Populating an institutional repository with quality scholarship by faculty and students is the first priority of any successful IR administrator—but as a repository grows, it becomes even more important to help your visitors navigate and make sense of its many collections. Here are three simple things you can do right now to make a big impact on how your visitors engage with the repository.
Introductory Text is essential. You wouldn’t mount a physical exhibit of a library special collection without any descriptive collateral, and online collections need the same attention. At Iowa State University, Digital Repository Coordinator Harrison W. Inefuku made it a priority to create descriptive text for each of the colleges and departments represented in the IR—but rather than simply cribbing from existing department web pages, he employed student help to write and edit descriptions and histories of each department, creating an important institutional history in the process. Iowa State Freshman Benjamin Spick describes the work as a rewarding professional and educational experience in a wonderful post on the Digital Repository @ Iowa State blog. (Incidentally, descriptive introductory text is also great for search-engine discoverability!)
Content Carousels and Slide Shows can highlight key items and provide a visual orientation to the collection as a whole. For example, Carol Watson, Director of the Law Library at the University of Georgia, created a content carousel to showcase recent speakers in UGA Law’s Lectures and Presentations series, pairing concise abstracts of the featured lectures with photos of the speakers and direct links to the page where viewers can watch streaming video of the lecture. In addition, at Carol’s request, her Digital Commons Consultant changed the label for documents within these series to “Lectures” rather than the default “Submissions,” providing more descriptive headings for the content.
Banner images and logos are a simple way to provide distinctive branding for a special collection, such as the Documenting Runaway Slaves collection at the University of Southern Mississippi (also notice the great descriptive text). And research centers and community organizations that partner with the IR often appreciate the ability to include their own banner or logo in their IR collections (see examples from Utah State, Cornell ILR School, and the University of Connecticut).
Repository and series level administrators can enter introductory text through the configuration screen, while content carousels, banner images, and custom labels can be implemented with the help of your DC Consultant. For help implementing these or other good-housekeeping measures, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.