Towards the end of last year I was lucky enough to get a short-term contract to work on the Research Support Services team at my library, working with our institutional repository. Coming from special collections to research support was a great experience and I learned so much. This blog is a reflection of the time I spent on that team.

As someone who had never had dealings with an institutional repository, I knew what it was (a storage area for research outputs, with a focus on providing information and links to publications associated with the university and, if copyright allows, full-text versions of the publications). This was about all I knew and I had no idea how the records got into the repository.

The process starts with the university’s research output management system which is managed by individuals within the research support team. Once approved, the records go from this system into another, which acts as a holding tank for the records. They are then quality-controlled for metadata accuracy and the research team check copyright to see if they can post an open-access full-text copy in the repository and contact the author(s) for copyright permissions and author’s versions of the paper if necessary. From this point it is published into the main institutional repository. All theses for Phd work are also published through this institutional repository system.

This team is also in charge of liaising with academics to publish several open access journals. This is fascinating work as well, and I had the opportunity to do some basic format editing for one of these journals.

What is so important about institutional repositories? They freely disseminate quality research information and support open access (OA).

In the most simple terms OA articles are those that FREE to read online, no subscription required. If you are interested in open access I would highly recommend reading ‘The State of OA’ (Piwowar, et al., 2017). This paper goes into discussion on different levels of open access and discusses findings from analyzing data from online journals. They found that on average, open access articles receive 18% more citations. The authors also note an overall increase in OA papers. They estimate that in 2015, around 44.7% of articles were OA.

It’s clear open access is here to stay, and it’s important. For researchers, it can be difficult to understand the rules copyright around OA, they change from publisher to publisher.  Many publishers that have content behind a paywall actually allow authors to publish a version of their paper in their institutional repository, sometimes with an embargo period. Before working on the research support team, I already had an appreciation of Creative Commons licensing. Now I LOVE Creative Commons licensing because it makes copyright so easy and clear cut for institutional repositories.

Any researchers out there wanting to make their work OA? Talk with the publisher about Creative Commons licensing, some will ask you to pay for this privilege but it may be worth it if you really want to get your research out there. If you are already published and unsure of copyright, talk to a research support librarian, they will help you figure out the if, when and how of making your publications OA.


Piwowar H, Priem J, Larivière V, Alperin JP, Matthias L, Norlander B, Farley A, West J, Haustein S. (2017) The State of OA: A large-scale analysis of the prevalence and impact of Open Access articles. PeerJ Preprints 5:e3119v1 https://doi.org/10.7287/peerj.preprints.3119v1

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