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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Notes from VALA 2008 keynote

Andy Powell, Repositories thru the looking glass, eFoundations, February 13, 2008. Notes from his keynote address at the VALA (formerly the Victorian Association for Library Automation) 2008 conference (held February 5-7 in Melbourne, Australia).

... I can sum up my talk in three fairly simple bullet points:

  • Firstly, that our current preoccupation with the building and filling of 'repositories' (particularly 'institutional repositories') rather than the act of surfacing scholarly material on the Web means that we are focusing on the means rather than the end (open access).  Worse, we are doing so using language that is not intuitive to the very scholars whose practice we want to influence.
  • Secondly, that our focus on the 'institution' as the home of repository services is not aligned with the social networks used by scholars, meaning that we will find it very difficult to build tools that are compelling to those people we want to use them.  As a result, we resort to mandates and other forms of coercion in recognition that we have not, so far, built services that people actually want to use.  We have promoted the needs of institutions over the needs of individuals.  Instead, we need to focus on building and/or using global scholarly social networks based on global repository services.  Somewhat oddly, ArXiv (a social repository that predates the Web let alone Web 2.0) provides us with a good model, especially when combined with features from more recent Web 2.0 services such as Slideshare.
  • Finally, that the 'service oriented' approaches that we have tended to adopt in standards like the OAI-PMH, SRW/SRU and OpenURL sit uncomfortably with the 'resource oriented' approach of the Web architecture and the Semantic Web.  We need to recognise the importance of REST as an architectural style and adopt a 'resource oriented' approach at the technical level when building services.
Comment. We blogged the slides from this and other presentations from the conference a few days ago.