Institutional Repository


Hi, I’m Jake Thompson and I have been working as a student assistant in the Scholarly Publishing Services unit since earlier this summer. My work mostly consists of uploading historic or back issues of student publications into the Iowa State University Digital Repository. Currently, we are working in collaboration with Special Collections to upload some of the earlier volumes of the historic student publication, The Iowa Homemaker.  Once completed, The Iowa Homemaker will be accessible to anyone around the world  on the Digital Repository’s website.


Digitized page from the magazine

The Iowa Homemaker was founded by the Home Economics Club in 1921.  It was the first magazine on Iowa State campus written by women for women.  The Iowa Homemaker covers a wide range of issues from “Canning Early Fruits and Vegetables” to “Can a Homemaker be a Citizen?”  It contains the excited energy of women trying to find their place in early twentieth century Iowa, and it offers a unique perspective on the history of Iowa State.  Familiar names like Beyer, Buchanan, and Cessna author article after article.  In 1926 the publication celebrated the grand opening of Mackay Hall, the new home of the College of Home Economics.  In 1943, nationwide tension is captured in the magazine’s numerous calls to aid in the war effort.  While this was a publication for homemakers in name, over time it began outgrowing that title and instead reflected women’s increasing interests outside of the home.

Ethel Cessna Morgan, Iowa State College Class of 1904

Ethel Cessna Morgan, Iowa State College Class of 1904

Ethyl Cessna Morgan was one of many women authors who wrote for the Iowa Homemaker magazine. One of her articles was about modernization of marriage. Ethyl taught at the Department of Economics. Among her achievements was being elected the President of the Ames League of Women Voters.

Until recently, I had never really given much thought to copyright.  There have been a wide variety of materials that I have been given to digitize and put online in our Digital Collections, however, somebody else had always decided before it came to me that we were allowed to put it online.  I was given whatever copyright statement was necessary for that material, I included it in the metadata for that digital collection, and that was all I needed to know.

Recently I have been asked to help out with our Digital Repository for a while.  Part of the work I’m doing includes checking some articles written by our faculty that have been published, to see if we are allowed to put them online in our Digital Repository.  Sometimes It’s easy to figure out and other times it takes some searching.  If it’s not obvious from looking at the published article online, I use the SHERPA/RoMEO website which shows if and how a publisher allows use of articles from their publications.  Sometimes they allow the original work to be put in an institutional repository like ours but they don’t allow us to use the published PDF version of the article from their web site.  Sometimes they allow us to use the article but they have an embargo period of anywhere from 6 to 48 months.  If so, we wait the specified amount of time after the original publication date before we put it online.

Some articles are published under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.  Works produced by employees of the U. S. Government as part of their official duties are not copyrighted within the U. S.  So if there is an article with a co-author who is an employee of the U.S. federal government, then we can use that as well.  I’m certainly no expert on the subject, but it has been an interesting introduction into the world of copyright.

For those of you who do any sort of preservation reformatting or digitizing you know how time consuming the quality control process can be. Our best practice would be to check completeness and initial quality of the original, especially if we are sending them to a vendor, and then to quality control page-by-page or frame-by-frame the facsimile or digital version. Maybe over time, as we become more confident in our process or the vendor’s, we may choose to do some spot checking or sampling if we are doing a large project. This is the step that is often overlooked when planning a project and budgeting staff time. It seems like such a waste of resources, especially when there are no mistakes to be found.

Well, let me tell you a little story and provide a warning. Like many academic institutions, our dissertations were sent to UMI for microfilming dating back to the 1930s. We did not receive copies because the student was required to submit two paper copies to the library (one for general collections and the other for University Archives). In 2006, we caught up with the times and moved to electronic submission of both MA theses and PhD dissertations through ProQuest’s ETD process. At that time, ProQuest made an offer to members of the Greater Western Library Alliance to digitize older theses and dissertations at a reduced cost so full-text versions could be accessed through ProQuest’s Dissertations & Theses database. Our administration decided to have all of our dissertations digitized. We sent nearly 2,000 print titles and ProQuest used an additional 12,000 microfilm titles from their holdings for the project. The majority of print titles were early dissertations that needed a little attention; graphs, charts, and photographs were re adhered, pages mended, and bindings were cut.

Because we did not receive digital copies, we never performed any post-production quality control, and also thought that since ProQuest was making these available for sale it would behoove them to be diligent and capture them accurately. Flash forward to the present. Our Digital Repository (DR) was established in 2012, giving us a place to provide open access to dissertations and theses. Administration purchased the digital dissertations from ProQuest and they are being added to the DR by our Metadata and Cataloging staff. Each title page is checked against the record to confirm that the PDF is what it claims to be. Well, so far our diligent MD and Cat staff have identified 15 ProQuest screw-ups.

Each dissertation usually begins with bibliographic information and a UMI statement indicating the text was filmed directly from the original and if anything is missing or of poor quality, it is because the author submitted it that way; although, missing pages would be noted. At first the Catalogers were finding minor problems such as no title page, the wrong title page, or missing front matter. Then they started finding parts of other dissertations added in, the wrong dissertation (sometimes from other institutions!), or, it gets better, portions of two different dissertations, neither of which were the correct dissertation, pieced together. So far it appears that all of the mistakes are coming from microfilm scans from the 1970s-90s, and since we do not hold microfilm copies, I cannot determine if the mistake is with the microfilm original or the scanning process. (ILL requests for two microfilm copies were not received by the time of this post). The incorrect digital versions we were sent are the same ones that ProQuest has made available.

Preservation is now scanning these mistakes in-house and adding them to our open access DR. In the near future, the OCLC MARC records for all ISU theses and dissertations will include the URL to the DR object without a URL to the ProQuest version. Researchers will be able to find complete and accurate representations in our DR for free.

I would suggest that if your institution has worked with ProQuest to convert microfilm versions, you may want to do some checking of your own. Maybe we should ask ProQuest if they would like to purchase correct digital files from us.

Quality control, quality control, quality control!

Successfully creating, maintaining, and providing access to digital collections requires the expertise of many library staff members in various library departments and units. In order to better coordinate these interrelated efforts, we formed the Digital Archives Repository & Collections Team, also known as the DARC Team.  Our overall goal is to provide online access to digital content as well as digital preservation of that content.  The places that we present our digital content online include the Digital Repository, the Library Digital Collections, and Special Collections and Archives social media outlets.  Together, we decide which platform is the best fit for the various digital content that we acquire and create.  To make sure that all aspects of a project are considered and that none of us duplicates the work of another, we bring together everybody that has a part in the process for semimonthly meetings.  The DARC team includes the Head of Preservation/Interim Acting Head of Special Collections and Archives, the Digital Repository Coordinator, the Digital Collections coordinator, the Archivist/Assistant Head of Special Collections and Archives, the Cataloging and Metadata Management Librarian, the Conservator, the Digital Collections staff and web designer, and an IT representative.

Created by Kelly Thompson, Cataloging and Metadata Management Librarian, in collaboration with the DARC Team, ISU Library (2014)

Created by Kelly Thompson, Cataloging and Metadata Management Librarian, in collaboration with the DARC Team, ISU Library (2014)

The team receives input from faculty and staff to help identify appropriate content for possible future projects.  Some projects can be time-sensitive: for example, when a project must be completed for a certain event or to highlight an anniversary.  Having everyone involved in these team meetings helps so that we can communicate the time commitments estimated by every team member for their portion of each project. Based on those estimates,  we can determine if a certain project should be moved up as a higher priority or pushed back in our schedule.

Sometimes materials require conservation treatment either before or after the digitization process.  This work needs to be scheduled into the Conservation Lab’s other workflows.  The length of the digitization process can also vary greatly depending on the size, format, and fragility of the original material.  Metadata standards, best practices, and workflows have been greatly improved with the addition of a recently hired Cataloging and Metadata Management Librarian who also helps to determine the extent of metadata that is appropriate for each of the diverse collections.  Since most of our projects need to move through several different departments and then back again in order for them to be completed, it has become extremely helpful to have everyone involved meet on this team and work together to ensure a smooth and successful process.

Harrison Inefuku is Iowa State University Library’s new Digital Repository Coordinator.  While Harrison is not part of the Preservation Department, he works closely with us on digital preservation issues, and has agreed to be an occasional guest blogger.

As Hilary mentioned in an earlier post, I left hot and humid Hawai‘i for what turned out to be an even hotter and more humid Iowa. I’ve already been asked on multiple occasions, “What could draw someone from the white, sandy beaches of O‘ahu to the exotic climes of central Iowa?”

The opportunity to serve as Iowa State University’s first Digital Repository Coordinator, of course! And, despite my aversion to heat and humidity, I am thoroughly enjoying my time here.

In my role as digital repository coordinator, I am overseeing the development and operations of Digital Repository @ Iowa State University, Iowa State’s new institutional repository. An institutional repository is a platform for collecting and providing access to scholarly, research and creative works being produced by members of the Iowa State community—our faculty, staff, students, administrators and university offices, programs, centers and departments.

There isn’t much in the repository yet. I’ve spent much of my first two months here developing the administrative framework of the repository—writing the policies, guidelines and procedures that will determine how the repository functions. Many of the recent theses and dissertations written by now-Iowa State alumni are available, as well as many publications written by library faculty and staff. Try doing a search on your favorite Parks Library Preservation blog writers and see if anything comes up!

Of course, when we provide access to digital materials, we want to ensure that these materials remain accessible over time. This is where my close working relationship with the Preservation Department comes in. Together, with the Preservation and Special Collections departments, we need to develop strategies for digital preservation to ensure that the scholarly and creative output of Iowa State is preserved for posterity.

The vast majority of information created today is born-digital and, in increasing numbers, exists in digital format only.  In the digital environment, it is easy to lose information—through changes in technology, the ease of manipulating digital files, and the tendency for files to corrupt right when you need them. Preservation is further complicated by copyright law, which places limitations on how and why libraries can make reproductions of the materials in their collections.

My approach to digital preservation draws from archival science and diplomatics (the study of archival documents), so in addition to ensuring ongoing access to our digital collections, I am concerned with their authenticity and reliability. In future guest blog posts, I intend to touch on a myriad of topics relating to digital preservation, including a discussion of diplomatics and the authenticity of records.  I think Parks Library Preservation is going to quickly regret inviting me to be a guest blogger.

Stay tuned, everyone!

A hui hou,


This latest installment of the 1091 Project, a collaboration with Preservation Underground, the Duke University Libraries Conservation blog, addresses the relationship between digitization and conservation at our respective institutions.

Last year, I wrote a post about some of the philosophical issues surrounding the digitization and conservation of historical materials.  Today, I’ll address the practical issues of negotiating this relationship within our institution.

At Iowa State University Library, the Digital Initiatives unit is part of the Preservation Department, along with the Conservation unit, and the Preservation Services unit (Binding, Mass Deacidification, Reformatting, and Marking).  Having Digitial Initiatives and Conservation in one department under one supervisor makes it easy to foster a close working relationship.  When Digital Initiatives first started, it operated as its own independent unit in the Research & Access division of the Library.  Organizational restructuring in 2008 provided an opportunity to move the unit into the Preservation Department.

Locating Digital Initiatives in the Preservation Department has proved to be a strong stewardship decision for the Library.  I’m not suggesting this is the only organizational plan that promotes good stewardship, simply that this decision proved to be highly effective for our institution.  From a physical stewardship perspective, materials which travel to and from Special Collections & Archives for digitization never bypass preservation.  The materials are assessed (and sometimes treated) before digitization, and they are examined (and sometimes treated) after digitization.  From a digital stewardship perspective, Digital Initiative operates with a full understanding of digital preservation issues, and is able to stay current with best practices in this quickly-changing specialty.

The Digital workflow comes mainly from Special Collections & Archives.  Materials travel from Special Collections & Archives to the Conservation Lab, where they are quickly assessed for stability.  Stable materials are sent on to Digital Initiatives for digitization, and a streamer traveling with the materials indicates whether they will need to return to Conservation for post-digitization stabilization, treatment, and/or rehousing, or whether they can return directly to Special Collections.  Should any mishap occur during handling (an extremely rare occurrence), then Digital Initiatives staff know to send the materials back through Conservation post-digitization.

The Conservation workflow for materials to be digitized is often split between pre-digitization and post-digitization materials.  Treatments that are required for safe handling of the materials are prioritized in an effort to get them to Digital as expediently as possible.  Materials returning from digitization on their way back to Special Collections & Archives receive a secondary priority status, since researchers will have access to the digital surrogates as soon as the metadata is completed.  Conservation and Digital Initiatives communicate frequently and adjust their priorities in order to accommodate one another’s workflows.  Sharing a supervisor allows the two units to balance occasionally differing priorities with minimal difficulty.

Pre-digitization treatments include dry cleaning, humidification and flattening, and mending (when required for stabilization), and disbinding when necessary.  Post-digitization treatments include more complex mends, rebinding when necessary, and rehousings.  Of course, this is a generalization of our procedures, and more detailed treatment decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.

Staff from Digital Initiatives, Special Collections & Archives, and Conservation hold regular monthly meetings to discuss the current workflow, plan for upcoming projects, and troubleshoot.  Starting next month, our new Digital Repository Coordinator will be joining these monthly meetings.  He will be building and managing our digital institutional repository (its own unit in the Library’s Research & Access division), so it will be interesting to see how our intra- and interdepartmental relationships continue to evolve!

Duke University Libraries structure their digitization and conservation efforts differently; let’s head over to Preservation Underground and see how they make it work.

All the way from Honolulu, Hawaii, and various points along the way, Harrison Inefuku has joined the ISU Library as our first Digital Repository Coordinator. Harrison will be in charge of our institutional repository through Digital Commons, where we hope to provide open access (no-cost, online access to scholarly research results that are free of most copyright and licensing restrictions) to our electronic theses and dissertations, publications from our faculty, gray materials produced by departments and centers on campus, and much, much more. He will also work very closely with Digital Collections, help establish digital preservation policies, and develop our electronic records management program.

Harrison has a dual BFA in Graphic Design and BA in Visual Culture from the University of the Pacific, and a dual Master’s degree from the University of British Columbia in Archival Studies, and Library and Information Studies.  It sounds like he needs a dual position here as well–we’ve got plenty of ideas and we certainly don’t want him getting bored!

After graduate school, Harrison was an ARL Fellow at the National Library of Medicine/National Institutes of Health, where he developed a set of preservation workflows for electronic records acquired by NLM’s Archives and Modern Manuscripts Program. Just before joining us here, he worked on an InterPARES 3 Project “Digital Records Forensics Project and University Institutional Repositories: Copyright and Long-Term Preservation Project.”

Even though he is so early in his career, Harrison has already given a number of presentations and poster sessions on institutional repositories at national conferences. So look for him at ALA, SAA, and other conferences in the near future.

We are excited to get our institutional repository off the ground and to work with Harrison. We will have him share his experiences with you, here, on the blog.  So far, his adventures revolve around life in Ames, Iowa: he was relieved to find that Spam is cheap. We’ve got him roped in; he thinks everything is on sale, all of the time. Ah, the joys of living in the Midwest.

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