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Census of Institutional Repositories in the United States

MIRACLE Project Research Findings

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by Karen Markey, Soo Young Rieh, Beth St. Jean, Jihyun Kim, and Elizabeth Yakel
February 2007

Copyright 2007 by the Council on Library and Information Resources. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transcribed in any form without permission of the publishers. Requests for reproduction or other uses or questions pertaining to permissions should be submitted in writing to the Director of Communications at the Council on Library and Information Resources.

About the Authors

Authors’ Acknowledgments



Executive Summary

1 Background and Methodology

2 The Institutions and the People Involved with IRs

3 The Budget for an IR

4 Important Investigative Activities

5 IR Systems and Features

6 IR Practices and Policies

7 IR Benefits and Beneficiaries

8 Institutions That Have No Involvement with IRs

9 Discussion of Census Findings

APPENDIX A. Advisory Group Members

APPENDIX B. Questionnaire for No Planning (NP) Respondents

APPENDIX C. Questionnaire for Planning Only (PO) Respondents

APPENDIX D. Questionnaire for Planning and Pilot Testing (PPT) Respondents

APPENDIX E. Questionnaire for Implementation (IMP) Respondents

APPENDIX F. Literature Review


About the Authors

Karen Markey is a professor in the School of Information (SI) at the University of Michigan (U-M). Prior to joining Michigan’s faculty in 1987, she was a senior research scientist at OCLC. Karen has received research funding from the Council on Library Resources, the U.S. Department of Education, Forest Press, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the National Science Foundation, and OCLC. The author of four books, more than a dozen major research reports, and dozens of journal articles and conference papers, she has been invited to speak at meetings in North America, Europe, and Australia. She is a coprincipal investigator of the MIRACLE Project.

Soo Young Rieh is an assistant professor at U-M SI. She teaches in the areas of information-seeking behavior, use of information, and evaluation of systems and services. Soo’s research seeks to better understand people’s interactions with information in various contexts, such as the Web, libraries, and institutional repositories. Her primary research interests lie in credibility- and cognitive-authority judgments in the information-seeking process. With regard to the MIRACLE Project, Soo is particularly interested in identifying success factors in institutional repositories from multiple perspectives, including administration, service, and use. She is principal investigator of the MIRACLE Project.

Beth St. Jean is a first-year doctoral student at U-M SI. She holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Smith College and a master’s degree in information with a specialty in library and information services from U-M SI. Before coming to U-M, Beth worked in the fields of financial and statistical analysis for more than 15 years. She is a graduate student research assistant on the MIRACLE Project.

Jihyun Kim is a doctoral candidate at U-M SI. She has been involved in research projects on access systems for archival information, particularly research funded by National Historical Publications and Records Commission on the usability of archival access tools. Jihyun is writing her dissertation, which investigates factors that motivate and impede faculty self-archiving behavior. She is a research assistant on the MIRACLE Project.

Elizabeth Yakel is an associate professor at U-M SI, where she teaches in the Archives and Records Management Specialization. Her research interests include analyzing archival user needs and improving access to primary sources. Beth has received grants from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, and OCLC. She has published on many aspects of archival use and user services in such publications as American Archivist, Archivaria, and Archival Science. She is a coprincipal investigator on the MIRACLE Project.

Authors’ Acknowledgments

In this report, we describe results of a nationwide census of institutional repositories in U.S. academic institutions. The census is one of several activities of the MIRACLE (Making Institutional Repositories a Collaborative Learning Environment) Project. The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) provides support for the MIRACLE Project through its National Leadership Grants Program (grant number LG01-05-0126). Martha Crawley is program officer. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily represent those of the IMLS.

The MIRACLE Project staff thanks members of the advisory committee- Joseph Branin, Michael Seadle, Helen Tibbo, Diane Vizine-Goetz, and Marcia Zeng-who visited Ann Arbor or provided telephone advice on the construction of the census, the content of this report, and project business in general. We are also grateful to Yong-mi Kim, who took part in our early discussions about census questions, participants, and Web survey software.

We thank Susan L. Perry at CLIR for responding positively to our inquiries to publish MIRACLE Project census findings in CLIR’s publication series. Now these findings will reside at an electronic location where prospective readers are likely to find additional information on related and allied topics. At CLIR, Kathlin Smith gave us superb editorial support, streamlined production of the report, and coordinated her efforts with Brian Leney, who performed design and layout tasks.

We are especially grateful to the many staff at educational institutions throughout the country who took part in the census.


The subject of institutional repositories commands great interest on campuses across the country, and for good reason. At the heart of higher education is the generation and dissemination of knowledge. It is only natural that campus leaders, witnessing the startling proliferation of new information made possible by digital technologies, are growing concerned about the stewardship of the knowledge assets produced in their institutions. For many academic leaders, institutional repositories seem an ideal tool to manage knowledge production and dissemination. There is a growing need for carefully gathered evidence that will help people learn about the growth and effectiveness of repositories.

This report is designed to meet that need. It presents and analyzes data gathered in the first phase of the MIRACLE Project, an IMLS-funded research program based at the University of Michigan that is “investigating the implementation of institutional repositories in colleges and universities in order to identify models and best practices in the administration, technical infrastructure, and access to repository collections.” In the first phase, MIRACLE Project investigators conducted a nationwide census of institutions to determine the extent of their involvement with repositories. This data-gathering phase will be followed by a series of telephone interviews with institutional repositories’ staff, in-depth investigations into five institutional repositories, a survey of repository users, and, finally, a study based on searching in repositories.

In part because the census revealed a great demand for information about what is going on in the world of institutional repositories, the MIRACLE researchers decided to publish their initial data before subsequent phases of the project are done. Like all satisfying surveys, this one not only confirms what we already know but also introduces uncertainties where once there was seeming clarity.

A conspicuous fact about institutional repositories, confirmed by the MIRACLE Project findings, is that there is no consensus on what institutional repositories are for. Many librarians and administrators are convinced that repositories are important-so much so that most are, or will be, implementing repositories before they do a needs assessment. The investigators found that when such an assessment is done, it often occurs after an organization has decided to implement a repository and that its goal is to predict adoption rates by targeted users.

While motivations for implementing repositories vary, some expectations appear to be at odds with the results reported by early adopters. For example, many institutions that plan or pilot test repositories are motivated by the desire to change the dynamics of scholarly communication. Yet the survey confirms a finding, reported elsewhere anecdotally, that operating repositories have had limited success in recruiting voluntary deposit of content. Other institutions identify stewardship of digital assets, especially their preservation, as a key function of a repository. Yet survey data confirm that repositories are not yet providing key preservation services, such as guaranteeing the integrity of file formats for future use. It is one of the paradoxical findings of the survey that there is a detectable urgency on the part of libraries to implement institutional repositories, even as early adopters report difficulties in achieving the purposes for which they built them.

These results raise several interesting questions that subsequent phases of this project are likely to illuminate. Why haven’t more faculty and researchers contributed to institutional repositories? Are institutional repositories what scholars need, or will most of them choose to deposit their materials in domain-specific repositories, if and when such facilities are developed? Is the ultimate purpose of an institutional repository to ensure strong institutional stewardship of records over time, rather than to facilitate current access?

The idea of stewardship itself merits additional investigation. Why do many see institutional repositories as part of the solution to the challenges of digital preservation, even though none of the repositories now in place reports that they provide reliable format-specific preservation (with perhaps the exception of preserving PDFs)? Five years hence, it would be interesting to see whether those institutions that now say they will change their software to address the preservation issue have actually been able to do so. Another question is why so few archivists are involved in the design, implementation, and management of repositories given that institutions are targeting unpublished materials for deposit.

The next few years will be critical in the fate of institutional repositories. Proponents see them developing into a key element of the new technological infrastructure that campuses require. The retooling of existing infrastructure into what is widely called the “cyberinfrastructure” requires that all components of the existing infrastructure-including libraries (as publishers) and archives-be rethought, retooled, and repurposed. In this context, it may not be surprising that there is a gap between the claims of stewardship-or aspirations for stewardship-by institutional repositories and their current ability to preserve digital assets. Organizational models for digital preservation are only now emerging, and they are quite diverse. They range from all-purpose storage solutions for high-use, high-volume data (such as some programs in the San Diego Supercomputer Center) to highly selective, closed systems that keep proprietary assets dark (such as Portico). Several scenarios are possible. In some disciplines, institutional repositories may play significant roles in disseminating both unpublished and published research results. In other disciplines, institutional repositories could have no significance whatsoever; scholars in these fields will continue to prefer to deposit their materials in domain-based archives. The differences will arise not from institutional arrangements but from the nature of the content and of the communities who use it.

CLIR’s attention to institutional repositories is an extension of its long-standing interest in libraries’ support of research and learning. As new models of repositories emerge and are tested, all stakeholders will need ready access to information about them. It will also be important that these repositories can interoperate or, at a minimum, that they expose their content’s metadata. Regardless of the organizational models that ultimately hold, the policies that govern them will be of paramount importance.

It may be true, as this report indicates, that people are enthusiastic about institutional repositories because they see them as a technology-based solution to a number of challenges in the digital environment. But people, not technology, make solutions. And to find solutions, it is best to start with the facts. It is in that spirit that CLIR offers this report.

Abby Smith

Abby Smith currently works with the Library of Congress’s National Digital Information and Preservation Program (NDIIPP) in development of its national strategy to identify, collect, and preserve digital content of long-term value. She was director of programs at CLIR until she relocated to California in 2005.


American Library Directory

Association of Research Libraries

Canadian Association of Research Libraries

Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education

chief information officer

Coalition for Networked Information

curriculum vitae

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency

electronic theses and dissertations

FAIR Programme
Focus on Access to Institutional Resources Programme

Flexible and Extensible Digital Object and Repository Architecture

full-time equivalent(s)


Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research

institution of higher education

Institute of Museum and Library Services

implementation (respondents in the MIRACLE Project census)

intellectual property

institutional repository

Joint Information Systems Committee

knowledge management

Learning About Digital Institutional Repositories

Library and Information Technology Association

Metadata Encoding and Transmission Standard

Making Institutional Repositories a Collaborative Learning Environment Project

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

National Science Foundation

no planning (respondents in the MIRACLE Project census)

open access

Open Archives Initiative

Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting

OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc.

OAIS Reference Model
Open Archival Information System Reference Model

The Ohio State University

portable document file

planning and pilot testing (respondents in the MIRACLE Project census)

planning only (respondents in the MIRACLE Project census)

Research Libraries Group

Registry of Open Access Repository Material Archiving Policies

School of Information (University of Michigan)

System and Procedures Exchange Center Kit

Statistical Package for the Social Sciences

trusted digital repository

United Kingdom

University of Michigan

Uniform Resource Locator

extensible markup language


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