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Taking DSpace Out of the Box

Ithaca, NY, Boston, MA While many savvy information managers and developers know that DSpace (, part of the DuraSpace ( product line, is the software of choice for academic, non-profit and commercial organizations that are building open access repositories, there are still some who may wonder about what DSpace is, and what’s “under the hood.” DSpace, with over 700 installations [1] worldwide, is an out-of-the-box repository software package for creating open repositories focused on delivering digital content to end users, and providing a full set of tools for managing and preserving content within the application. The DSpace open source software was built on a concept of open knowledge-sharing and long term preservation.  MIT Libraries and the Hewlett-Packard Company [2] developed the initial software with the vision of open access and knowledge sharing. DSpace software is now used to create and manage many types of academic, research and personal repositories that contain a variety of data, including books, theses, 3D digital scans of objects, photographs, film, video, research data sets and other forms of content. The software’s ease-of-use allows for institutions to focus on best practices that shine a light on the “aboutness” of curated collections while developing strategic initiatives to encourage institutional deposits.
DSpace is a constantly evolving platform, due to the vibrant community that participates in the development. The current version is 1.5.2, with the release of 1.6.0 scheduled for late autumn 2009 which will include powerful new features such as an embargo facility, better statistics, devolved community administration, and batch metadata editing. Platform development is overseen by a group of ‘committers’ from different institutions [3] to ensure that it continues to meet the needs of many organizations. There is a complimentary Global Outreach Committee [4], and a World-wide Ambassador Network which addresses issues  around  growing and supporting the community.
The DSpace repository uses a relational database and an asset store.  By default the database is PostgreSQL [5]; Oracle is also supported.  Most asset stores are simple filesystems, however one can choose to push content to a remote store or third party solution.  Item and system metadata are stored in the relational database.
In a typical deposit workflow, an author or curator submits work via a (customizable) web interface or batch package interface.  A curator or administrator approves that submission via a web based tool, and the item(s) are subsequently stored in the database and asset store.  Items may be organized into “communities” containing “collections.” Download the DSpace diagram (PDF) that describes visually how DSpace works.
DSpace also has a rich array of additional functionality for importing and exporting items, integrating with authentication system, and managing the workflow.  Beyond the core package is a vibrant community providing open source and proprietary add-ons and extensions that boost DSpace functionality:
[2] Smith, M., et al. “DSpace: An Open Source Dynamic Digital Repository.” D-Lib Magazine January 2003.
[5] PostgreSQL Web site