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“Measuring Up: Assessing Use of Digital Repositories and the Resulting Impact” Project Receives IMLS Grant

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The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) has awarded a $500,000, three-year National Leadership Grant to four partner organizations—the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), Montana State University, OCLC Research, and the University of New Mexico—to perform research and recommend best practices that will improve data collection and information sharing for institutional repositories and digitized collections.

Under the leadership of principal investigator Kenning Arlitsch, library dean at Montana State University, the grant project, “Measuring Up: Assessing Use of Digital Repositories and the Resulting Impact,” will investigate the challenges libraries face in producing accurate reports of the use of their digital repositories through web analytics. Libraries routinely collect statistics on digital collection use for assessment and evaluation purposes. Libraries then report those statistics to a variety of stakeholders, including parent institutions, professional organizations, and funding agencies. However, lack of standardization can result in inaccurate statistics, making it difficult to draw conclusions. “The inaccuracy runs in both directions, with under-reporting numbers as much of a problem as over-reporting,” Arlitsch said.

Bob Fox, a member of the grant project’s advisory board, chair of the ARL Statistics and Assessment Committee, and dean of libraries at the University of Louisville, said, “It is critically important for institutions to gain a strong understanding of the value of institutional repositories and digitized materials as these resources represent a large and growing part of the utilization and public awareness of our collections.”

The partners in Measuring Up will conduct a needs assessment and explore the difficulties in producing accurate reports and analytics, as well as recommend best practices that will help improve reporting practices. The team will also examine how to assess the impact of institutions’ digital repositories on the citation rates of academic papers. Citation rates are important because the number of citations often has a direct effect on university rankings and other performance indicators. Many of the recent developments in the “altmetrics” movement are predicated on the need for providing alternatives to the established citation indices in the form of usage impact factors and other new approaches that would serve as better predictors of future academic success.

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a nonprofit organization of 125 research libraries in the US and Canada. ARL’s mission is to influence the changing environment of scholarly communication and the public policies that affect research libraries and the diverse communities they serve. ARL pursues this mission by advancing the goals of its member research libraries, providing leadership in public and information policy to the scholarly and higher education communities, fostering the exchange of ideas and expertise, facilitating the emergence of new roles for research libraries, and shaping a future environment that leverages its interests with those of allied organizations. ARL is on the web at http://www.arl.org/.