With the academic year coming to a close and students having fled the library, summer is a great time to polish up your DSpace. Here is a list of manageable initiatives, some taking only a few days or weeks to complete. No matter whether you are rolling up your own sleeves, engaging student workers, or teaming up with a service provider, here are 6 manageable initiatives to work on:
Institutional Look & Feel
DSpace looks clean and consistent out of the box, especially if you are using the recent Mirage theme. However, it's more than likely that the look of your repository doesn't exactly match the look of your library or university web pages. In case your library or institution has recently renewed their web presence, you might have even more reason to make your DSpace truly blend in with the other websites at you institution.
The lowest threshold in this area is customization of the header and footer area of the interface. Those zones on top and bottom of the page are identical across the repository. Updating them involves very little technical work: it can be as easy as replacing a file. If you are using graphics, make sure the aspect ratios are appropriate so the images don't appear stretched.
Going a step further, armed with the knowledge of HTML color codes, you can dive into the stylesheet to make sure that all interface colors match those of your institutional website. In the XML User Interface it is also supported to do such changes on a per collection or per community basis. Going beyond this, attempting to change the structure of the pages itself, potentially adding whole new elements, really brings you in the realm of in-depth customization. Great things can be achieved here but make sure your changes are modular so they won't hinder your next DSpace upgrade.
Hunt for fresh content
Even if your DSpace has been in operation for many years, chances are that adding new content to the repository hasn't exactly become part of faculty's day to day workflow across campus. Given that summer has arrived, some of them are bound to be more receptive to your pleas. Knock on those doors and find out what they can give you. Browsing their webpages, Google Scholar Citations pages or publisher databases can also bear fruitful results. If you're lucky enough to strike a vein of records in a properly structured format, definitely read on.
Batch item imports
If you are running a DSpace 1.6 or newer, item metadata can be added in batch by means of uploading a spreadsheet. So as long as you're able to get the data into a spreadsheet, you will be able to save a lot of time not having to go through the manual submission steps for each item. Working with spreadsheets also gives you an easy way to split up work between different student workers.
Improving your metadata quality
Big collections with thousands of items are not a true blessing if they are covered with small inconsistencies, even if they are almost invisible to an untrained (non-librarian) eye. The consistency of author names, affiliations or keywords are just some of the examples in which you can improve your metadata. The aforementioned Spreadsheet tool also allows you to download metadata for all items in a collection in one file, after which you can make changes and re-upload. Instead of just doing the edits in a spreadsheet editor, take a shot at doing these cleaning operations in Google refine.
@mire offers a Metadata Quality add-on module for DSpace that highly increases the efficiency of batch edits and helps you to deal with duplicates as well. An important difference with the spreadsheet editing is that this module works directly on the database, from the web interface.
Prepare a DSpace upgrade
Throughout the busy year, you have heard about new features and benefits that were added in recent releases of DSpace. Because an upgrade always consumes some resources, either in the form of staff time or budget to engage a service provider, it's important to weigh the costs and benefits. Sit down and read about the latest functionality and bugfixes. Certain annoyances in your current version of DSpace might have already been solved in the meanwhile. If you are still on the JSP user interface, Discovery faceted browsing and the Mirage theme added in 1.7 might give you enough reasons to finally make the switch to the XML UI during your upgrade.
Perform your DSpace upgrade
After your preparations, a skilled developer, system administrator or service provider can perform the actual upgrade. The summer time also gives an advantage here, as time windows to bring down your production server for upgrading might be more flexibly compared to the busy academic year. And as you know, make sure to allow a few weeks of testing before introducing the version to your audience.
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