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March 04, 2006

Open Access archiving "takes patience, fortitude, and persistence", Caveat lector says to peers

Dorothea Salo, Throw your own spaghetti, Caveat Lector, February 27, 2006. Excerpt by Open Access News Blog:

Some guest librarians are coming in on Friday. They’re interested in institutional repositories, which means me. So I got to spend an hour this morning... answering their questions about IRs. I’ve done this for a number of librarians now. Surveys, exploratory interviews, random email, you name it. The same question invariably comes up: “How do I get stuff for the IR?” I am a nice person. (Well, I like to think I am. I recognize that opinions differ on this point, however.) I like to share things. I especially like to share the answers to tough questions. If I had the answer for this one? The magic bullet? The never-fail recipe for How To Attract Content to a Digital Repository? I would have shared it already. Truly. I haven’t shared it, therefore I don’t have it. QED. Stevan Harnad has an answer... My paraphrase of his answer is “Make IR deposit mandatory!” Sure, that’s a magic-bullet answer - if you have that kind of power. I don’t, and neither do the librarians asking me this question...

Sometimes they’re asking, “How can I fill the IR without extra librarian work?” Simple answer: you can’t. That’s what most libraries with IRs have been trying to do, and it flat-out does not work. I have an obvious bias toward this answer, so don’t trust me --go out and try to find a counterexample. Either the librarians are going to be depositing stuff, or they’re going to be marketing to faculty so that faculty deposit stuff, or (most likely) both...

Sometimes they’re asking “How can I make faculty deposit?” Same answer: you can’t. You don’t control faculty behavior. That leaves you some choices: you can lobby the people who do control faculty behavior, you can dangle carrots in front of faculty, you can take it out of faculty hands, you can build on what faculty are already doing, or you can hope for serendipity. I’m doing all of these things, to varying degrees, and if you look at the (sparse, admittedly) literature, I think you’ll find that most suggested strategies fall into one of these areas...

Sometimes they’re asking “How do I justify my IR’s existence, if it’s not attracting stuff?” I’ll tell you: I don’t know. My job hangs off this question, and I still don’t know what the right answer is. For master’s and Ph.D institutions, electronic theses and dissertations may be the right answer. For some institutions, Special Collections has the answer... I’ll tell you this, though: if you’re trying to answer this question now, you’re almost certainly too soon. “Word is starting to get out,” someone kindly said to me today....I’ve been here seven and a half months; word is just starting to get out, and seeds I planted months ago are just starting to sprout. If you’re expecting immediate results, you shouldn’t be in this business; it takes patience, fortitude, and persistence... What all this grumpiness amounts to is, I am still throwing spaghetti at the wall like a mad thing. I don’t know and can’t tell you which strands will stick where you are. If you want to do this, throw your own spaghetti, and then let’s get together and talk about what stuck."

Source: P. Suber. Frustrations filling an IR. OANews Blog OANews (1 March 2006) [FullText]

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