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JISC-REPOSITORIES  March 2011

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Subject:

What makes a good repository?

From:

Chris Rusbridge <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Chris Rusbridge <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 7 Mar 2011 11:08:02 +0000

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I'm interested in the question "what makes a good repository?". Or perhaps, given a particular repository, how could we assess whether it is doing its job well? Or, well enough... to be sustainable?

I've been given various answers starting from

a) the repository meets its (defined) goals.

OK, sounds reasonable, but the goals were probably defined in the past, perhaps even before the repository existed. That was then; this is a different world. How about...

b) the repository meets real needs.

Yes, I like that. But what are those real needs? I can think of two groups that sound similar but are subtly different...

c) the repository is (well) used
c1) by depositors
c2) by readers
c3) by re-users.

(There are probably more important subtypes of users.) This is the set we often measure: c1 by total deposited items or by rates of deposit, c2 by accesses and downloads. We less often measure c3, but citations and in-links could be reasonable proxies. Both are slightly muddy as many repositories contain substitutes for the version of record, and good practice is to cite the latter (but perhaps more often link to the substitute). But how about...

d) the repository is useful
d1) to depositors
d2) to its owner
d3) to the public in general

(Again this might not be the right set of subtypes.) The first of these, d1 is not the same as c1; repositories might be used without being useful to depositors. This might be because of mandates, perhaps, or by being "used" by librarians acting for the depositors without much motivation by the depositors. Much better where the repository is useful to the depositor. This (I think) is what the various "Negative Click Repository" posts were about (see posts in http://digitalcuration.blogspot.com/search/label/Negative%20click), and I think it's part of the thrust of Steve Hitchcock's DepositMO project (http://blogs.ecs.soton.ac.uk/depositmo/).

Sustainability is in part about continuing to convince decision makers to keep paying the costs, so being demonstrably useful to the owner (d2) seems pretty important.

The last subtype (d3) I've made as general as possible, believing that there is a real public-spirit, philanthropic nature to most institutions that run repositories, as well as a belief that good deeds can come back to reward us (casting our bread upon the waters?).

I'm interested in any comments on these ideas, and particularly interested in any suggestions for measures of the (d) group. Does this make sense?

--
Chris Rusbridge
Mobile: +44 791 7423828
Email: [log in to unmask]

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