While I initially thought there could be nothing worse than having to set up DSpace with no software knowledge to speak of, I was wrong. Figuring out how to get our fully functioning repository hosted on our new domain was definitely far worse. Where persistent Googling had saved me before, this time there were no helpful tutorials or guidelines. No one seemed to have faced this issue before – which can’t possibly be true given the immense number of both people and websites that exist. We reached out to our hosting company, Digiweb, and our Delphi participants but unfortunately even our combined knowledge base wasn’t enough. With only four weeks left to complete everything I was beginning to worry that my lack of technical knowledge was letting us down and that the repository would never actually be open to the public.
Policy development, as our literature review and our modified Delphi study showed, is considered to be one of the most time consuming aspects of building an Institutional Repository. Some of the experts we interviewed stated that they had built the policies for their IRs after they had launched it, in a “if we need it, we’ll build it” way, others merely smiled and said “Policies? That would be a nice idea…”
As a group we decided that, although it was against the consensus, it was important for us to create policies for the future users and managers of ICS Archive (ICSA) as we planned to pass on the maintenance of this IR to another party upon completion of our project. It was, therefore, necessary to have clear and concise rules and procedures in place for the future success of ICSA.
As other members of the team were busy transcribing and coding, the task of policy building fell to me. The reason behind this was simple; I was going to Australia for 3 weeks and couldn’t be part of the situational work that needed to happen. Policy building was something that could be done remotely with enough time and effort. And boy oh boy was there a lot of time and effort put in!
Now, I would be the first person to say that I don’t know too much about policy development. I was quite worried to begin with, as my language is – for want of a better word – informal. But I needn’t have worried! Again the wonderful community of IRs was ready and willing to lend a hand. Most of our experts had been more than happy to show us their own policies so that we would have a jumping off point and it was these, and the excellent OpenDOAR policy development tool, that informed the policies that have guided our own IR.
The policies that were developed include:
- Use Policy.
- Copyright and License Policy.
- Metadata Policy.
- Preservation Policy.
- Notice and Takedown Policy.
Oftentimes you will find that an appraisal policy is included in the “necessary policies” for an IR but as for now ICSA is dealing only with Masters theses and capstones from the School of Information and Communication Studies at UCD, a policy regarding appraisal and scope was considered a little redundant at the moment. There is room to develop this if the scope of ICSA changes in the future but this is something that we felt was not crucial at the moment.
As someone starting off in this career it was really amazing to see how welcoming and helpful the community is for new practitioners and we hope that our own policies can be used by students like us in the future for their own projects. Anybody who wants to have a look at how our policies turned out is more than welcome to look at them when ICSA goes live in a few weeks! Our project will be fully available online and the policies have their own appendix and everything.
Last week was our Capstone project presentation. The real one. The important, thirty percent of our mark, guest-judges one. We received the results yesterday which is why I’m only posting now. I also just got over the stress of the whole thing today.
Hanna created our slideshow presentation and wrote up the script for all of us and then brought us colour coordinated flashcards to use for our notes (Someone get that girl a Blue Peter badge) and so for two weeks leading up to the presentation we were confident everything would go swimmingly. In fact, I would go so far as to say that personally I was almost lax in how confident I was in how well it would go. The project is basically finished, what could possibly go wrong?
Famous last words. We wanted, desperately wanted an attractive, working version of our repository to show the panel. Since we had a logo, a name and a colour scheme it made sense to, as much as possible, show the finished product. Such was our first hurdle to overcome, actually getting DSpace to work. Oh the hours; the hours upon hours spent sitting in front of a desktop PC willing it to work. The week leading up to the presentation was consumed with all five of us sitting in a room trying every last desperate attempt to get our repository to do one simple thing; be what shows up when you type out http://www.icsarchive.ie. Never mind the time it took just to edit the CSS of the darn thing. in between all this we were trying to learn off our parts of the presentation.
We met up on a few occasions and rehearsed for a couple hours each time, and it went great! Swimmingly. We were all brimming with confidence; yes there were nerves and a few stumbling blocks to overcome, such as talking too fast, shifting nervously, relying too much on notes, editing the slides to be more coherent with what is being spoken at the time. However we had met with our supervisor the week previous to show her the slides and given her the script to go over and had made all her edits and changes. The day before the presentation we had arranged to present to our supervisor at 11am, giving us the rest of the day to fix anything that needed fixing and make sure everything was perfect for D-Day.
I never could have predicted it; I choked. I stood at the podium, thanked Megan, looked at my notes and froze. I think I genuinely aged in that thirty seconds I stood there in silence staring at our supervisor. I am so, so grateful that we had that rehearsal the day before, I could not imagine if that had of happened on the actual day. Everyone else was wonderful, they all spoke with clear confidence and there was not a fault to be noted. I cannot recommend enough, anyone who has to do something similar, to organise a rehearsal in the space with someone involved. Recreate the situation as closely as possible, it really shows you exactly how you will react. Standing in your friends sitting room surrounded by half-finished Thai food and smiling faces is just not the same.
On the day of we all arrived an hour early, dressed professionally and rather unsurprisingly dressed coordinately. We had decided to use the version of DSpace Megan had built on her laptop because, as of the time of publishing, we still haven’t managed to get the IR launched. Hanna had made up and printed flyers to hand out to the guests with information about the IR as well as links to our social media pages and this blog. We discussed how we would stand, the order we would do everything, the layout of the room, who was inside, every minute detail.
We don’t believe in being over prepared.
The presentation itself is a blur of sweat and deep breathing exercises. I don’t recall anyone making any mistakes or thinking at any point that it was going badly. The guests, our grader and our supervisor all looked happy throughout, we even got a laugh at one point! After the 25 minute presentation was a 10 minute question and answer section with the five guest judges. We all managed to answer at least two questions each, though most of the time we answered together, tagging on to what the other person had said or referring back to them. We wanted to show that we were a team who worked together and who had all been part of the whole project. We received some great feedback and some excellent suggestions about how to market and for the interface of the repository which we have taken into account and are now using.
When we received out results we got further feedback which we are taking as suggestions on how to improve our project and we could not be happier with our grade!
All in all it was a terrifying experience, but one we were well able for and great practice for the working world as in our future careers we’ll have to present ideas to boards, at conferences and to colleagues.
One of the major stumbling blocks for our team, surprisingly, was in choosing a name for our repository. We were all too aware that picking the right name would make marketing efforts–like creating a logo, designing posters, and presenting the IR to students and lecturers–easier and more effective, and so we knew it was a big decision. Many IRs seem to use acronyms that are pithy or clever, like ARAN (Access to Research at National University of Ireland, Galway), CORA (Cork Open Research Archive), and the Marine Institute OAR (Open Access Repository). And so our first instinct was to come up with a clever, pithy acronym.
As it turns out, pithy, clever acronyms are not that easy to generate.
A major step in building this IR was figuring out how we were going to host it online. ICS gave us a budget of about €120/year for hosting and domain name registration and left it up to us to choose a company and package that would work. We tried not to let our utter lack of experience in this area daunt us…
Installing DSpace on a Windows OS turned out to be trickier than we’d been led to believe. Well, maybe not trickier. More frustrating. Irritating. Vexing. Every possible synonym for annoying that can be found in a thesaurus. I found that the manual that is part of the DSpace download doesn’t particularly cater to Windows. Oh sure, Windows is mentioned but too many of the instructions are targeted at UNIX based systems. It took six days of Googling, watching YouTube videos, reading and all important Dance Academy breaks before all the necessary software was successfully installed on my laptop.
So we’ve finally reached the end of our 2-prong Delphi study and boy was it a long process. We conducted 8 interviews, the results of which would inform a follow-up questionnaire. The subsequent results of this questionnaire would then establish a consensus on what is best practice for building your very own Institutional Repository (we now just call them IRs because we feel we know them well enough!).
It’s been a solid month since we posted and I’m going to blame life for getting in the way. The last four weeks have been hectic to say the least. There have been cross-continental holidays, a birth, multiple interviews, final assignments and the frantic search for a job now that classes are over. It meant that for the last while this project has been put on the back burner for most of us, though it doesn’t mean we stopped working on it by any means.
So while Megan, Hanna, and Dermot dealt with the huge task of narrowing down and editing our literature review, Sam and I began the process of finding information for our Methodology section. Bear with me, this may get a little dry.
As countless case studies have shown (trust us – we’ve read them all), building an institutional repository is no easy feat. Being full-time graduate students with jobs, coursework, and personal lives AND building an IR is even less simple. As I’m sure many of our fellow students can attest, capstone projects are not without their challenges, and we’ve been facing our fair share.