DSpaceDirect Customer Profile
The University of Illinois contracted with the American Library Association to provide a digital repository and associated infrastructure so that ALA historical data of all types, as well as current ALA member publications, could be preserved and made publicly accessible.
The American Library Association (ALA) Archives documents the history of the American Library Association and Librarianship. The Archives is open for public use and is managed by the University of Illinois Archives. The ALA DSpaceDirect digital institutional repository, ALAIR (https://alair.ala.org/), provides an open access repository committed to collecting, permanently storing, and providing digital access to the publications and intellectual work of the American Library Association. It is organized into communities reflecting the Divisions, Offices, Committees, and Roundtables that make up ALA.
The ALA Archives is comprised of physical and digital resources that can include meeting minutes, administrative documents, reports, whitepapers, newsletters, web pages, and other types of publications. The goal of ALAIR is to be a general purpose institutional repository that includes digital scholarly materials as well as a great deal of content that reflects the scope of the ALA community enterprise.
Although archivists might not use the same terms, the basic DSpace “communities and collections” architecture allowed the University of Illinois to aggregate content based on the existing structure of ALA’s constituent associations, divisions, committees, and other groups. A key factor in choosing DSpaceDirect was that previoulsy there was no self-archiving option available to ALA members for key organizational content such as reports and minutes of meetings. Currenlty, the University of Illinois is in the process of making ALAIR known to ALA communities so that they can add their materials.
In addition, there is now a tool that allows ALA staff members to deposit materials that have continuing value, at the same time as making these materials more easy to search and discover.
The University of Illinois envisions that ALAIR will be a place where ALA members and the general public can go for authoritative information about ALA. With DSpaceDirect appropriate preservation strategies are already in place and content is secure. As archivists, the University of Illinois team understands the value of providing the infrastructure for preservation over time.
The value of public access to ALA organizational history will provide another way to promote and understand the historical and societal value of librarianship.
We have signed on for a terabyte of storage which, we believe will be sufficient for the immediate future. (Almost half a terabyte of digital records content has already been collected from ALA units and is informally managed outside of ALAIR.) There is a backlog of administrative records from our communities – including ACRL – which could mean that ALAIR will turn out to be a very substantial repository.
At the present time, nothing is embargoed. Our organizations are being encouraged to use it and link directly to ALAIR. Each organization within ALA has its own branded community with a link to it on the archive side.
We are pleased with the seamless integration with the ALA web site that includes enough visual branding to make it appear to be part of our organization.
One issue we did notice during the pilot phase was that it was tricky for end users to get things classified in the right collection. Partly, this reflects the fact that ALA is a complex organization, and that ALA does not have LDAP groups that are tied to staff members. As a result, the deposit page presented a flat list of all collections when staff members tried to upload a document. Complicating matters, every community has meetings and agendas. Staff accidentally put their materials into a collection that looked correct to them, but is actually nested in the wrong community.
However, this is only a short term problem. DSpaceDirect is going to be upgrading the software soon, and we have been assured that ALA staff will have a much easier way to ensure that the materials end up in the right collection. This is one great advantage of using DSpaceDirect—we always get the latest enhancements to software, without needing to maintain it ourselves.
Another service enhancement that would benefit us is a plug-in allowing repository managers to batch upload files with metadata elements and other information attached in a csv file.
In addition, we appreciate the fact the the DSpaceDirect service allows us to contract for customizations, at a reasonable cost. We look forward to collaborating with staff on projects to improve the application from its already strong position.