Interview with Helenmary

Could you please tell me about yourself and Career as a Repository service coordinator

I’ve been in my position as Repository Services Coordinator for just over one year. I moved to the University of Illinois last May from Chicago, where I’d been employed at Northwestern University Library in various capacities since 2011. In 2015, while I was a metadata assistant at Northwestern, I earned my Master’s of Library and Information Science degree from UIUC in their distance program. That means it was just about one year between finishing my degree and obtaining my first professional-level position, which is pretty good in the current library job market. I did the distance program so that I could gain professional experience and pay for my education by working at the same time.

When did the university develop their institutional repository and the objective of developing it.

IDEALS launched in 2006, led by a team including Sarah Shreeves (now the Associate Dean for Digital Strategies at the University of Miami in Florida) and Tim Donohue (later the technical lead for the DSpace project.) It arose out of a white paper written in 2004 by several important people in the library and on campus, including Beth Namachchivaya (now an assistant university librarian and soon to be head of the library at the University of Waterloo) and Bill Mischo (head of the Grainger engineering library and interim library dean) who recognized that the library needed a new infrastructure for collecting and preserving digital documents. That white paper laid out a possible collection policy that included not just research articles but also reports, presentations, and other “grey literature,” which at the time was somewhat unusual—a lot of early institutional repositories were focusing primarily on academic research and the ways IRs could contribute to open access, and only later did they begin to consider collecting grey literature as well.

How have you been managing the institutional repository, challenges if any

I think every IR librarian would like to have more staff, more funding, more partners on campus. One challenge has been figuring out an outreach and promotion strategy to let people know that the IR exists and to encourage them to submit their work. I don’t have a lot of graphic design experience, so to figure out posters, flyers, and everything else can be overwhelming sometimes when I already have so much else to do. Another challenge is that our university campus is large and decentralized, so there are many different departments that I have never worked with before. I’d love to go introduce myself and talk about the IR, but there’s only one of me so I haven’t been able to do that yet. However, there are many subject specialists at the library who have great relationships with the departments they serve. The primary way I manage the IR is by building relationships with people like those specialists, so that they can come to me for information or materials and then pass that on to their communities and vice versa. I don’t have to do all the work myself, so long as I’ve built that support network.

From your assessment what will say about achieving the objectives for developing your institutional repository

It helps to know what your objectives are. Do you want to focus on open access and making your university’s scholarship available to the world? Probably you should focus on outreach to scholars, negotiating with publishers, and knowing copyright rules. Do you want to focus on making sure articles and presentations delivered today are still available in 20 or 30 years? Probably then you should focus on building a good preservation system for your IR. A lot of institutional repositories don’t necessarily have any digital preservation features included—here, it’s something we’ve had to build ourselves. Those two goals can go together, of course, but you need to make sure everyone knows what your aim is. Otherwise, if you focus on open access and do a really great job but someone thought the whole point was to preserve materials, they might say, “But this doesn’t work at all!”

What advice do you have for institutions that want to build their  institutional repository

Good luck! I would say that establishing partnerships is the most important thing. That could mean partnerships between universities, partnerships between departments, partnerships among library staff, or partnerships between librarians and staff in other campus units. Partnerships are important because no one person can know everything or do all the work themselves. So in turn, university libraries need to understand that an IR librarian will spend a lot of time talking to other people, establishing those relationships. They need to support that. I’ve talked to librarians at other universities who say that their department head or university admin get suspicious when they go spend time in a microbiology department, for example, or getting to know campus IT, because that’s “someone else’s job.” That’s a shame, because to build a successful IR I think you really do need to get to know many, many people and roles, and have them know your own name or at least the name of your service. And they need to respect your expertise and view you as an equal partner as well.

Thanks you so much for making out time to grant this interview and also to explain these details on developing an Institutional repository, I am very grateful for this insight.

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