LISLE – Earlier this year, Benedictine University Digital Resources Librarian Amy Weidner and Archives and Special Collections Librarian Julie Wroblewski were selected to take part in ILEAD U (Illinois Librarians Explore, Apply and Discover), a prestigious year-long program designed to help library staff understand and respond to user needs through the application of participatory technology tools and the creation of an easy-to-replicate model program.
Amy and Julie are currently serving on a five-member team with librarians from North Central College, North Park University and Dominican University. This week, the team will present their final project: a consortial institutional repository (IR) called Constellation.
Amy, Julie and their ILEAD U team with Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White in Springfield, IL
Institutional repositories collect, store, preserve and provide access to content created by an institution’s students, faculty and staff. As the cost of scholarly journals rises, IRs like Constellation that provide open access to scholarly content will become increasingly important. “There is a lot of talk about maker culture in libraries and in society,” Julie explained. “While 3D printers, robots, and GoPro cameras are amazing tools, there is no true maker culture without the free and open exchange of ideas.”
The project got its start months ago when the team recognized a common need for an IR at their respective institutions and decided to pool their efforts and resources to make it happen. Applying for the ILEAD U program was a bit of a risk. They knew that, if selected, they would be one of the first teams composed of all academic librarians. “We had to work to educate the ISL [Illinois State Library] and other teams about our project and how [and] why it was so important for academic library patrons,” Julie stated.
In the end, ISL accepted their project, and in March and June, they traveled down to Springfield to attend a series of ILEAD U sessions where they acquired the skills needed to develop, implement, manage and evaluate their project. They were assisted by instructors and mentors who provided training and guidance. For Julie, the best part was seeing the excitement from potential users and the sense of teamwork that came from hearing about the challenges facing other institutions.
As part of the project, the team researched other models for IRs, studied copyright and legal agreements in greater depth, analyzed the types of content and research being created, learned from faculty and students about their needs and concerns, developed marketing and training materials, and developed some coding skills in order to customize the look and feel of the interface.
This week, they return to Springfield to attend the final ILEAD U sessions and present not only their IR, but also a model for collaboration and sustainability that other groups of small to mid-sized academic libraries can replicate.
“Collaboration is part of what an IR is about: sharing ideas and hoping others will see them and expand upon them,” Julie explained.
Amy and Julie plan to launch Constellation at Benedictine University in Spring 2015.
The Illinois State Library, a division of the office of Secretary of State and State Librarian Jesse White, received a Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to implement ILEAD U.