Webology, Volume 4, Number 4, December, 2007

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Book Review

Jones, Catherine. Institutional Repositories: Content and Culture in an Open Access Environment. Published by Chandos Publishing, Chandos House, 5 & 6 Steadys Lane, Stanton Harcourt, Oxford, OX29 5RL, UK. 2007, 250 p., Paperback, ISBN 1-84334-307-X, 39.95£; Hardback, ISBN 1-84334-308-8, 57£.

As repository technology matures, the cultural and organizational aspects of setting up and running an institutional repository have come to the forefront of the discussion surrounding their deployment. The book deliberately does not discuss any software in particular but focuses more on identifying key stake holders in the changing information environment and their role in the institutional repository scenario with regard to strategic and policy issues. Key aspects such as advocacy, user engagement, content policy, preservation and curation are covered in a clear and practical fashion, drawing on the author's experience of running an institutional repository. Although the book covers important and relevant issues, it is occasionally uneven in its depth and coverage, dealing with some aspects in great detail and only briefly mentioning others.

A short introductory chapter creates the framework for the book by providing a definition of institutional repositories, followed by a very broad second chapter entitled The Changing Information Environment. In this chapter key stake holders are identified and described, followed by a general section describing the Open Access movement and finishing by describing certain online information tools such as Flickr and Wikipedia in quite some detail. Although it is clear that the intention is to place institutional repositories within the wider information content, it would have been interesting if the author had mentioned for example, Cyber infrastructure or eScience projects which are important frameworks for future digital networks and academic communication and publishing.

The policy and cultural aspects of implementing an institutional repository are well discussed in the third chapter, covering important issues such as advocacy, infrastructure, sustainability, training, documentation, roles and responsibilities and acquiring content, from a practical and useful perspective. In particular defining content policies: what types of materials the repository will accept, what users are authorized to deposit, data validation and removal of items are issues that are well covered. Content policies are important, in particular with institutional repositories anxious to ingest content. In particular the strategy of incorporating bibliographic references in order to populate repositories can sometimes be misleading in terms of the actual size of the repository, as many records do not actually have the digital object attached. Although the process of submission for the authors must be as easy as possible, it is also important to consider how the institutional repository can become part of the normal workflow for academics, rather than an additional step that must be done at the end of the research process. In this sense, although there is an attempt to mention a wide variety of content types in chapter 4, the book tends to focus on text-based material and in particular eprints. For example, the section on legal issues focuses on the publishing industry related to journals and books and does not contemplate other new types of electronic resources that can be deposited within a repository. The same is true of the automated metadata extraction section in chapter 7, Looking into the future. In this sense important technological next steps for repositories, such as OAI-ORE for handling complex digital objects, are hardly mentioned and would greatly complement the work.

An important chapter of the book is dedicated to aspects of curation, an increasingly important theme for institutional repositories. The author convincingly argues that preservation and curation issues should be considered when defining content policies, rather than as an afterthought once the repository begins to attract content. This is particularly important as repositories so far have tended to focus on acquiring content and they are not still very clear on the processes required to keep this material available over the long term. This is a particularly difficult issue with complex digital objects and although there is currently a lot of work, some of which is mentioned in the book, there are still no clear answers.

The book also includes three case studies, two from the UK and one from New Zealand. The chapter is particularly insightful as it explains in detail the reasoning for setting up the repository, the processes involved, resourcing, approaches to curation and a particularly useful section on the barriers and issues as described by the repository managers themselves that were interviewed by the author. Once again the types of materials handled by the all three cases are text based, such as theses and eprints, except for the repository of New Zealand. However, their audiovisual material in the form of audio and video recordings is mentioned but not discussed explicitly.

The book concludes with a chapter on Looking into the future, which discusses some interesting issues on which direction repositories will develop especially with integration with more Web 2.0 type technologies. The author focuses mainly on integrating data with publications. The discussion would have benefited from a more detailed examination of other types of electronic resources such as images, audios, software, 3D visualization models, which in the near future will become increasingly important either in repositories or in the broader academic information landscape. It is important to contemplate how these will work with institutional repositories. Clearly over the next few years there will be a lot of material written on the future of institutional repositories, and in practical terms this book could be a useful reference for organizations that are new to the repository world, even though the different issues are given an uneven treatment.

Isabel Galina
E-mail: i.russell (at) ucl.ac.uk
Centre for Publishing
School of Library, Archive and Information Studies
University College London

Bibliographic information of this book review for citing:

Galina, Isabel (2007). "Review of: Jones, C. Institutional repositories: Content and culture in an Open Access environment." Oxford: Chandos Publishing, 2007. Webology, 4 (4), Book Review 10. Available at: http://www.webology.org/2007/v4n4/bookreview10.html

Copyright © 2007, Isabel Galina.