v31 #3 Biz of Digital — Developing and Growing a New Repository Service: Part 1 Getting Started

by | Jun 28, 2019 | 0 comments

by Column Editor:  Michelle Flinchbaugh  (Acquisitions and Digital Scholarship Services Librarian, Albin O. Kuhn Library & Gallery, University of Maryland Baltimore County, 1000 Hilltop Circle, Baltimore, MD 21250;  Phone: 410-455-6754; Fax: 410-455-1598) 

Column Editor’s Note:  This is Part 1 of a 3 part series on Creating a New Repository Service.  Part 2: Procedures for Library Submissions will appear in the September 2019 issue.  Part 3: Expansion will appear in the November 2019 issue. — MF


After implementing a new repository platform, several questions arose.  Where to begin? What would work for adding materials to the repository and what wouldn’t?  What kind of support and service would the library need to offer? 


The University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), a research-intensive institution with 546 Full-time, 292 Part-time faculty, participated in the Maryland Shared Open Access Repository (MD-SOAR) pilot and has the MD-SOAR DSpace platform available to it.  UMBC’s repository is branded [email protected]  Through a planning and implementation process, general policy decisions were reached both by the MD-SOAR Governance Group (MD-SOAR policies appear at the bottom of this page: http://usmai.org/resources/md-soar) and by a campus-wide [email protected] Advisory Group.  Help documentation was developed and posted in a LibGuide for self-submitters (here: https://lib.guides.umbc.edu/c.php?g=728911).  Additionally, UMBC’s Faculty Senate passed an Open Access Resolution (https://lib.guides.umbc.edu/c.php?g=728911&p=5872742), recommending that faculty provide open access to their works via MD-SOAR or another repository.  Finally, structure and workflow decisions were made and set up in the system (the procedure for setting up collections and configuring their workflow is here: https://wiki.umbc.edu/display/library/Structure–Setting+Up+Collections).  

As is typical with repositories, the initiative was led and managed by UMBC’s Albin O. Kuhn Library & Gallery, with an existing librarian gradually shifting responsibilities to become a full-time Digital Scholarship Services Librarian and manage the repository. 

The Seed Collection

While MD-SOAR was still being implemented, a decision was made to move all UMBC’s Electronic Thesis and Disserations (ETDs) that were in CONTENTdm to MD-SOAR and that move was completed before MD-SOAR was fully implemented.  There were additionally a small number of faculty publications acquired via a grant in CONTENTdm that were also migrated to MD-SOAR before the system’s launch date.  ScholarWorks, UMBC’s new repository, was already populated with approximately 1,380 items, almost all of which were ETD’s moved from CONTENTDm, when the Digital Scholarship Services Librarian started work on it. 

Where to begin?  Understanding Important Policies

Understanding policies impacting the scope of the collection as whole and the scope of sub-collections was critically important in determining how to process items, and in developing procedures.  Both MD-SOAR and UMBC adopted policies impacting when we could and couldn’t add an item to our collection as well as what sub-collections an item would appear in.  

The MD-SOAR Content and Format Guide (http://usmai.org/sites/public/files/ContentandFormatGuidelines_0.pdf) substantively impacted procedures for adding materials to the repository.  These policies set the parameters of the MD-SOAR repository as one that consists primarily of free full-text of works:

  1. A submission can consist solely of a link and metadata.  Including files in submissions is not required. 
  2. All submissions must include a full-text totally free version of the work via a link or by providing a file.
  3. Linking to a paywall protected version is only allowed when a free full-text version is also provided.

Not all repositories define their scope this way — some require files.  Others allow for the entry of citations without the full text and don’t require the inclusion of a free version so that faculty can include all of their works even if they can’t provide full-text or a free version.  The intent of MD-SOAR’s policy is to ensure that the vast majority of the time, system users find full-text works that they can access for free. If MD-SOAR defined its scope differently, UMBC’s procedures for ScholarWorks might also be substantively different.  With MD-SOAR’s scope, determining if items available on the web are free became an important part of procedures, this isn’t always an easy task with library subscription items automatically authenticating and each platform having a different way of indicating if an item is free or open access or not.

A couple of UMBC policies also impacted procedures.  UMBC wanted to clearly differentiate between faculty and student work, but the MD-SOAR metadata schema didn’t allow for this.  However, Faculty Works and Student Works could be collections, and items could be added to both the collection of the author’s department, and to the Faculty or Student Collection via mapping.  These collections were established, and later, a Staff Collection was also added. We also decided to add items with authors from different departments to all pertinent collections — this would help to build departments’ collections more quickly.  Determining the departmental affiliation of all UMBC authors as well as their status also became part of procedures.  While this is simple on a single author work where information is clear on the work or in the directory, sometimes, particularly on older works, there is no information and this is impossible.  Other times when many authors from different departments have participated in writing, mapping can become time-consuming. 

What would work for adding materials to the repository and what wouldn’t? 

On Jan. 2, 2018, the Digital Scholarship Services Librarian began seriously working on adding works to the repository, starting with small scale experimentation.  The Library preferred faculty self-submission but realized that, at most universities, faculty don’t and the library has to do it for them. The Digital Scholarship Services Librarian decided to try both asking faculty to submit themselves and also a small-scale service to add materials for them.  For the self-submission test, she began emailing individual faculty members, telling them about the repository and offering to meet with them to show them the system to hopefully get some started submitting works themselves. For the library submission service, she signed up for Google Scholar Alerts for new items added with “The University of Maryland Baltimore County” or “UMBC” in them, a means of discovering new faculty publications that she’d learned from another repository manager at a conference. 


After sending dozens of emails from January-August 2018 offering to show faculty the system, a handful responded to arrange a time.  The Digital Scholarship Services Librarian met with them, showing them the system and how to submit items. All said that they would enter items when they have time, but none did.  This provided valuable experience in how to (and how not to) talk to people about the repository. We no longer ask faculty to contribute directly to the repository themselves. Rather, we let them know we can do it for them but encourage them to use student assistants or administrative assistants instead.  In the rare instance when a faculty member wants to add materials themselves, we’re happy to let them. To date, approximately .03% of the items in our repository were submitted by people outside of the library. While these meetings didn’t result in them submitting items themselves, they did provide a valuable idea to include works about UMBC and people affiliated with it in the repository, as well as experience with procedures for adding outstanding class projects, both covered below.  

About UMBC and Its People: A Repository Collection

One meeting with a faculty member resulted in a new collection for works about UMBC and its people.  A faculty member had been featured in an article in a journal and wanted to know if he could add the article about him even if he didn’t write it.  After an initial response of no, that the repository for works authored by people at UMBC, the Digital Scholarship Services Librarian wondered why not?  As long as articles about faculty are available for free, records with a link to the work could be included.  After some discussion with stakeholders, a new collection, “About UMBC and Its People,” was added to the repository.  Items included in that collection are also included in the collections of departments that the work is about, or the departments of people who the work is about.  To date, no specific effort has been made to populate that collection, but items are added as someone suggests them, or the Digital Scholarship Services Librarian comes across them.

Outstanding Class Projects

Prior to implementing the repository, librarians were aware of a strong interest in including outstanding class projects in the repository.  With several possible ways of doing this, meetings with faculty members were an opportunity to find a test case and work with a faculty member on how to best get this done.  With some discussion, the following procedures were put in place for student self-submission of their outstanding projects:

  1. Faculty emails the Digital Scholarship Services Librarian, providing the name and number of the class, the name of the project, and the names and emails of students who they want to invite to submit their work to [email protected]
  2. The Digital Scholarship Services Librarian sends them an email inviting them to do so.


Figure 1 Example of email inviting a student to submit an Item

  1. The students create accounts in the system.
  2. The Digital Scholarship Services Librarian gives them submission privileges for the Student Collection, then emails them back telling them that they can now add their item.  She also re-sends the instructions on how to do this in email.
  3. The students add their works.
  4. The Digital Scholarship Services Librarian checks the student’s self-submission, completing or correcting metadata, and ensuring an appropriate file and no inappropriate files were uploaded.  A keyword is added for the class so that works for the particular class can be located. She then approves them and maps them to other appropriate collections. 

Using this procedure, about half the students invited to submit items do so.  While student self-submission of outstanding class projects has been more successful than faculty self-submission, outstanding class projects are only a very minuscule portion of works that we add to the repository.

It’s important to note that student work published in peer-reviewed journals, including undergraduate peer reviewed journals, is handled exactly like faculty work.  That is, a faculty member need not recommend that a peer-reviewed work authored by a student be added because we consider the peer reviewed and published status to be indicative of high-quality work. 

Library Submission

The Digital Scholarship Services Librarian began library submissions by utilizing Google Scholar Alerts to find out about new UMBC publications.  These items discovered via Google Scholar Alerts became her first hands-on experience in figuring out rights and adding items to the repository, and proved to be critically important in identifying gaps in her knowledge.  Additionally, emails sent to faculty asking for a version of an item discovered via a Google Alert became the most effective form of outreach to faculty with many more responding to these emails about one of their works than to those where she offered to meet with them and show them the repository.

Soon after the Digital Scholarship Services Librarian began processing Google Alerts, some faculty responses to questions about works or requests for a particular version also included requests to load other materials: works in their previous institution’s repository, works on a lab publications page, the works on their Google Scholar page, works on their CV, or a list pasted into an email.  She also began figuring out rights for these items, and adding them when possible.

Developing New Knowledge and Revising Documentation

Within a very short period of time of beginning to do hands-on rights and submissions work, the Digital Services Librarian discovered gaps in her knowledge of copyright and Creative Commons licenses.  Additionally, it became clear that the repository license and some of the documentation for users were inadequate, in that they failed to cover Creative Commons licenses and U.S. Government publications not eligible for copyright.  The license and documentation were revised.  

The Library Repository Working Group determined to find a local copyright librarian to present on copyright on campus to faculty and to talk about the services that her library’s Copyright Center offers to their campus.  The Digital Services Librarian also took the Coursera courses Copyright for Educators & Librarians (https://www.coursera.org/learn/copyright-for-education?) and Copyright for Multimedia (https://www.coursera.org/learn/copyright-for-multimedia?) offered by Duke, Emory, and UNC Chapel Hill to hone her knowledge.  Finally, the Digital Scholarship Services Librarian was asked to create a LibGuide on copyright, and did so utilizing other libraries’ Creative Commons licensed copyright LibGuides (UMBC’s Copyright LibGuide is available here: https://lib.guides.umbc.edu/c.php?g=833626). 

While a select group of librarians, including the Digital Scholarship Services Librarian, had taken an extensive course on Creative Commons licenses, she quickly encountered a vast array of Creative Commons license types that she hadn’t heard of.  The current version of Creative Commons license are 4.0 licenses which are universal.  The DSpace system utilizes 3.0 U.S. licenses, but she encountered ones for different countries and “unported” ones.  She learned that before version 4.0, Creative Commons licenses were written for the laws of particular countries, and the unported ones are a generic version not written for laws of any particular country.  When adding items on a Creative Commons license, she wanted to reproduce the license type accurately, so learned how to replace the U.S. 3.0 license with the appropriate version, and added this to procedures and documentation. 

Later, a discussion of a standard rights statement being applied to all records led the Digital Scholarship Services Librarian to research rights statements in various repositories.  Despite discovering that most repositories weren’t using a standards rights statement, the group determined to continue using one, but one that acknowledges that some works are on Creative Commons licenses.  Additionally, she noted that publisher required statements, usually regarding copyright, were placed in a Dublin Core rights element in other repositories, but they had been using the description field for this.  Going forward, they began using the rights element for this. 

What kind of support and service would the library need to offer? 

Clearly the most successful submission process was library submission with library staff processing and adding faculty submissions.  Many new UMBC publications could be identified, processed, and added via Google Scholar Alerts.  Many older publications could be identified, processed, and added via faculty CV’s, Google Scholar Profiles, publication websites, and lists of publications.  This would require a production workflow with expertise in the areas of copyright, author agreements and publisher policies on self-archiving, versions of works, Creative Commons licenses, and metadata.  Tasks would include determining if an item is in-scope, what version if any could be added, acquiring an appropriate version to add, identifying information sources, determining what sub-collections to add an item to based on the affiliation and status of authors, metadata creation, and mapping into sub-collections.

Ramping up Production

Within four months, with only minimal outreach to individual faculty members, the number of items that faculty had asked the library to load far exceeded what the Digital Scholarship Services Librarian could do alone.  She requested a student assistant, and with hiring approved beginning in the fall semester, she began documenting library submission procedures (covered in Part 2 of this series), then figuring out how to work with a student assistant (covered in part 3 of this series). 


This early period of talking to faculty, experimenting, and learning via hands-on work was critical to increasing knowledge, refining policies, and developing basic procedures.  With a novice Digital Scholarship Services Librarian, this also meant ample opportunities for professional development, skill building, and relationship building across the campus.  Indeed, via this work, in four months, with minimal outreach, a regular flow of work coming into the library increased to a point that was sufficient to justify hiring a student assistant.  A few months later, a student assistant was brought on board and the system rolled out to all of campus in conjunction with the start of the fall semester. This gradual implementation successfully met a library strategic planning goal of getting the repository up and running.  


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