No need for binders as library digitizes documents

Contributing Writer
Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Center for Digital Initiatives is preparing to launch the Brown Digital Repository, an online database to allow faculty members to easily and safely store thousands of documents — and share them with their students and colleagues.

The service, which aims to make faculty research and teaching materials more accessible in the present as well as preserve them for posterity, could be operational as soon as next semester, according to Patrick Yott, head of the library’s digital services department and the Center for Digital Initiatives.

Though many universities offer similar databases, library officials have delayed implementing one at Brown in order to take advantage of a program that only recently became available. Many digital repositories, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s, use a program called DSpace, which Yott said is less flexible. The new program, Fedora, improves on older repository software.

“We were waiting for some of the technologies to mature,” Yott said. “We just waited to do it the way we wanted to do it.”

Fedora will allow programmers at the University to augment the basic software, letting them tailor the repository to better suit Brown’s specific purposes, Yott said.

The repository will allow users to upload faculty papers, research data, electronic dissertations, teaching materials and other files. One feature of the Fedora platform allows files to be updated into newer formats should old ones become obsolete, preserving the documents for generations to come.

“Ideally, we’d love to start the service by spring 2010,” Yott said. The first phase of programming is nearly complete, and several departments will get access to a trial version of the repository within the next month, he added.