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Telling DSpace Stories at Creighton University with Richard Jizba

“Telling DSpace Stories” is a community-led initiative aimed at introducing project leaders and their ideas to one another while providing details about DSpace implementations for the community and beyond. The following interview includes personal observations that may not represent the opinions and views of Creighton University or the DSpace Project."

Jonathan Markow from DuraSpace interviewed Richard Jizba to learn about Creighton University’s DSpace Repositories.

“What’s your role with DSpace at your institution?”

I am the Department Head of Information Services at Creighton University’s Health Sciences Library.  I’ve been overseeing all the DSpace projects since 2009.

“Tell me a little about your institution.”

Creighton is located in Omaha, Nebraska.  We are a Jesuit Catholic university established in 1878.  We have about 8,000 students.  Creighton is fairly complex in that besides the colleges of Arts & Sciences and the Heider College of Business there are a number of graduate programs and professional schools, including Law, Nursing, Pharmacy and Health Professions, Medicine, and Business Administration.  We have a good student/faculty ratio, and almost no courses are taught by graduate students.  We are typically ranked 1 or 2 as a regional university.

“Why did you decide on DSpace?”

Ten or twelve years ago, the University Libraries knew they wanted a new repository.  At the time they were using a proprietary system from a commercial company that went out of business, so we were motivated to explore open source options.  We looked at Fedora but decided we didn’t have the technical background to run it.  I evaluated and ultimately recommended DSpace.  We installed it, started playing with it, and discovered it was a good fit.

“What were your requirements going in?”

Our requirements were not completely formulated at the time.  We knew we wanted to archive the scholarly output of the university.  We started with theses and dissertations but then moved to a more eclectic selection of content.  We knew we wanted to try images, and we began with a turn-of-the-century anatomy book. We scanned it and developed good metadata.  Hierarchical MeSH anatomical name indexing proved to be very useful to people.  Google discovered the content, and now our pages frequently turn up in Google image searches.  Our first big project was the Creighton Law Library's Nebraska Supreme Court Briefs collection.  We converted their index to DSpace metadata, which resulted in the creation of 15,000 item records. We also loaded the corresponding pdf's of the briefs that had been created up to that point, though the majority are still being scanned and processed.  A more non-traditional project was the archiving of over 5,000 html files representing personal reflections of Creighton faculty and staff on the daily mass readings. The "Daily Reflections" web site became very popular around the world starting in the late 1990s, but older reflections were maintained in a very primitive chronological archive. Realizing that the Online Ministry Office needed a better archival solution we approached them in 2014 to talk about DSpace. To make a long story short, besides just archiving their html files, we created detailed metadata records with all the liturgical information for each day: the readings, the liturgical year and season, feast days, and so on. This has resulted in collection that can be easily searched and browsed. Of course, it's also created a steady workflow, since new reflections are created every day.

“What strategic organizational or institutional goals did DSpace help you meet?”

Our eclectic approach to archiving University content has been met with a lot of enthusiasm.   University Relations, for example, has begun to archive its commencement bulletins; Library search requests and result files are archived; academic journal pdf’s are archived in DSpace and then backed up to DuraCloud for preservation. We don't put many preconditions on the kinds of collections we will add to repository. The justification has to make sense in that it serves the University in some way. We have to have the legal right to include them, and it must be in a format that makes sense for DSpace.

“What are your plans for your DSpace repository in the future?”

We want to keep using DSpace the way we are currently using it.  For example, we’d like to improve faculty bibliographies and look at other collections that should be digitized. To this end, we augmented our staff with two repository librarians who have been getting training in web design and programming.  We also hope to do more customizations.  Eclectic collections require different ways of looking at things. One of the attractive aspects of DSpace is that customization is fairly easy.  

“What is at the top of your DSpace “wish list”?

We are very interested in the effort to create a new UI.  We would like to see a strong, unified platform.  We would also like a way of doing customizations that doesn’t require a system reboot and is not dependent on reading startup config files.  We’d like better pdf document streaming, video handling, and customized data displays--just to name a few.

"What advice would you give to other organizations that are planning to establish a DSpace repository?"

Just get moving on it!  It just works. You don’t have to be afraid to do customizations and make it your own.  But be aware of limiting your upgrade burden if you do so.