Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Digital Repositories - getting to grips with the same issues

I have been an interested observer of the world of digital repositories for the past couple of years. Not least because of the multi-million pound investment from JISC and others into this area to create repositories which whilst not necessarily records management systems ('all records management systems are repositories, but not all repositories are records management systems' - discuss!) are clearly very associated with them and the objectives of records management. I have had, and indeed continue to have, many interesting discussions with colleagues more closely involved in this area regarding the degree of overlap between these two agendas and the need to join the communities of practice for mutual benefit. As the scope of these repositories begins to widen from 'white' and 'grey' literature (i.e. published and non-published research papers) towards housing things like research grant applications, minutes of meetings and other 'corporate records' so the opportunities (and risks) of cross-over or lack of increase further.

By their own admission the respository community is beginning to struggle to know how best to tackle issues such as the need for version control and tracking audit trails. Records managers have a great deal to offer here in terms of our experience in these issues - I just hope that within institutions that expertise is being tapped into.

However, what struck me having attended the first day of the JISC Dealing with the Data Deluge workshop in Manchester today is an even more fascinating parallel between the two agendas.

Those responsible for implementing and maintaining institutional repositories are beginning to notice exactly the same impact from the rise of Web2.0 as I have been predicting for records management. They are beginning to notice that users are turning away from the structured, formal, well managed official repository and are instead turning to 'quick and dirty' services offered by externally hosted services - and in particular to those services that people are using in their lives outside work such as Flickr etc.

The keynote speaker, Andy Powell from Eduserv advocated viewing repositories as just another web resource (as this is the way in which users do), rather than from the system architecture perspective to make sure that we start asking ourselves the right questions. That way we might start to understand what makes these web2.0 systems so attractive to users and to learn lessons from this. Andy's presentation will soon be available from slideshare but wasn't up yet at the time of writing this. Incidently, posting it on slideshare is of course just another example of how an online service is being used right here and now to store and manage a record folks...

So the repositories community are today facing what we as records managers will have to face tomorrow. The approved institutional repository may be a carefully designed, well structured and tightly managed system which adheres to best practice and adopts standard metadata but the signs are that this is not what the user wants. They want something looser and more free. Something with less boundaries and walls that enable them to reuse their material. They want to be able to call it whatever they and their community want to and to access it wherever they are, unfettered by constraint. They want to be able to find it in Google and share it with who ever they choose and if the formal systems being imposed on them can't deliver this - there are a host of online services out there which will...

No comments: