can then be accessed by anyone over the Internet. Many repository efforts are led by university libraries, which have begun exploring the new issues posed by research data and other digital information as increasingly central components of the scholarly record.13

These efforts are part of a trend in which some research institutions, large research universities in particular, are reassessing their institutional role in the dissemination and stewardship of scholarship, both that of their own faculty and more broadly.14 During the time when the scholarly record was primarily print-based, a relatively small number of research libraries, most connected with research institutions, saw comprehensive stewardship of scholarship as part of their missions. Likewise, in the digital age, some research institutions and their libraries are likely to play leadership roles in the stewardship of research data.

Institutional repositories naturally face challenges—for instance, building faculty awareness and participation—even at large institutions.15 A recent report on the role of research libraries in providing repository services identifies several key issues as repositories develop and grow.16 The issues include building new services (as the focus expands from publications, theses, and dissertations to research data, courseware, images, and other content), engaging with the larger networked environment (as the demand grows for higher-level, cross-repository services), attending to the “demand side” (meeting the needs of heterogeneous user groups), and sustainability (going beyond money to organizational commitment).

Smaller institutions that seek to fulfill a stewardship mission face even greater challenges. The size and complexity of digital datasets can overwhelm small institutional libraries or archives, which traditionally have dealt with analog textual information. Yet new partnerships and approaches hold the promise of overcoming many of these barriers. For example, the National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education now offers institutional repository services to member institutions for an annual fee.17


Anna Gold. 2007. “Cyberinfrastructure, data, and libraries.” D-Lib Magazine 13(9/10). Available at


Clifford A. Lynch. 2008. A matter of mission: Information technology and the future of higher education. Pp. 43–50 in The Tower and the Cloud, ed. Richard Katz. Boulder, CO: EDUCAUSE. Available at


Philip M. Davis and Matthew J. L. Connolly. 2007. Institutional repositories: Evaluating the reasons for non-use of Cornell University’s installation of DSpace. D-Lib Magazine 13(3/4). Available at


ARL Digital Repository Issues Task Force. 2009. The Research Library’s Role in Digital Repository Services. Washington, DC: Association of Research Libraries. Available at


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