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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Law schools should launch or use IRs

Carol Parker, University Institutional Repositories: Are You Underutilizing A Valuable Resource? Law Librarian Blog, January 17, 2007.  Excerpt:

In July 2006, I attempted to count the number of Law Schools that had established institutional repositories (IRs) which, among other things, enable open access to legal scholarship via author self-archiving.  I identified 77 repositories in use by approximately 40% of ABA-approved schools.  The vast majority of these schools (67) had paid to sponsor a Law School Research Papers collection in SSRN’s Legal Scholarship Network, and another 30 had paid to sponsor a bepress Legal Repository Working Paper Series.  What was interesting to me was that 19 of the schools that elected to pay SSRN or bepress to host a repository did so rather than use existing university repositories that presumably are freely available to them.   Another 13 schools did not use their university repository nor had they established separate law school repositories through SSRN or bepress.   

Schools that do not use their university IRs are underutilizing a valuable resource.  Even if a law school determines that it needs to purchase the services of SSRN and bepress, schools can still host other digital content on these multi-media university IRs.  We should not overlook the contribution that could be made if law faculties digitized and shared original research material or original historical documents discovered in the course of scholarly research.  The potential for IRs to disseminate important material that otherwise languishes in file cabinets or on computer hard drives is one of the most exciting applications emerging from the development of IRs. Developers of policies governing IRs often choose to not limit what faculty can place in repositories, but instead step back to see how creatively the repositories can be used. 

For example, a member of the University of New Mexico law faculty used our university repository, DSpace, to publish the 1974 transcript of a federal district court trial that led to a U.S. Supreme Court opinion affirming tribal sovereignty. The transcript is in the public domain and was easily scanned to convert it to PDF.  Now that it is in DSpace, the transcript is indexed by Google.  Its DSpace abstract states: “A search of the Westlaw and Lexis databases shows that this case is among the most cited in constitutional and federal law as well as the focus of continuing law review articles and critiques by scholars. Until this transcript was made available here, the scholarship on Santa Clara Pueblo v. Martinez was done without the benefit of the trial transcript details....” The transcript has since formed the basis for three new scholarly publications.... 

Carol A. Parker, Law Library Director & Assistant Professor of Law, Univ. of New Mexico School of Law

[Derived from a work that is forthcoming in 37:2 New Mexico Law Review (Summer 2007)]