February 7, 2019
This article is reposted from Library Journal, with permission.
Academic libraries do something remarkably well: They take information published in a variety of formats worldwide and make it easily searchable and accessible for students, faculty, and researchers. Now, a growing number of institutional leaders are asking: How can academic librarians take these same skill sets and apply them to the challenge of making a university’s research assets more easily discoverable among the broader research community?
Many research universities use institutional repositories to collect, store, and highlight their research assets, including published papers, data sets, and other outputs. Often managed by the library, these repositories disseminate the work of students and scholars to the academic community at large, making it easier for other researchers to find, use, and build on that knowledge. They also help universities comply with open-access rules requiring publicly funded research to be made widely available.
In many ways, the institutional repositories being used today fall short of meeting the research community’s needs.
But in many ways, the institutional repositories being used today fall short of meeting the research community’s needs. For instance, they are often difficult to maintain, with inefficient workflows that make it hard to add new research outputs, link research papers with data sets, and add comprehensive metadata to make these assets discoverable. As a result, the research outputs of universities are not being showcased as well as they could be—and staff are spending too much time on these labor-intensive tasks.
Populating an institutional repository can be challenging. Typically, faculty are encouraged to deposit their research outputs by filling out an online form. But many researchers don’t follow through on this step, either because they don’t have the time or they don’t see the value in doing so. And when they do deposit their research outputs, they often do so with incomplete metadata. Library staff often have to enrich the metadata associated with these assets to make them easily discoverable. With no easy, systematic way of doing this, the process can take several hours of staff time.
What’s more, many universities have no clear strategy for how they will store and manage their research assets. As one research article notes, this often results in the creation of multiple repositories within the same institution. Having disparate systems makes it harder to link together data and publications, standardize the collection of research assets, and apply metadata to these assets consistently. And even when institutions don’t have multiple repositories, the lack of a clear strategy can be problematic, resulting in a repository that is a mix of unrelated content.
These shortcomings have important implications for everyone involved. When researchers aren’t promoting their work as effectively as possible, they could be missing chances for professional recognition, connecting with colleagues who are doing similar research, and even securing grant funding. For research librarians, having to spend countless hours manually updating an institutional repository takes away from time they could be spending on more strategic work instead. For universities, when assets are missing from a repository, the institution might not be showcasing its work effectively for potential students, donors, or faculty and could be violating open research requirements. And for the research community, the entire sum of knowledge is less rich a when research outputs are not easily discoverable.
These challenges have prompted some key questions: Can academic libraries help drive superior research and ensure compliance by doing what they do best—collecting and organizing information and making it easily sharable and searchable? Can the library unite researchers within an institution, or even between institutions? In short, can academic libraries step forward and apply their unique skill set to the problem?
Librarians at leading institutions such as the University of Denver have been working with Ex Libris to outline their vision for a next-generation research repository that would improve the collection, management, and dissemination of research outputs.
For instance, the ideal research repository should support a wide variety of asset types across a full range of academic disciplines, including not only publications but also pre-prints, data sets, audiovisual media, creative works, blog posts, and other kinds of materials. It should give universities an easy way to link research outputs with the data sets, presentations, blog posts, press coverage, social media mentions, and other materials associated with these outputs. And it should use automated processes to capture information and make it easier to deposit research assets wherever possible, reducing the workload on librarians and faculty.
In a Library Journal recorded webcast, Michael Levine-Clark, dean of the University of Denver Libraries, and Eddie Neuwirth, senior director of product management for research services at Ex Libris, discussed the need for a next-generation research repository—and the solution they have devised. Learn more — register to see the recorded webcast today.