digital knowledge. digital culture. digital memory.


Gaps in the collection of Pacific scholarship

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Institutional Repositories
The term institutional repository has been common in university circles for the past few years. I first heard the term at a conference in Canada in 2001 where Clifford Lynch, now the Executive Director of the Coalition for Networked Information, was the keynote speaker. Lynch later published a manifesto for institutional repositories in an ARL report where he defined the term,

A university-based institutional repository is a set of services that a university offers to the members of its community for the management and dissemination of digital materials created by the institution and its community members. It is most essentially an organizational commitment to the stewardship of these digital materials, including long-term preservation where appropriate, as well as organization and access or distribution.
[Clifford Lynch, Institutional repositories: essential infrastructure for scholarship in the digital age, ARL Bimonthly Report 226, February 2003]
Essentially, academic institutions that establish digital repositories have made an important realization; they recognize that while they may do an excellent job at collecting, preserving, and providing access to digital information that they produce through formal publication - normally the institution's library handles this - publication covers only a small fraction of the intellectual productivity of the institution. Who is collecting the countless unpublished conference papers, presentations, faculty created research and collaboration websites, banks of research data, blog postings, and other lost literature, both digital and analogue, that typically dwarf the volume of formal publications? The answer at many academic institutions is either no one, or even worse, an uncoordinated multitude.

Institutional repositories seek to address this problem by creating a managed repository for such lost literature. They typically offer some of the following services:
  • Automated harvesting of digital objects (where feasible)
  • Storage in preservable formats
  • Persistent identifiers
  • Search capabilities
  • Rights management
The commercial and open source software communities have responded to the institutional repository need with some very interesting products, including
Pacific Scholarship
Two of the go to universities when it comes to the broad area of Pacific scholarship are the University of Hawaii and the University of the South Pacific. While both of these institutions have mandates to collect Pacific scholarship, in the broadest sense, and both institutions are significant producers of Pacific scholarship, it is notable that neither have implemented an institutional repository programme.

It is true that both universities have fledgling digitization projects, and UH is even a participant in a regional initiative based on the DSpace software platform, but neither have embarked on an initiative to capture, preserve, and make accessible their lost literature. Institutional repository programmes would help both universities, and Pacific universities in general, to better meet their mandates regarding Pacific scholarship at the same time as preserving and providing access to a new wealth of thought and memory relevant to the Pacific region.