Tuesday, July 31, 2007

random thoughts after reading the Ithaka report

I've read some very astute commentaries on the new Ithaka report "University Publishing in a Digital Age" from if:book, Dorothea, and Karen.

Dorothea and Karen both commented at length about the placement of IRs in the new publishing scheme. Dorothea hits the nail on the head when she points out that while IRs can be compared to dusty attics, they're still a form of distribution and preservation. An informal form of distribution perhaps, but formal archiving, where the output of scholarship in a digital form is collected and maintained. The report acknowledges this. The perception that we're receiving large sums of money to do this is surprising. We're getting money to write software; we're not necessarily getting money to sustain the services that the software enables.

Is an IR publishing? Preservation and distribution, yes. Publishing? I'm not so sure. Part of the scholarly communication life cycle, a place to preserve publishing output? Absolutely. As Dorothea points out, this is a relationship we could have with University presses. It's one we're already developing directly with the faculty for their born-digital scholarship and their published works.

To get on my soap box, not all repositories are IRs. UVA operates a Fedora-based repository to manage and make usable its locally digitized collections, collections that our subject specialists and faculty have selected, which includes our digitized collections and born-digital scholarship that we collect directly from our faculty. In this way we make digital content available for new teaching and research as well as collecting the work created from our collections and others. Fedora repositories will also have a role in the infrastructure of our digitization-on-demand service, our nascent "Academic Information Space" environment for the creation of digital scholarship, and for an IR. Repositories can have a role in all stages of the scholarly communication life cycle.

Then there's this in the report:

Librarians with whom we spoke view their role with respect to scholarly communications as making sure they have robust online collections; creating research environments (e.g. collections and tools) that will help faculty and graduate students create the scholarship of the future; finding ways for the institution to take back more control and lower the cost of scholarship; and developing infrastructure and tools to enable multimedia. Increasingly, these roles bleed into what might be considered “publishing”. The role of librarians has always been, in part, to provide services to the local community that help them find information, or learn how to find information. With the advent of online resources, librarians developed skills in accessing and managing online data. It therefore is not surprising that many faculty members and students have turned to librarians for assistance in producing electronic resources. One librarian stated that “Faculty are coming to us to help them with their electronic publishing needs. We have the technical expertise on staff to help them push the envelope of new forms of scholarship.” Another stated that “The library’s task is to create the online research environments of the future – collections, accessibility, tools.” Some librarians see themselves as pioneers and innovators in bringing scholarship online.
This statement resonated with me because that's what we've been doing at UVa for fifteen years. Now we're looking at more sustainable ways to enable this form of publishing, and for ways to preserve what we've created. It's time for a new service model.

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