Skip to main content

Unfortunately we don't fully support your browser. If you have the option to, please upgrade to a newer version or use Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, or Safari 14 or newer. If you are unable to, and need support, please send us your feedback.

Publish with us

The Digital Commons IR All-Stars share their expertise on how librarians can strengthen their institutional repositories

January 20, 2022 | 6 min read

By Jean Gabriel Bankier, Paul Royster

Digital Commons

Managing Director JG Bankier and University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Paul Royster reflect on the IR All-Star presentations of the North American User Conference

The day after October’s Digital Commons North American User Conferenceopens in new tab/window, I got a kind note from Paul Royster at University of Nebraska-Lincoln telling me how much he enjoyed the conference. Paul “felt proud to be part of the user base” of the conference. He said “I learned a lot, plus it shifted some attitudes and suggested some opportunities. The range, the continuities, the differences … all of it was fascinating to me.”

If you don’t know Paul Royster and you are in scholarly communications, you really should. He is the godfather of Institutional Repository (IR) success. Search his name and you’ll find untold numbers of presentations and papers where he lays out a path for how to build a successful IR program at your university. Paul knows what he is talking about, having built one of the preeminent institutional repositories in the world measured both in terms of size and readership, DigitalCommons@University of Nebraska – Lincolnopens in new tab/window.

Paul and I discussed some of the highlights of the conference and agreed that the presentations from the 2021 IR All-Stars were outstanding. “Hearing the stories from the 2021 IR all-stars was amazing,” said Paul, “Each story was so different. You had an undergraduate institution, an exceptional high school, a STEM-based engineering school and a giant commuter school. These were not the same people you hear from all the time.”

Digital Commons’ IR All-Starsopens in new tab/window spotlights a few individuals who have demonstrated a unique and replicable approach to IR success. The goal of this annual award is to provide the IR community with the knowledge to emulate and build upon some of the most successful initiatives that have been identified in the community.

Selection criteria:

  • At least 3 years as an IR manager.

  • A track record of vibrant repository collection growth, and an innovative and tireless approach to engaging faculty and others on campus to support their scholarly communications needs.

  • A demonstrated eagerness to share and teach others.

  • A presentation, article, case study, or video that provides specifics and guidelines for the best practices for others to learn from and emulate

The four IR All-Stars talked about their journeys to building a successful IR program and offered their tips and best practices which librarians can learn from.

“I’m really impressed with how this community thinks about the IR today,” said Paul. “Everyone talked about their commitment to education and their students. There was an ideology of education behind their work. It isn’t just about workflows. And it isn’t just about OA or library-publisher relations. The approach is mission-driven. To me, this is new and really positive.”

Here, Paul provides his insights on each of the All-Star presentations.

DigitalCommons IMSA's Institutional Portfolio: How Inclusion is Creating a Win-win for Stakeholders

Jean Bigger, lllinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA)

Takeaway: Inclusion and a history of robust cross-collaboration makes it possible to curate content that provides evidence of return on investment to stakeholders while demonstrating effectiveness.

“Jean was terrific. She gave me a whole new viewpoint, and it made me more aware that there is an entire population of folks at my university that we are not even trying to engage. We are focused on faculty, faculty, faculty and there are all these students. Jean is having an impact on them at a very important point in their careers. It was inspiring.”

Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy is the only high school with Digital Commons. This All-Star attributes their successful IR program, including ongoing funding support, to the linking of the IR and of individual collections within it, directly to their state's legislative charge and the mission of the institution.


“Just keep swimming:" The Power of Persistence and the Reward of Perseverance

Lisa Villa, College of the Holy Cross

Takeaway: Setting up an IR can be hard work but perseverance and switching from "what your contributions to the IR can do for the library and open access” to “what the library and IR can do for you” can lead to success.

“Lisa found the IR so useful for her undergraduates. Having made such strides with the IR within her student community really suggested to me that we at Nebraska probably have greater opportunities with undergraduates than we have pursued thus far. With an organized effort, we could do so much more and have an impact on their career.”

This presentation traces the journey of one librarian tasked with establishing an IR and explores how she developed a robust instance that is now getting the buy-in she has been working towards all along.


STARS: Shining a Light on UCF

Lee DotsonUniversity of Central Florida

Takeaway: Embracing collaboration, meeting researchers where they are, and cultivating relationships can help a grassroots approach succeed.

“It’s easy to see why Lee is so successful. Her approach to building the IR is a lot like mine, but she is so much better than I ever was at getting co-operation. She has so many folks working on her team either directly or indirectly. I really admire her ability to get people on board. The kinds of things she is doing made me think, thank God I got a 15-year head start.”

This presentation explores how the University of Central Florida took a grassroots approach to turn existing needs and growing digital projects into an active, robust repository built on community partnerships and campus connections.

Lee Dotson

Digital Commons @ Michigan Tech: The Inside Scoop

Annelise Doll, Michigan Technological University

Takeaway: Defining a goal and sticking to it, combined with learning from mistakes, can help an IR grow for even the most challenging of IR use-cases: faculty scholarship.

“Anneliese told a compelling story. Her talk made me wonder if I need to rethink our collection policy. To date we’ve been 100% committed to full-text; but faculty want a complete listing, or at least a current listing, of all their works. I’m just not sure we can keep up with them with research outputs expanding so much. I’m thinking perhaps I use the harvesting API to make the process manageable. It seems clear that harvesting is an essential repository tool, and I think you guys are leading the pack on that.”  

This presentation dives into the journey of the management and development of an IR from establishing an independently run Electronic Theses and Dissertation (ETD) collection fully utilizing peer review tools, to smoothly operating faculty publications harvesting, and everything in between.

Digital Commons' 2021 IR All-Stars

We really enjoyed hearing from all our All-Star speakers and hope their experiences can help others create, maintain and grow the IR at their institution. My thanks to Paul for his thoughts about the conference and congratulations again to the 2021 IR All-Stars!


Jean Gabriel Bankier


Jean Gabriel Bankier

Managing Director of Digital Commons


Paul Royster


Paul Royster

Coordinator of Scholarly Communications

University of Nebraska-Lincoln