“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 conducted by Carol Minton Morris with Samu Viita includes personal observations that may not represent the opinions and views of the National Library of Finland or the DSpace Project.
What’s your role with DSpace at your organization or institution?
I work at the National Library of Finland (NLF), in a unit which is called Library Network Services. My work concentrates mainly on technical side of things, including programming and DSpace maintenance. I also do customer service, communication and training sessions for our customers.
Tell me a little about your organization or institution.
The National Library Network Services offers IT services for Finnish libraries, archives and museums. Most of the services we provide to our customers have centralized funding from the state. However, the repository services are one of the exceptions, as they are a fee-based service. Our business model relies wholly on payments we get from our customers. We have a technical team of two, Päivi Rosenström and me, working full-time on the repository services we provide for external customers. In addition we have a number of other developers familiar with DSpace, who can help out at times, and two other people who are taking care of coordination, negotiations and contracts as part of their jobs.
We host repositories for more than 50 customer organizations which include 5 universities, 26 universities of applied science, state research institutes, all Finnish ministries and other public sector organizations in Finland. We have been developing repositories and offering repository services with DSpace for more than 10 years. Here is a current list of DSpace repositories that we have implemented:
Fragmenta membranea: http://fragmenta.kansalliskirjasto.fi/
We do quite a lot of customization for our customers, mostly around user interfaces, and also integrations between the customers’ repositories and their other system infrastructure.
Why did you decide on DSpace?
When I came onboard in 2006, DSpace was already in the early stages of use and testing. I helped to further evaluate and test DSpace for about 6 months. Prior to using DSpace the library had been using a proprietary software platform that did not really meet our needs.
The conclusions were that DSpace would be the most helpful for meeting our organizational requirements for the long term. One important factor was the out-of-the-box nature of DSpace, as we didn’t have resources and time to start from scratch with e.g. Fedora. Other important factor was the Manakin (XML UI) interface, which was just in an alpha stage when we adopted it. It enabled us to make separate interfaces for different customers within one DSpace instance like Doria. Third important factor was that the software was open source.
DSpace was probably the first major open source software platform used at the National Library. I think that the choice we made at the time has proven to be right, as we probably wouldn’t have repository services at this level without DSpace. And I think that good experiences we have had with DSpace may have encouraged some of our other projects (like Finna and Finto) to invest in the development of open source software.
What were your requirements going in?
We wanted to adopt open source software and the large global user base DSpace had already at that point was appealing to us. We needed an OAI-PMH interface, a search interface, full-text indexing, SRU interface, import / export functionality and overall, a reliable and scalable repository. The Manakin interface came along when we were in the process of migrating. We experimented with the alpha release and figured out that it would work for us. Having access to different types of user interfaces enabled us to offer different solutions for different customers. Look and feel customizations are frequently required by our customers.
What strategic organizational or institutional goals did DSpace help you meet?
The most important goal for our repository services is to provide permanent online access to many kinds of interesting materials produced in Finland. These include scholarly publications, cultural heritage materials and publications of the Finnish public sector organizations.
As an open-source-based, out-of-the-box software that has good import functions and customizable user interfaces DSpace has been an excellent basis for building our repository services. With these functionalities it has been possible to make the service attractive and reliable enough to be adapted widely at so many Finnish organizations.
This wide adaptation has also had one positive side effect: It’s easier to find information on many topics. For example, before services like Theseus or Valto, the universities of applied sciences and the Finnish ministries had their own websites where they published their theses or publications. Now all of them can be found in one place and they have same metadata schema to help information retrieval. And eventually taxpayers get more with less money spent.
What are your plans for your DSpace repositories in the future?
Our plans are not completely in sync with the current reality - we have many plans and ideas, but we could use a few more employees to implement them, especially on the technological level. We would also like to increase customer satisfaction by recruiting a customer services specialist to assist users and to handle our increasing communication needs.
We have had ongoing work on a separate submission and workflow system called SYLI, which would better support the varying needs of our customers. Unfortunately a shortage of manpower has freezed the project many times. There is now some hope that we may be getting the resources to finish it - time will tell how well this will work out.
As a by-product of the SYLI project we developed our own REST interface, SimpleRest for DSpace. Now that the native DSpace REST interface also offers resource manipulation methods like put, post and delete, we are planning to start to using it. For example, the current version of SYLI is already modified to use it.
We are using DSpace 3.2 and are currently planning to upgrade to 5.5 with the Mirage2 user interface. We are very interested in the proposed DSpace 7 work. Because we have made modifications in the Java code and have integrations with other services the upgrade process is difficult and time-consuming. Our main principle is to keep our services as stable as possible and that is the reason why our upgrade process is quite conservative and slow.
What is at the top of your DSpace wish list?
Overall, we have been very satisfied with DSpace - it has made it possible to develop our services into this scale with relatively limited resources. Big thanks to DSpace community for that!
There are two detailed and minor improvement wishes that come to my mind: It would be very useful if DSpace would have a submission form which supports DC language codes, like the edit item functionality does. Secondly, it would be very welcome if DSpace would support the use of multiple identity providers in Shibboleth authentication in one DSpace instance.
The most important and more generic wish is that DSpace should support present interfaces and central functionalities as far as possible also in the future releases. For example OpenSearch, Lyncode’s OAI interface and the possibility to customize user interfaces at the community / collection level are all vital to us.