Innovation comes in many guises. When we hear the word we probably most often thinks it means creating something new. But innovation can also be using something that already exists in a new way. Innovation of the latter variety was recently exhibited in an interesting post to the Code4Lib list. The message, from Chris Fitzpatrick, talked about how at the small institution he serves (115 students) they are using Google Drive (formerly Google Docs) as if it were an institutional repository (IR).
Some of the benefits of this arrangement include:
- Low cost. Either free, or $5/month for 100 GB of storage (and available in both smaller and larger increments at similar or better per GB pricing).
- Low maintenance. You have no software to maintain, Google does it for you.
- Easy organization. Documents can be placed into “folders” but really all this means is they are “tagged” with a particular label.
- Persistent URLs. Since documents that appear to be in “folders” are really just “tagged”, this means their URL does not change even if you “move” a document from one folder to another. You are really just changing the tags.
- Flexible authorization. As Chris puts it, “We can make a document open to the world, grant access to groups/individuals, only allow access if they have the URL, etc.”
- Full-text searching.
Some of the drawbacks:
- No metadata. Chris says they currently use Koha for the document metadata, which has the drawback of not having full-text and metadata searching in one system.
- The embedded document viewer (and OCR for searching) can only handle files of sizes less than 20MB. In the case of files that exceed this limit, they must be downloaded to be viewed.
- Relying on Google for preservation, or replicating the data elsewhere.
- Potential access problems with certain geographies. Since you are relying on Google, any issues a country (such as China) might have with Google can lead to spotty access or no access at all). Likewise, European governments have been known to have concerns about storing information where the long hand of our law can easily reach.