Digital repository is an underused treasure trove


Jonathan North/Iowa State Daily

Harrison Inefuku is the digital repository coordinator for Parks Library.

Kelly Mcgowan

Student, faculty and staff scholarly work is saved and shared around the world for free, thanks to the library’s digital repository.

Anyone can download ISU research, publications, reports and creative work from 795 disciplines using the online source. The site has had over 2.6 million downloads since its start in 2012.

A grey dot falls on a live world map on the web site’s home page each time a document is downloaded.

“It impresses and almost mind boggles me how global the impact of this is,” said Ben Spick, senior in anthropology, who is the digital repository student assistant.

Work has been downloaded from over 200 countries and territories, including Cuba and Iran. Since its launch, there have been three downloads from North Korea.

“A lot of research is hidden behind what is sometimes called a paywall, where you can only access research through certain journals if you have the money to buy a subscription,” Spick said.

To provide journal access to students, some of these subscriptions cost the ISU library tens of thousands of dollars per year. An individual “JPASS” access to JSTOR, one source of academic articles, costs $19.50 per month for non-students.

Spick said these costs create barriers and the repository frees this intellectual information from being stuck behind a paywall.

Harrison Inefuku, digital repository coordinator, was hired to launch the initiative in 2012.

He was featured by the Des Moines Register as one of their “People to Watch in 2015.”

“People are used to being able to hit ‘like’ or ‘share’ and have that go to all of their friends,” Inefuku said.

It has not been so easy to share information in the academic world. Libraries at smaller universities, public libraries and libraries in developing countries can’t afford access, he said.

He is working to bridge the gap of information to the populations of the world that do not have access to scholarly work.

“The Internet is really driving the changes in what’s possible with sharing information,” Inefuku said. “Making taxpayer-funded research available to the taxpayers is a greater possibility now with the Internet than when it had to be done in print.”

Hope Mitchell, who oversees the digital repository, said that making this scholarship available gives it back to the people.

“These are things they are paying for,” Mitchell said. “And they should be made aware of it. We can’t assume they don’t have an interest in these things.”

The staff goal is to add 100 documents to the site per day, which includes old and new work. Among other additions, staff is uploading all dissertations that have been written at Iowa State since 1916.

Inefuku said he wants more student work in the repository. Graduate theses are automatically added and with faculty help, undergraduates may also submit work.

“You can point to your work online and show what you’re capable of,” Infuku said.

Creators of work get a monthly email telling them how many times their work was downloaded. Creating an account allows them to view more detailed download statistics.

According to the repository website, submitting work does not affect the owner’s copyright.

Inefuku said the repository lets people see “the great work we are doing here on campus.”

Recent additions to the collection include a 1944 poem from the 11th volume of the literary magazine Sketch, entitled “Soldier’s Mail” by Anna Mae Mattice, with the abstract reading “His letters all begin with ‘Hello, Darling.’”