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Envisioning the Future of a Mature IR: A Midlife Assessment of ScholarWorks@UMassAmherst

The University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries launched its institutional repository (IR), ScholarWorks@UMassAmherst, in July 2006. To date, the IR has over 57,000 works that have been downloaded over 25 million times all over the world. Over the past six years, the content of the IR has expanded from mainly postprints and Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETDs) to include podcasts, datasets, open educational resources (OER), and other shareable open content that has no other logical home. As continued growth has pushed the limits of the software as designed, we decided to conduct a full assessment of the IR in order to qualitatively assess whether the IR meets the needs of staff and stakeholders. The assessment involved two parts: (1) evaluating the IR according to a set of defined criteria adapted from the University of Pennsylvania’s Platform Functionality Review, and (2) soliciting feedback from stakeholders, including those who edit journals or organize conferences (a functionality that is separate from other parts of the IR) and those who manage non-journal or conference collections within the IR. While stakeholders expressed satisfaction with the service provided by the Libraries and the IR provider, they also requested additional features that would make the platform more user-friendly, flexible, and responsive to new content types and customizations that extend beyond the hard limits of the software. Editors and collections administrators were particularly vocal in requesting additional features, such as the ability to accommodate languages other than English and support for big datasets. The assessment raises concerns about the current IR’s ability to adapt to changes in the scholarly publishing landscape that are on the horizon and provides critical data to inform the next iteration of the repository. Hopefully, others can apply this strategy to their own institutional repository in order to better prepare for a flexible, robust future that supports open scholarship.
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