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Announcing the DuraSpace/SPARC OA Week Contest Winners

Ithaca, NY, Boston, MA To celebrate the online development and dissemination of diverse, often hidden digital assets, DuraSpace is pleased to announce three winners of the DuraSpace SPARC Open Access Week Contest. The contest solicited examples of repositories that have made significant resources more available to help shape the global knowledge landscape. The winners and their stories will be featured on a Sun/DuraSpace/SPARC “All About Repositories” Web Seminar on Oct. 14, 2009 (register here:

Luise Barnikel, Sales and Marketing Associate, IssueLab (, described the “2008 flexAbility Toolkit” designed to help employers with workplace disability issues in her winning entry entitled, “Social Policy Research: How Access Shaped Practice.” Bryan Beecher, Director, Computing & Network Services, Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR:, University of Michigan, supports the mission of ICPSR which has delivered content using advanced technologies for six decades. He won with his entry, “Cold, Dark, and Lonely: An Archive Moves Online.”  The history and culture of Forsythe County, North Carolina is the focus of a collection of over 12000 digital images ( that Erik Mitchell described in his winning story “Building a Community Digital Library Using Dspace.”

Here are the winning stories:

Social Policy Research: How Access Shaped Practice
By Luise Barnikel Once upon a time, there was a nonprofit research document titled “2008 flexAbility Toolkit,” carefully prepared by the Oregon Business Leadership Network (OBLN) to help employers with issues of disabilities in the workplace. Because the third sector infrastructure has never had a place to pool its collective knowledge and introduce new audiences to its work, the OBLN’s small staff worked feverishly to push “flexAbility” to key constituents. In the meantime, IssueLab, an open access publishing forum for nonprofit research, had begun archiving exactly such documents and disseminating them to a broader set of policymakers, librarians, students, activists, and many more.

When the time came for IssueLab’s bi-monthly CloseUp (a special collection of research) on Disability and Employment, it was clear that “flexAbility” should become a part of this collection and the corresponding outreach that pushes the CloseUp to individuals and communities online. Instantly, “flexAbility” was happy when it was uploaded to IssueLab. It was now categorized and easy to find, openly accessible, and could do the OBLN proud by being read widely. Furthermore, a staff member from the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (a target for the CloseUp outreach) replied to IssueLab that portions “flexAbility” would now be included in upcoming presentations–a direct application of nonprofit research in everyday practice!

It quickly became clear that social policy research and open access repositories are a match made in heaven. And they lived happily ever after.

About IssueLab

IssueLab–“bringing non-profit research into focus”–makes it easy to locate, access, and engage with insightful and valuable research from non-profit organizations worldwide on complex social issues.

Cold, Dark, and Lonely: An Archive Moves Online
By Bryan Beecher The Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) has been collecting, preserving, and disseminating social science data for nearly sixty years. During its six decades ICPSR has used contemporary technologies for delivering its content: mailing magnetic tapes to member organizations through the 80’s, FTP download from a server into the 90’s, and then Web-based download and online analysis in the 21st century. However, while ICPSR’s processes and technologies for making its content available to the world have continually evolved, its archival storage systems have not moved as quickly.

For most of ICPSR’s history its archival holdings have resided on pairs of tapes. Tape has always been inexpensive; a good value in terms of bits of storage per dollar. Tape has been sturdy, durable, and reliable. And tape has long been “green,” requiring little energy to operate and cool compared to spinning disk. However, for all of tape’s virtues, in a “hot, flat, and crowded” data world, it left ICPSR with an archival storage solution that was cold, dark and lonely. Because archival content lived off-line it made it impossible for ICPSR data managers to browse past versions of datasets and documentation; instead one had to request specific content by ID, time, and role (e.g., “I need to see all original deposits from March 2005 related to ICPSR Study #12345″). Off-line also meant it was impossible to perform searches over the archival materials, and in a world where Google is always at one’s fingertips, this became an increasingly inconvenient burden. And, finally, while ICPSR has always maintained robust systems for managing the content and its metadata, these systems were idiosyncratic, and it would have been difficult to transfer content to another data steward had ICPSR ceased to exist as a viable organization.

In 2006 ICPSR made two organizational changes. (1) it created the new position of Digital Preservation Officer, and recruited Nancy McGovern to fill that role; and, (2) it moved the archival storage function into the technology organization directed by Bryan Beecher. Over the course of the next eighteen months, ICPSR’s archival holdings were transferred from tape to disk, and its metadata management systems were upgraded significantly. These two actions addressed the “browse” and “search” problems. However, even though ICPSR’s archival content became a bit less “cold” and “dark,” it still suffered from a certain level of idiosyncrasy. It was clear that this content would need to move into a system that was standards-based and which would facilitate sharing.

In 2009 ICPSR began moving its archival content into a Fedora repository. ICPSR has over 6TB of archival storage stretching over millions of files, and thousands of aggregate-level objects. Also, ICPSR received a grant through the NSF EAGER program to create and share content models and Fedora-based components for social science datasets and documentation, and this will allow ICPSR to articulate its vision for using Fedora more fully, and to execute that vision more quickly.


An international consortium of about 700 academic institutions and research organizations, ICPSR provides leadership and training in data access, curation, and methods of analysis for the social science research community.

ICPSR maintains a data archive of more than 500,000 files of research in the social sciences. It hosts 16 specialized collections of data in education, aging, criminal justice, substance abuse, terrorism, and other fields.

Building a Community Digital Library Using DSpace
By Erik Mitchell Over the course of the last three years Wake Forest University has built a digital library comprised of photographs held by multiple institutions in Forsyth County, NC. The grant-funded project called “Digital Forsyth” sought to build a collection of digital photographs representing the history of Forsyth County, NC.

By using DSpace the organizations (Wake Forest University, Old Salem Museums and Gardens, Winston Salem State University, and Forsyth County Public Library) were able to catalog over 12000 digital images which were then exported from dspace and made accessible via a blog ( By using open source software for the entire project (DSpace for cataloging and digital curation, Wordpress for public searching and community services such as commenting and tagging) and open access policies to provide access to the collection, the grant helped build a digital library system that brings the community into the collection building process and allows multiple institutions to collaborate in cataloging.

About Digital Forsyth

Through digitization, Digital Forsyth, a collaboration of cultural heritage institutions in Forsyth County, North Carolina, facilitates access to cultural, historical and scientific heritage photograph collections, thereby increasing interest in and knowledge of the past and informing future generations.