This week I attend the JISC International Repositories Infrastructure Workshop (This workshop was also sponsored by DRIVER and the SURF Foundation) The goal of the workshop was to identify shared agendas for action and coordination between major national and international stakeholders, for the purpose of developing an international federated network of repositories.
This was truly a workshop – the majority of the time was spent in breakout groups, working on specific issues in building out an international repository infrastructure. The four topics addressed by the breakout groups (one per group) were the concept of an international repository organization, repository “handshake”, repository citations, and repostiory identifier infrastructure.
Outside of the working groups reporting out, there were two talks – the opening keynote was given by Norbert Lossau of the DRIVER project, and the closing keynote by Clifford Lynch of CNI. Norbert kicked off the workshop by providing some history and context; he described some of the history and activities which led to the aims of the workshop. While much of his talk focused on work from DRIVER, his intent was to describe the general needs for building an international federated network of repositories.
After the opening keynote, the majority of the next two days was spent in the working groups. I participated mainly in the organization working group (I initially joined the handshake group, but after the first break switched over to the organization group). My take on the breakout groups was that it took most of the groups some time to get a proper focus on their activities (as is often the case with a new group of people coming together), but that in the end, each group was able to get some reasonable outcomes. The most difficult discussion probably occured with the organization group; the first day’s discussions extended to a variety of topics and opinions as to why there needs to be an organization, what an organization would do, who would be in the organization, etc. The second day the group facilitators had the group role-play different stakeholders (such as repository managers, funders, etc.) and address a set of questions about what each group might want out of an organization. I think this approach worked better; it may not have led to a concensus opinion on the what’s, why’s, and how’s of the organization, but it did provide some concrete data that will be useful as the efforts to create a governing organization move forward.
At the end of day 2, each of the four breakout groups reported out on their outcomes. I must admit, I was fairly tired at the end of nearly two days of intense workshop activity, and my notes on these outcomes are rather minimal. However, there should be a workshop report posted in the near future on the workshop website. My take from the outcomes was that the citation and identifiers groups made the most progress. I especially liked the diagram created by the identifiers group, which can be viewed on a (new-to-me) service called prezi.com.
The workshop wrapped up with a closing keynote by Clifford Lynch. As usual, Clifford did a very good job of summing up the outcomes of the two days, and providing his thoughts as to the near-future challenges with repository efforts. One thing we need to keep in mind, as we look towards the role of the repository within digital libraries, is that our repositories not only need enhance the provisioning of access to scholarly information to our users, but they also need to provision access to other services, repositories or otherwise. The repository is not an ends to itself, but it is a component of a larger infrastructure. Finally, while we are still understanding how institutionally we can best implement repositories, it is clear that repositories are key to the future of libraries.
One of the nice things about this meeting was that there was an active backchannel discussion via Twitter. You can see this discussion (and see what others thought) by clicking on this link.