Open Repository

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Oxfam GB case study

as a PDF

Robert Cornford, Communications Manager

1. What led your organization to set up a repository?

Oxfam was researching a new generation website to handle its policy, practice and research materials for professional audiences. An initial position paper stated that “while researching the new website, we tried to discover what Oxfam knows, and realised that it had no registry of physical or digital assets”. The importance of a single secure deposit place for digital assets was realised because “for an organisation whose credibility depends on its learning, experience and knowledge, it is dangerous not to know what we claim to know”.


As a result we wanted a repository that could do the following:

  • Hold assets (or at least hold bibliographic records for assets) in a range of formats (PDF, video, audio, PowerPoint, Excel tables as datasets)
  • Hold materials for internal and external use, tag them as such, and maintain this security
  • Tag assets so that they can be discovered by sophisticated searches, and be related to each other in searches and display
  • Offer a simple search function for internal users, bringing together both “internal” and “external” content in a common result
  • Feed content to the CMS of an external website
  • Offer secure and simple deposit from field and regional offices, and other affiliate offices
  • Provide a simple workflow with web-based distributed input and some quality checks
  • Can be used by people with no professional or academic background in repository use, both at deposit and search functions


2. What attracted you to a hosted repository solution rather than running a repository in-house?

There were no dedicated or experienced resources in Oxfam to develop, manage and support a repository. And, in the grand scheme of Oxfam’s communications and digital work, the specialist professional audience and technical content would never have a high priority for internal resources. And finally, it supports Oxfam’s aspiration to work in partnership and learn from others.


3. What specific benefits attracted you to Open Repository?

  • Tried and tested
  • Value for money compared with commercial solutions that offered more than we needed
  • Customisable (within limits) and relatively easy to set up
  • Known financial exposure
  • Scalable with benefits of open source developments


4. Which departments and/or individuals have been involved in setting up and running your repository?

The project was initiated and led as part of wider three part digital project to (1) digitise backlist and selected archive content; (2) develop a digital repository to hold digitised assets; and (3) create a new professional website to showcase Oxfam’s programme, policy, and research work that would be fed from the repository.


Development of the repository was led by one person within PPCT (Policy and Practice Communications Team) who also led the website development, so integration of the repository with the website was in hands of one person.


Now, responsibility for day-to-day operation lies with our content creation sub-team in PPCT, because they work on the centrally-managed documents that go into the repository. They also offer support and training to creators of remote content. Responsibility for ongoing development, integration with the P&P website, with intranets and others’ websites and for all technical issues remains with the original development sub-team.


5. How easy has it proved to be to populate your repository with content?

We are just starting, but judging from initial enquiries while the repository is in beta testing, we will not have a problem in securing content. We started off with over 3,000 files in the repository (mainly from the digitisation project) so we are adding to a recognised (and useful) collection, not starting from scratch.


Our model encourages users to deposit their own material, to provide all the basic metadata and evidence of organisational sign off for external use. Currently, PPCT project managers are checking submissions, but most of their time will be spent on checking the metadata and bibliographic details, and on legal issues.


To encourage users to add items to the repository, we have implemented the following:

  • Extended and tactically-selected trial period, selecting people as trial subjects who will promote the iLibrary in their work.
  • The repository feeds to the Policy & Practice website, so material in the iLibrary (if cleared for external dissemination) will get global distribution, promotion and support, and we will feed back user stats (this is by far the most effective way of encouraging people to use the iLibrary as it does their extended communication for them).
  • Informed users that by adding to an existing body of knowledge, they make it richer and more valuable, and can then take a feed from it to build the credibility of their own work.


6. How has your repository helped your organization?

Although it is too early to tell, we expect it to be useful in the following areas:

  • In preparing funding applications, being able to demonstrate the depth of existing knowledge and experience
  • In preparing funding applications, being able to demonstrate that we have a coherent and solid way of managing information and knowledge outcomes from a funded project
  • “We can demonstrate that we know what we know”
  • Facilitating sharing of experience across the 98 countries and territories where Oxfam works
  • Demonstrating transparency and accountability to donors, funders and beneficiaries
  • Will enable us to respond effectively to new Oxfam Open Information Policy


7. How has your repository been received?

Although too early for detailed response, we have been approached by two other members of Oxfam International to host their research and learning materials in the iLibrary. From trials, it’s obviously useful and valued across the organisation - in the Research team, in the Monitoring and Evaluation Team, in country and regional programmes, in policy/advocacy teams, and in programme quality teams. Test feedback has also been very positive.


8. How does your repository fit with your organization’s open access initiative?

Oxfam has a new Open Information Policy which says that all donor-funded outputs should be made available to stakeholders and the public (with a few specific exceptions), free of charge. The Oxfam iLibrary enables us to deliver this policy as a consistent part of our work.



1.What led your organization to set up a repository?
In April 2005, Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) started a repository project which led to the launch of its repository of research publications, e-space in October 2006. This project was led by Library Services as a natural extension of its role of managing information and assisting scholarly communication and followed a paper submitted to the Vice Chancellor in July 2005. This paper concluded:
“The development of the Open Archives Initiative and the creation of the OAI-PMH (Open Archives Initiative - Protocol for Metadata Harvesting) has inspired people to explore the ways in which they can improve scholarly communication and the dissemination of material through the establishment of institutional repositories… MMU will take advantage of and build upon these developments with the creation of its own institutional repository. In doing so MMU will be joining an expanding and exciting community of institutions who, through their institutional repositories, are indicating their commitment to the demonstration and sharing of their societal, scholarly and economic activities, in order to benefit themselves and the wider research and learning community.

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