Dorothea Salo, self styled œone-woman institutional-repository harbinger of doom has written yet another characteristically thought provoking blog post on the role and future of repositories within our HE institutions. Although she focuses primarily on Institutional Repositories (capital I capital R), scholarly works and the uphill struggle facing repository managers (reporats) many of the issues she raises could equally apply to learning object repositories and teaching and learning materials. Ive picked out a few choice quotes which seem to be particularly pertinent:
… the real set of questions every single institution with an IR needs to be asking itself: What content do I want from this initiative, and what am I willing to do to get it? Spoiler for this post: if the full answer to the second question is œIm willing to run and market an IR! please dont start one, because that is not enough to get whatever it is that you want, and you will waste precious library resources, your people not least.
The IR is the solution! Now find me a problem! Uh, not that problem; I cant actually do anything about that problem.
We must refocus our planning away from IRs per se and toward specific content types and the resources were willing to throw at acquiring, presenting, and preserving them.
Once we focus on the stuff we want instead of the place were going to put it, we open up the questions we should have been asking all along. How does this stuff get produced, and how could we help produce it in a way that keeps it available to us? What happens to it when its done? What incentives can we offer to have it given to us, and are those sufficient to counter any opposing incentives combined with natural inertia and the actual difficulty of the task? Failing that, how do we find out about the existence of the stuff we want, and how can we then get our hands on it in the form in which we need it?
And then, at last, we can ask ourselves the elephant-in-the-room question: given the effort well have to put into getting what weve decided we want, do we still want to go after it? No, its not worth it, is a perfectly acceptable answer to that question, to my mind
I cant tell you how much I agree with those last two paragraphs. One of my hobby horses for longer than I care to remember has been that institutions need to consider the management and curation of all the myriad kinds of stuff produced during the process and as a result of scholarly and academic practice. Isnt this stuff the primary product of institutions core business after all?