When establishing an institutional repository (IR), we typically consider the technical specifications (hardware, storage requirements, software platform, etc.) and the digital content (articles, book chapters, working papers, theses and dissertations, etc.). We may think about how we're going to recruit content; IR policies, procedures, and work flows; and if we're lucky enough to have staff time devoted to the IR, how we're going to utilize that staff. Who -- and how -- this content will be used is often just an afterthought, at best.
And when we do think about it, we tend to focus on scholars and researchers using IRs to promote scholarly communication and further the advancement of science. All notable goals, of course, but what I especially love is when I hear a story about someone using our content in unusual and unexpected ways.
In June of 2009 I received the follow email:
"I am the historian for the North China Marines, a unit captured on 8 Dec 1941 in China and held as POWs in China and Japan until Sept 1945. One of those men was Russell P. Clark. He has an interview in your files.
[Clark, Russell P., Ex Marine Sergeant tells of Japanese Camps Oct 24 1946]."
Not knowing what Mr. Powers was referring to, I emailed him back asking for more information about the document. It turned out his search had led him to the OSU Daily Barometer Index (1896-1980) in ScholarsArchive@OSU. The Daily Barometer is the student newspaper here at OSU and included in the index was a reference to an interview in which Sergeant Clark discussed his imprisonment in the Japanese camps.
I then contacted the Archives Department, which had an archival copy of the issue containing the interview, and they volunteered to digitize it for Mr. Powers -- within 24 hours the now-digitized interview was on its way to Mr. Powers.
And to think this all came together simply because we'd digitized the index to the OSU student paper and deposited it into the IR. There are disagreements among the many players in the IR community about the appropriateness of "non-scholarly" items in IRs, but here's a concrete example of the value of a seemingly obscure -- and admittedly non scholarly -- document.
As you can imagine, Mr. Powers was thrilled.
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