PDGP Recipient Laura Horwood-Benton attends ALA Midwinter in Boston

ebrary’s new repository tool, DASH (Data sharing, fast)
Report from ALA Midwinter
By Laura Horwood-Benton, Medaille College

During my first ALA Midwinter Meeting, I attended a breakfast held by ebrary, on the subject of the company’s current goals and projects, including a new service they were showcasing for the first time.

Brief updates included a discussion of ebrary’s Patron-Driven Acquisition (PDA) pilot program, the addition to records of searchable Tables of Contents, and whether or not ebrary has decided to provide content compatible with e-readers—the answer to which is, for now, no. The company is waiting to see how well the new Apple tablet (iPad) performs.

The event’s primary subject, DASH (a quasi-acronym given to ebrary’s new data sharing service), is available free to Academic Complete subscribers. This new feature allows librarians to upload PDF documents, which become fully searchable to users, and to create collections.

The presenter named several possible uses for DASH, including the uploading of theses or dissertations, yearbooks, school newspapers, reports, handbooks, or government documents. As an example she had constructed a collection comprised of publicly available information on the H1N1 virus. The purpose of the site was to aid ebrary’s employees in finding out about prevention and treatment of the flu. This information was already accessible, but the ability to search the full text of documents greatly increased the ease and speed with which users could access it.

The librarian(s) assigned as administrator can upload files to DASH individually, or as a batch. Metadata can be entered manually, or by uploading a spreadsheet with the batch. Each document can be assigned a different, permanent URL for linking purposes.
Documents can not only be searched full text, but are also more accessible using ebrary’s InfoTools, which allow the user to (among other things) copy text and search for the phrase in Google, or save it as a note,  complete with a citation for the source.

DASH is still in beta testing, so although it will be available to Academic Complete subscribers soon, there are features it will eventually offer that it does not yet. At the moment, institutions can only upload 1,000 PDFs per day (which is, admittedly, more than enough for many customers) and can only create one collection.  Additionally, the collection is only shared among the institution’s body of users, and is not available publicly. These limitations, according to one of ebrary’s co-founders, will be changed eventually. An alert system for updates, perhaps via RSS feed, will also be implemented. Lastly, the administrator will be able to enter an item’s OCLC number, and DASH will be able to fill in the rest of the metadata via the MARC record from WorldCat.

It seems to me that DASH would be an effective, simple platform for a library’s repository. This functionality will come with time, as the service expands and the user experience is improved. With discovery tools and other features built in, it could become the obvious choice for an institution looking to provide its users and the general public with information, archived course materials, and student and faculty research. It surprised me that ebrary’s presenters did not use the term institutional repository, but perhaps this is a concealed next step or one they haven’t yet considered. As a recent library school graduate, I see institutional repositories, as well as the open access policies they can support and reinforce, as the future. For this reason, I was very excited by the possibilities of ebrary’s DASH.

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