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The DSpace Project

The MIT Libraries and the Hewlett-Packard Company recently announced a $1.8 million joint project to build a digital repository at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that could serve as a model for other universities. The purpose of the project is to build a stable and sustainable long-term digital storage repository that provides an opportunity to explore issues surrounding access control, rights management, versioning, retrieval, community feedback, and flexible publishing capabilities.

DSpace will include articles written by faculty and researchers, technical reports from MIT labs and centers, and other electronic content deemed valuable by the MIT Libraries or its partners among the schools, labs and centers at the university. The ability to manage multimedia electronic formats will be an important aspect of this repository, which could include text, images, audio, video and datasets.

One feature of the repository will be a simple yet controlled submission process that allows each community (i.e. department or research center) the ability to develop its own vetting system to control which publications are to be included in the repository. Similarly, there will be an access control mechanism built into the repository that allows each community to control who will have access to its documents. This will make it possible to provide open access for some documents upon submission, while limiting access to specific groups for other documents. It will also be possible to change these restrictions at a later date. For example, a document may be visible only to a select few reviewers until it is approved for broader distribution. Additional restrictions may be attached to certain documents; for instance, MIT Press or MIT Document Services may restrict printing of their DSpace documents until payments are made to them. A mechanism for associating these rights (or restrictions) with the documents and rigorously enforcing them will be an important part of the DSpace project.

DSpace also hopes to foster a dynamic scholarly community by experimenting with community services and utilities such as class groups, interest groups, and review groups. Documents in DSpace could be linked to feedback and commentary from the community at large via a set of annotation services. Automatically alerting users of new submissions in their topic areas might be another way to build a community of scholars.

Publishing capabilities that take advantage of the "print on demand" possibilities of DSpace will include local quick print capabilities and "back room" books-on-demand systems now being created within Hewlett-Packard. Printing services and finishing work will be explored to meet the needs of the university market. Other forms of "publishing" will also be tested, such as web or screen "fulfillment". Such publishing may mean the delivery of a document, per user instructions, to a web browser in a presentation suitable for convenient viewing.

An important measure of the success of DSpace will be the extent to which the MIT community uses this repository. Part of the initial phase of the project is to gather as much information as possible from members of the MIT community about how they would use such a repository and how they would like to see it work. We would like to talk with as many of you as possible about the kinds of digital content you would like this repository to hold, how you see your department or center contributing and reviewing submissions to the repository, what kind of interface you would like to use with it, what kinds of search and retrieval mechanisms you and your students prefer, and what value you perceive in maintaining such a repository for MIT and the research community in general. The project team plans to incorporate user suggestions and requirements into the design of DSpace.

During the development period of the project submissions to the repository will be accepted from a small number of "lead user groups", while access to the documents will be limited to MIT and HP only. It is expected that DSpace will go live in September of 2001, accepting submissions from all of MIT with potential retrieval by users around the world.

All faculty interested in sharing thoughts and ideas about DSpace, or those interested in participating as a "lead user group", are encouraged to contact Margret Lippert Branschofsky at 3-1293 or margretb@mit.edu.



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