Frome time to time still publish on paper, so I have to deposit the publication in a repository to make it (and its metadata) available; mostly I use the “open archive for Library and Information Science” named E-LIS. But each time I get angry because uploading and describing a submission is so complicated – especially compared to popular commercial repositories like flickr, slideshare youtube and such. These web applications pay a lot attention to usability – which sadly is of low priority in many digital libraries.
I soon realized that E-LIS uses a very old version (2.13.1) of GNU EPrints – EPrints 3 is available since December 2006 and there have been many updates since then. To find out whether it is usual to run a repository with such an outdated software, I did a quick study. The Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR) should list all relevant public repositories that run with EPrints. With 30 lines of Perl I fetched the list (271 repositories), and queried each repository via OAI to find out the version number. Here the summarized result in short:
76 x unknown (script failed to get or parse OAI response), 8 x 2.1, 18 x 2.2, 98 x 2.3, 58 x 3.0, 13 x 3.1
Of 195 repositories (that I could successfully query and determine the version number of) only 13 use the newest version 3.1 (released September 8th). Moreover 124 still use version 2.3 or older. EPrints 2.3 was released before the web 2.0 hype in 2005! One true point of this web 2.0 bla is the concept of “perpetual beta”: release early but often and follow user feedback, so your application will quickly improve. But most repository operators do not seem to have a real interest in improvement and in their users!
Ok, I know that managing and updating a repository server is work – I would not be the right guy for such a job – but then don’t wail over low acceptance or wonder why libraries have an antiquated image. For real progress one should perpetually do user studies and engage in the developement of your software. Digital libraries with less resources should at least join the Community and follow updates to keep up to date.
P.S: E-LIS has updated its software now (November 2008). A lot of missing features remain but those need to be implemented in EPrints first.
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