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Online institutional repositories (IRs) are becoming less of a novelty and more of a fixture in institutions of higher education. Providing an opportunity for the library and the institution it represents to further the impact of student and faculty research papers and other projects--including special collections and archives-IRs have an effect beyond the local university community, since contents are accessible to anyone over the open web.

Online IRs are not limited in size and scope of material. At the University of Indiana, there are some that serve as a repository for the knowledge contributed on a specific topic or by a specific discipline, such as the Maurer School of Law's Digital Repository. Others feature work, archives, projects, and materials that are contributed by the institution's entire community (students, staffers, and faculty members). These include Deep Blue (University of Michigan Library), IUScholarWorks Repository (Indiana University Libraries), and the Digital Commons @ EMU (Eastern Michigan University), which is the focus of this article. By working with their institutions and applying their expertise in building these repositories, libraries have furthered the impact they make on their communities, propelling faculty research and expanding the scholarly communication. While this article focuses on one repository, it is representative of many.

The Bruce T. Halle Library and the Morell Boone Computing Commons building are situated in a far corner of the EMU campus. Located in Ypsilanti, Mich., the library was named after a student who graduated from the university in the 1950s and provided an endowment for a new library. To get an idea of its size, it has more than 972,000 paper volumes and 23 librarians and had a 589,000-plus gate count for 2015-2016 (EMU Library 2015). The library feels spacious and modern as you move around the floors. The Morell Boone Computing Commons and a small cafe sit on the ground level (both are popular locations when midterms and finals week are underway), and the automated storage and retrieval system--a marvel to behold in action--is located behind the first-floor circulation desk. That's not the only piece of essential infrastructure that sits behind the scenes; the school's digital repository is invisible, but it pervades the common space.

Operating on the bepress ( platform, the Digital Commons @ EMU (DC @ EMU) is an online repository that contains collections from 244 disciplines, such as social and behavioral sciences and business. As a member of the Digital Commons Network (, the repository's content is linked to nearly 400 other academic institutions. Its homepage includes a map that showcases download counts and user information from around the world. As of this writing, there are 8,629 papers and more than 3.5 million downloads, with 464,000-plus downloads in the past year.

To learn more about the repository, I spoke with Julia Nims, scholarly communications librarian at EMU; she is also curator of the DC @ EMU. Here's what she had to say.

SENOVIA: Tell us, in a nutshell, what the digital commons is all about.

JULIA: The DC @ EMU is a showcase for our faculty and students' intellectual achievements, as well as a place to share materials that document our university's history.

SENOVIA: In "Report for Resource Needs for the EMU Institutional Repository," published in 2015, it was noted that EMU first established the repository as Eagle Space in 2009 operating on the DSpace's open source platform. What circumstances influenced the move to bepress and the renaming of the IR?

JULIA: When EMU was using DSpace for our institutional repository, DSpace was an open source platform that we already had on one of our servers. Due to the cost, in terms of librarian and staff time as well as the expense of buying and maintaining hardware, we decided to investigate hosted systems. In 2009, we made the decision to migrate our institutional repository to Digital Commons, a bepress-hosted platform.

SENOVIA: How was funding secured for the digital commons? What cost, staffing, and tech concerns were there? How were responsibilities established?

JULIA; The money for Digital Commons comes from the library's general budget. Costs for all services and materials are always a concern; costs always go up faster than library budgets.

From the start, we knew we wouldn't get a new library faculty line dedicated to implementing and populating our IR. In 2011, I volunteered to take on most responsibilities. I'd love to have more time to devote to it; I have more plans than I have time to implement. In 2015, we hired a staff member to assist with populating DC @ EMU under my supervision.

At EMU, we operate under several unions, including the AAUP and CS (clerical/secretarial) union, which is part of UAW International. Our unions specify the types of work we can and cannot do.

SENOVIA: Describe the technology the Digital Commons runs on. What influenced the library's decision to use PlumX Metrics for usage data and SoundCloud for audio?

JULIA: I have no idea what technology Digital Commons runs on, and I don't need to know. This was a huge selling point for us. DC @ EMU is hosted by bepress, which relieves us of the concerns about purchasing, maintaining, and replacing servers and lets us focus on growing our content.

Elsevier, which owns bepress, also owns Plum Analytics. Earlier this year, bepress started integrating PlumX Metrics in the Digital Commons pages. The metrics for each page--such as downloads, captures, and mentions--really show the impact of the materials in DC @ EMU.

As we have expanded the types of materials we include in DC @ EMU, such as audio clips and video recordings, we have looked to how other digital commons institutions have integrated these formats. I have also asked our client services rep at bepress for her advice about what sites and formats best integrate with the platform.

SENOVIA: What services are provided by the commons?

JULIA: In addition to housing materials such as theses and dissertations--and prints of articles--we host journals and peer-reviewed series. We can host events, and we have in the past, but doing so isn't one of our current priorities.

SENOVIA: Who is the largest contributor to the Digital Commons, and how have you cultivated an increase in submissions? What usage statistics/data can you share about the contributors, users, and downloads?

JULIA: Right now, the University Archives has the largest number of items in our IR, when you count individual newspaper editions and FocusEMU articles. After the archives, the graduate school's theses and dissertations is the largest collection, followed by honors college materials.

The audience for materials in our IR is truly global. The Digital Commons platform has a map on the front page of each collection, where you can see what is being downloaded and from where. While the majority of our visitors are from the U.S., we do have people from every continent (sans, possibly Antarctica, but it could happen) downloading materials from our IR. Our contributors get excited when I show them that their work has a global audience.

SENOVIA: What is allowed for submission?

JULIA: We are open to all submissions so long as they document the intellectual activity of our students, faculty, or the history of the university. If we receive a submission that is in a different format than usual, we will figure out a way to add the material to DC @ EMU.

SENOVIA: How does the library advertise the availability of the Digital Commons as a resource? What explained the jump in submissions from 2016 to 2017, which went from 436 to 3,222 works added?

JULIA: The library uses our liaison program to promote DC @ EMU to EMU users so they can visit and download materials, as well as contribute materials to add to our IR. We have also found that word of mouth is a great way to promote DC @ EMU.

In 2015, we hired a staff member to assist with our institutional repository. She was able to scan several large collections of archival materials, such as our yearbook, The Aurora, and FocusEMU, a faculty and staff newsletter that was distributed weekly. Those collections, as well as some smaller archival collections, were added to DC @ EMU during the 2016-2017 academic year. We also started adding citations to faculty journals and articles during the summer of 2017.

SENOVIA: What role do you see in the future for the DC @ EMU? And how is the library planning to increase the impact of the IR? What is your definition of the IR reaching its full potential?

JULIA : I anticipate DC @ EMU continuing to grow as more faculty become aware of it and discover the benefits of contributing materials to the IR. As new forms of scholarship emerge, we look forward to seeing how we may add them to DC @ EMU.

I see the full potential of DC @ EMU as a moving target. I hope that we aren't ever there. I like to imagine the possibilities of an IR will continue to develop, and that we, at the EMU library, will be up for the challenge of incorporating them into DC @ EMU.

In conclusion, the DC @ EMU is an example that the Halle Library is serving the EMU community well, with a forward-thinking mindset. With the university archives, faculty, staff, and student scholarship, the DC @ EMU serves as a true digital showcase of work, with a strong impact that reaches beyond the local community. To see for yourself, visit


Interested in knowing which are the most popular downloads from the Digital Commons @ EMU? A continuously updated list of the 10 most popular items is posted on the site. The most-downloaded item, at the time of this writing, was an education piece titled "Effective Strategies for General and Special Education Teachers," by Heather A. Martel, with 139,000 downloads since its release in February 2012. A senior honors thesis from the department of nursing came in 10th, with 85,000 downloads since its publication in 2008.


Maurer School of Law. The Digital Repository,

Law Library. University of Michigan Law School Scholarship Repository,

University of Michigan Library. Deep Blue Is Expanding.

Indiana University Libraries. About lUScholarwork.

Guevara, Senovia. "Diving Into the Blue: A Look at Michigan's Repositories." Computers in Libraries, Information Today, Inc., April 2009.

Senovia Guevara has an M.P.A. and several years' experience in academic and corporate libraries.

Caption: The Digital Commons @ EMU homepage invites all to explore.

Caption: Authors can see where their paper is being read.

Caption: Chart showing growth in the repository, escalating in recent years

Caption: The top 10 list of downloads

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Title Annotation:Eastern Michigan University
Author:Guevara, Senovia
Publication:Computers in Libraries
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2019
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