with a list of hurdles to creating and supporting institutional repositories such as authenticating digital objects, obtaining release permissions from creators, multiple versions and multiple localities, and new file and MIME types.

This was an informative discussion on the background and growth of institutional repositories in academic institutions. The list of material to be included in selection remains especially relevant as well as Keller’s description of new roles for librarians in digital repositories and problems with their installation and maintenance. Unfortunately Keller neglected to relay information pertaining to Stanford’s experience establishing their institutional repository, which would have underscored his expertise in delivering the talk.

UThink: Blogs at the University of Minnesota

Shane Nackerud (webmaster, University of Minnesota) discussed his involvement in facilitating the library’s hosting of blogs at the University, beginning with a white paper he authored in June 2003. According to Nackerud, the library’s goals for sponsoring blogs included: promoting intellectual freedom, building communities of interest, enhancing traditional academic enterprise, retaining the cultural memory of the institution, and changing perceptions. Although September 2003 marked the official start of the project, blogging was slow to spread in the University. He credited the appearance of a description of the blog project on the library’s web page with their eventual adoption throughout the campus by undergraduates, graduates, as well as faculty.

Nackerud’s topic held the interest of the audience throughout his presentation. He noted the library’s incorporation of additional technologies for blogs such as RSS feeds as well as SFX, which allows users to post citations on blogs. This was especially well received by listeners. His description of the University of Minnesota’s publishing opportunities with “Into the Blogosphere” (a scholarly publication hosted by the library) also sparked the interest of the group. Nackerud’s concluding remarks centered on the library’s future plans for the UThink project including: an upgrade to Movable Type 3, creating archiving procedures and policies, expanding the project to other University of Minnesota campuses, building a more robust blog search engine and seeking out additional publishing opportunities. He also discussed his plans to foster community building through the organization of blogs by majors, departments and affiliations.

Nackerud peppered his talk with positive and negative experiences hosting blogs including the posting of offensive materials and the slow adoption of blogs. His inclusion of usage statistics, 900 blogs and 12,800 individual posts by April of 2004, provided an illustration of their popularity on campus. The speaker’s description of the type of blogs created in the University, such as the legislative network blog which reports on legislative events affecting the campus, teaching blogs, and blogs from PhD candidates reporting their research, added new insight to the various possibilities for blogging. His goals, and especially his library’s hope to lend legitimacy to blogs by hosting them, underscores the importance of this new communication medium for all institutions.

Building an institutional repository

Margaret Branschofsky (Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries (MIT) Libraries) provided an overview of institutional repositories from the MIT perspective. She characterized institutional repositories as institutionally defined, containing scholarly content, cumulative and perpetual, and providing interoperability on an open access platform. Her presentation centered on the development of DSpace, the institutional repository open source software used at MIT. According to the speaker, DSpace originated as a joint venture between MIT Libraries and Hewlett Packard who sought to provide space for the school’s faculty, digital research, and teaching materials utilizing open source software. The project’s developers envisioned content as including technical reports, working papers, conference papers, preprints, post prints, books, thesis, datasets, course materials, and digitalized library collections in a variety of formats such as text, images, audio and video.

The second half of Branschofsky’s talk chronicled the project’s successes and failures since its debut in November 2002. The speaker related how DSpace’s developers granted MIT’s faculty wide leeway in populating the database. MIT Libraries provided DSpace’s contributors with tools such as a metadata template as well as final decision making on submission and access rights to the material. DSpace’s only requirement, according to Branschofsky, was that every item be available to MIT staff. Moreover, DSpace also allows authors to retain copyright since the license only grants the institutional repository a non-exclusive right to acquire, manage, and distribute the material. Still, according to the speaker, MIT’s staff was slow to adopt the institutional repository concept despite the libraries’ mass marketing campaign which included press releases and presentations. MIT Libraries were ultimately forced to hire a marketing consultant who advised them to identify an audience, target the decision maker and promote the institutional repository project to that individual. According to Branschofsky, DSpace currently receives 2563 hits per day and includes 5699 items from 17 communities and 48 collections.


This was an excellent presentation that provided useful information for libraries interested in establishing an institutional repository for their communities. The speaker’s detailed description on the organization of the repository in communities and sub-communities as well as list of possible content provided a graphic illustration of the database at MIT. Moreover, her talk also included strategies for success which centered on anticipating questions from faculty on topics such as the differences between institutional repositories and personal websites, intellectual property issues, digital presentation of materials and preservation. Her final advice to potential institutional repository librarians centered on identifying barriers, speaking to non-users, and testing new approaches.

Session Report: ALA Midwinter 2005

Electronic Resource Management Systems

Barbara Blummer, Center for Computing Sciences

This meeting of the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS) Electronic Resources Interest Group included presentations by Tony Harvell from University of California San Diego (UCSD) Libraries and Ivy Anderson and Ellen Duranceau representing Harvard University Libraries and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries (MIT) respectively, on their collaborative efforts with integrated library system (ILS) vendors to develop an electronic resource management system (ERM).

Implementing the Innovative Electronic Resources Management System

Harvell’s presentation traced the Libraries’ installation of Innovative’s ERM product in the fall of 2003. Harvell began with an overview of UCSD Libraries online journal collection, which includes more than 300 electronic resources packages representing nearly 10,000 licensed serials. UCSD Libraries, like many libraries, housed information pertaining to their ejournals in numerous places including paper files as well as their ILS system. The haphazard tracking of ejournals created problems for renewals, statistical reporting, and updating holdings information at UCSD Libraries.

Harvell described how Innovative’s ERM system provided new record types to match the needs of electronic journals such as resource, license, and order records. The system also displays links among record types, including holdings records, to describe relationships. In addition, the software contains a tickler which allows advance email notification of events such as renewals. Moreover, it provides contact information as well as incident logs to track performance problems. Two especially interesting features include the ability to display license terms in the OPAC at the title level and the customization capabilities of the public interface to display information from the resource record. Harvell also described how holdings information can be updated through batch processes.

The speaker concluded his presentation with pointers on a successful implementation of an ERM system such as defining what to track and determining how to track it as well as establishing priorities and training staff. Harvell believes it is especially important to develop local standards and involve all staff including public services in creating the system. His slides on “What Works” (including better integration of electronic resources in the ILS) and “What Still Isn’t Working” (populating resource and licensing records is slow) provides valuable information to libraries considering purchasing the product.

From Greenbox to Verde

Duranceau and Anderson discussed Harvard and MIT’s collaboration with Ex Libris to create a viable ERM system, Verde. This talk, which provided a theoretical perspective on ERM creation rather than a practical ERM application, began with a timeline tracing significant events in Verde’s development. The project commenced in December 2002 with the two librarians defining the functionality of the fields and data elements. By March 2004 the pair had created a data model and an agreement between the two institutions sealed the development of the project. Duranceau and Anderson credited the guidelines for functional requirements established by the Digital Library Federation Electronic Resource Management Initiative (DLF ERMI) as fostering the creation of the data model.

The speakers outlined some key features of the Verde software such as a knowledgebase approach, no public end user interface and the ability to integrate with Ex Libris Aleph Acquisitions Module. The speakers remained especially excited about Verde’s knowledgebase approach which allows SFX or MetaLib’s central knowledgebase to prepopulate fields. Libraries shouldn’t hesitate over Verde’s lack of a public interface since the software can deliver information through Ex Libris’s OPAC, MetaLib, or any third party application via web services. According to Duranceau and Anderson the product is designed to accommodate consortia, but they did not elaborate. Their presentation also included a demonstration of Verde which included searching for an ejournal, and editing the acquisitions and license records. The speakers concluded with a statement that adherence to DLF ERMI specifications should facilitate interoperability and portability.


Each presentation complemented the other and provided the audience with an overview of the development and utilization of ERM systems in academic libraries. Harvell’s talk focused on the practical implementation and utilization of an ILS ERM product with his outline of record types and hints for successful applications as well as what the system can and can’t do. Duranceau and Anderson’s presentation, on the other hand, discussed the creation of the software which included utilization of data elements and a data model to develop a viable system based on standards and guidelines from the DLF ERMI.

Barbara Blummer,, is reference librarian at the Center for Computing Sciences.


Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large, Volume 5, Number 3, Whole Issue 59, ISSN 1534-0937, a journal of libraries, policy, technology and media, is written and produced by Walt Crawford, a senior analyst at RLG.

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