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British Library to develop shared open access repository services
Aerial shot of the British Library at St Pancras. Photo: Tony Antoniou.

LONDON.- The British Library, working with a group of cultural and memory organisations, is piloting a shared repository service for research content built on an open source platform. The repository aims to increase the visibility and impact of research outputs, making the knowledge generated by cultural institutions easier to explore and use for new research.

The Library has appointed open access publisher Ubiquity Press to build the pilot repository. It will initially be populated with research outputs produced by the project’s partners, the British Museum, Tate, National Museums Scotland and MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology), as well as the British Library’s own open research content.

The pilot organisations are all Independent Research Organisations (IROs), which are cultural and memory institutions undertaking significant research, and eligible to apply for Research Council funding. Examples of research undertaken by the IROs includes the British Museum’s collaborative project Beyond Boundaries: Religion, Region, Language and the State; Tate’s CMOP – Cleaning Modern Oil Paints and MOLA’s research into writing tablets for the Roman London’s First Voices Research Project.

The IRO Consortium members hope to achieve economies of scale and, importantly, increased visibility and impact of their research on a shared platform. Sophie Jackson, Director of Research and Engagement at MOLA, said: ‘Our archaeological experts generate new and important knowledge on a daily basis and having a shared repository presents an exciting opportunity to make this research content available for others to explore.’

Through the pilot, the British Library and its partners are developing workflows and technology for multi-tenant shared services for the wider IRO Consortium and for other organisations who may wish to join. As such, the repository marks an important step in the Library’s ambition to enhance its services as an essential element of the international research infrastructure.

The repository will be built using Samvera Hyku, a new, rapidly developing open source repository software in which multitenancy is a key feature. Hyku – developed initially in response to a call by the Institute of Museum and Library Services for a National Digital Platform – has a global developer community behind it who have made huge progress in a relatively short time.

As well as launching the shared research repository later this year, the British Library and Ubiquity are also looking forward to contributing to the Samvera Hyku open source community with the developments and experience from the pilot – in particularly regarding scalability, multi-tenancy and user experience. Ubiquity Press announced their arrival in the repository development space in October 2017, and have quickly become one of the main contributors to the Hyku codebase.

In a separate piece of work, the British Library is also currently replacing its strategic digital preservation system to ensure it remains fit for purpose as the volume and complexity of digital content continues to grow rapidly. Once the research repository is established it will be complemented by an associated digital preservation service, thereby assuring the long-term preservation of this valuable cultural heritage material to support future research.

‘I am excited to announce the launch of this new British Library initiative,’ says Dr Torsten Reimer, Head of Research Services. ‘Working as part of the international repository community we will enhance the Library’s service portfolio and also make a contribution to our understanding of shared services and the global effort to make research and cultural outputs easily accessible’.

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