Rethinking Institutional Repositories: Innovations in Management, Collections, and Inclusion

ACRL announces the publication of Rethinking Institutional Repositories: Innovations in Management, Collections, and Inclusion edited by Josh C. Cromwell, a collection of ideas, scholarship, and examples that can inspire and reinvigorate how you engage with the repositories at your institution. Rethinking Institutional Repositories is available for purchase in print through the ALA Online Store and Amazon.com; by telephone order at (800) 621-2736 or (773) 702-7010; and as an open access edition.

Learn more about the book in this introduction from the editor, licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.


Over the past two decades, institutional repositories (IRs) have become commonplace among academic libraries. As of 2022, the Open Directory of Open Access Repositories (OpenDOAR) contains entries for 771 IRs in the United States alone, not to mention the proliferation of IRs at colleges and universities around the world.[1] Librarians have grown accustomed to making the case for why their institution needs an IR, and based on the data, it appears that they have largely been successful in making these arguments to administrators. But if the question of “why” has been answered, the more fundamental question of “how” remains: How should libraries use their IRs most effectively to benefit their universities and their community?

In their early days, IRs were primarily viewed as a means of capturing and disseminating faculty research. Ideally, faculty would directly contribute their publications to the IR, library personnel would assist faculty in securing the rights to post the article publicly if the author no longer maintained the rights to the work, and universities would build out a robust database of the scholarship of all affiliated faculty that would be freely available to researchers locally and around the globe. But librarians built IRs, and faculty did not come, in many cases. In response, many IR managers transitioned to a mediated deposit strategy in which faculty supplied a list of publications and IR staff uploaded the items on the faculty member’s behalf, along with performing all necessary rights-checking. These initiatives generally tended to elicit greater levels of faculty participation but were far more time-consuming for repository staff. While efforts to include faculty publications in the IR continue, these challenges led many to question whether there might be other, stronger use cases for repositories.

In this volume, IR managers are encouraged to reimagine their repositories by considering several innovative approaches to broaden both the types of content and the level of participation in the repository. As of this writing, much of the existing literature still tends to focus either on the technical aspects of establishing or organizing a repository or on prioritizing programs and efforts to increase the number of faculty articles in the repository.[2] This book aims to expand on this scholarship by highlighting a variety of approaches to administering IRs, increasing the variety of repository content, and broadening participation in the IR.

 The first section addresses strategies for managing IRs. This includes implementing new IRs, migrating or evaluating existing IRs, or finding new, creative approaches and partnerships to promote or improve IR services. These discussions and case studies will be particularly beneficial for new IR managers but will also be useful for anyone looking to revitalize or reinvigorate an existing IR either through a new platform or a new organizational structure. The middle section will emphasize unique repository collections. It consists of a variety of case studies highlighting collections that include gray literature, podcasts, digitized archival materials, and similar innovative use cases. The final section details strategies for making repositories more inclusive spaces where all people and communities on campus are welcome to participate. It highlights accessibility reviews, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) audits of IR content, and using the IR as a platform and showcase for underrepresented voices, for instance. Hopefully, the ideas, scholarship, and examples in this volume will serve as inspiration for many readers as they consider how to engage with the repositories at their own universities.


  1. “Browse by Country and Region: United States,” OpenDOAR, Retrieved December 1, 2022, https://v2.sherpa.ac.uk/view/repository_by_country/United_States_of_America.html.
  2. For examples of book-length treatments of institutional repositories, see Stephen Craig Finley, ed., The Complete Guide to Institutional Repositories (Chicago: ALA Editions, 2020); Brighid M. Gonzales, Institutional Repositories: CLIPP #44 (Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries, 2018); Pamela Bluh and Cindy Hepfer, eds., The Institutional Repository: Benefits and Challenges (Chicago: American Library Association, 2013). For recent article-length treatments of institutional repositories, see Maura Valentino and Daniel Levy, “Using the Web of Science to Populate Faculty Articles in an Institutional Repository,” Scholarly and Research Communication 13, no. 1 (2022): 1–13, https://src-online.ca/index.php/src/article/view/435; Alexandra Carlile Butterfield, Quinn Galbraith, and McKenna Martin, “Expanding Your Institutional Repository: Librarians Working with Faculty,” The Journal of Academic Librarianship 48, no. 6 (November 2022): 1–5, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.acalib.2022.102628; Mary Elizabeth Turner and Jennifer Sauer, “Faculty Awareness and Use of an Institutional Repository at a Master’s Granting University,” Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication 10, no. 1 (2022): 1–17, https://doi.org/10.31274/jlsc.13875.