The View from the IR Trenches, Part 4

Today, we’ll look at an article that describes the results of a one-year study at the University of Rochester, River Campus Libraries to "understand the current work practices of faculty in different disciplines in order to see how an IR might naturally support existing ways of work."

Foster, Nancy Fried, and Susan Gibbons. "Understanding Faculty to Improve Content Recruitment for Institutional Repositories." D-Lib Magazine 11, no. 1 (2005).
http://www.dlib.org/dlib/january05/foster/01foster.html

Selected quotes from the article are below; the headings are mine. Caveat emptor: selected quotes are just that. It’s always a good idea to read the full paper. I would hope that these brief quotes entice you to do so.

Faculty Needs

The people we interviewed want most to be able to. . .

  • Work with co-authors
  • Keep track of different versions of the same document
  • Work from different computers and locations, both Mac and PC
  • Make their own work available to others
  • Have easy access to other people’s work
  • Keep up in their fields
  • Organize their materials according to their own scheme
  • Control ownership, security, and access
  • Ensure that documents are persistently viewable or usable
  • Have someone else take responsibility for servers and digital tools
  • Be sure not to violate copyright issues
  • Keep everything related to computers easy and flawless
  • Reduce chaos or at least not add to it
  • Not be any busier

Using Standard IR Terminology Doesn’t Work

Accordingly, when we tried to recruit content using typical IR promotional language, faculty members and researchers did not respond enthusiastically. This is because they did not perceive the relevance of almost any of the IR features as stated in the terms used by librarians, archivists, computer programmers, and others who were setting up and running the IR for the institution. One reason faculty have not rushed to put their work into IRs, therefore, is that they do not recognize its benefits to them in their own terms.

Another reason that faculty have expressed little interest in IRs is related to the way the IR is named and organized. The term ‘institutional repository’ implies that the system is designed to support and achieve the needs and goals of the institution, not necessarily those of the individual. Moreover, it suggests that contributions of materials into the repository serve to highlight the achievements of the institution, rather than those of individual researchers and authors. . . .

Faculty Are Most Interested in Communicating with Colleagues Worldwide

When it comes to research, a faculty member’s strongest ties are usually with a small circle of colleagues from around the world who share an interest in the same field of research, such as plasma astrophysics or contemporary European critical thought. It is with these colleagues, many of them at other institutions, that researchers most want to communicate and share their work. But most organizations have mapped their IR communities to their academic departments rather than to the subtle, shifting communities of scholars engaged in interrelated research projects. . . . In the absence of a strong connection that would naturally bring these documents together into a collection that other scholars would look for, find, and use, there is no compelling reason for the authors to make the submission.

One-on-One Librarian-Faculty Sessions Are Best Way to Interest Faculty

Rather than approach faculty with a set, one-size-fits-all promotional spiel, these library liaisons operate under the guidance that a personalized, tailored approach works best. As we learned from the work-practice study, what faculty members care most about is their research. . . . Throughout the conversation, the library liaison is listening for opportunities to demonstrate how the benefits of the IR respond directly to the faculty member’s web-related research needs. . . .

IR Benefits Must Be Stated in Terms That Faculty Relate To

By contrast to the language previously used to describe the features and benefits of the IR, we are now describing the IR in language drawn from faculty interviews. Thus, we tell faculty that the IR will enable them to. . .

  • Make their own work easily accessible to others on the web through Google searches and searches within the IR itself
  • Preserve digital items far into the future, safe from loss or damage
  • Give out links to their work so that they do not have to spend time finding files and sending them out as email attachments
  • Maintain ownership of their own work and control who sees it
  • Not have to maintain a server
  • Not have to do anything complicated
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