Cursing the cursor

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.

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Now presenting…

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Dermot had gotten changed out of the shirt and tie within ten seconds of leaving the room. Hanna made him get back in to them just for the photo!

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.

A Window into our DSpace trials and tribulations

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.

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Repositories On The Record

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!).

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An account for the gap

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.

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And then there were five…

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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.

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