May 23, 2018

The Next-Gen Repository: Part I

This week, in honor of Open Access Week, the California Digital Library    released a complete redesign of the eScholarship Repository. But what at first glance appears to be a gloss on one of the earliest and most successful institutional repositories is, in fact, much more. It is a major refocus of mission and goals toward the publishing needs of faculty, with the requisite changes in both messaging and tools to support them.

"There were three things we wanted to accomplish with this redesign," said Catherine Mitchell, CDL Publishing Group Director, in a phone interview, "1) reposition it as a publishing platform, not as a repository, 2) provide a richer user experience that enables a variety of ways to use the content other than simply downloading a PDF,  and 3) imbue the content with the authority of its source (the University of California, the campus, the sponsoring research unit, etc.), while also highlighting other, related work at the university."

Toward these ends eScholarship switched from the typical landing page of descriptive metadata with a link to download the PDF to an interface that allows the user to view the PDF in a window directly on the site. Users can still download the entire PDF, but by the time they’ve done that they will have already had an opportunity to scan it. "This will likely result in a reduction of our download statistics," explains Catherine, "but downloads mean very little when they are merely a necessary step to determining the relevance (or not) of a publication.  In this case, a download will reflect an informed choice.”  The team will be tracking access at the level of the page view as well as the PDF download in their traffic statistics reporting.

While eScholarship has on occasion collaborated with the University of California Press, and has had the ability to use the repository infrastructure provided by to support online publication and peer review since the beginning, this redesign and new messaging is completely focused on publication services, not on being a repository. This is what makes this project unique among institutional repositories, and also a shining example of what will make institutional repositories successful.

"Rather than creating a repository and trying to make faculty care about it, we are offering a very different value proposition," Catherine asserts, "We are offering services that fill a gap in the scholarly publishing lifecycle, and as a byproduct of those services we are capturing the content in a repository."

Although the main story is the repositioning of eScholarship from being a repository with publishing services tacked on to the exact opposite, the technical infrastructure is nothing short of astonishing. But there is so much to say about it that it will have to wait for Part II. For now I leave you with thought that if eScholarship at the California Digital Library is right, the next-gen repository isn’t a repository at all — it’s a set of publishing services.


Roy Tennant About Roy Tennant

Roy Tennant is a Senior Program Officer for OCLC Research. He is the owner of the Web4Lib and XML4Lib electronic discussions, and the creator and editor of Current Cites, a current awareness newsletter published every month since 1990. His books include "Technology in Libraries: Essays in Honor of Anne Grodzins Lipow" (2008), "Managing the Digital Library" (2004), "XML in Libraries" (2002), "Practical HTML: A Self-Paced Tutorial" (1996), and "Crossing the Internet Threshold: An Instructional Handbook" (1993). Roy wrote a monthly column on digital libraries for Library Journal for a decade and has written numerous articles in other professional journals. In 2003, he received the American Library Association's LITA/Library Hi Tech Award for Excellence in Communication for Continuing Education. Follow him on Twitter @rtennant.


  1. “…the next-gen repository isn’t a repository at all — it’s a set of publishing services.”

    What is old is new again! Funny how things evolve. :)

  2. Daniel Clark says:

    In a library’s public computing section, people are making use of previously published material to create their own publications – homework essays, emails, Facebook comments. Digital technology is superseding ink-on-paper as the norm, allowing the library to become more of a creative place than a search-and-retrieve place. Our emphasis has been the cataloging of objects. Now it will be the catalyzing of experiences.

  3. Leo Klein says:

    Excuse me if this sounds like it’s coming from a dumb-bell (you see, I have no shame) but why wouldn’t a repository be ipso facto a “publishing service”.

    I mean, why else would someone be setting it up if not to expose content to public/scholarly use?

  4. Roy Tennant says:

    Leo, there is a vast difference between a place where you can drop a file and a place that offers all kinds of assistance in creating, managing, and publishing a journal (for example). So whereas most repositories are only that (places to drop files), eScholarship is really a publishing platform. Big difference, and also a big difference in how you market your value proposition.