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Posted 2/15/2017

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By Molly McManus
U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Library


The U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center’s Information Technology Laboratory’s Information Science and Knowledge Management Branch is pleased to announce a new service:  a new DSpace-based digital repository platform, Knowledge Core, which will host ERDC’s technical reports and other archival and historical items. This new website can be found at https://erdc-library.erdc.dren.mil. It is hosted on the ERDC’s Cloud Computing Environment with database and software support provided by ITL’s Software Engineering and Evaluation Branch. DSpace offers significant improvements in usability and discoverability and better tools for long-term management and preservation of technical reports and other digital assets. The existing digital repository will be retired in the next few months, but URL redirects will be maintained so that there are no broken links. 

Multiple formats

One major advantage of the new repository is that it can host a wide variety of formats. “Although technical reports continue to be an essential tool for technology transfer, ERDC and USACE also produce knowledge and data in complex digital formats. One of ISKMB’s missions is to collect, preserve, describe, and distribute content regardless of the format. Our new repository will be able to host datasets, models, computer programs, video, audio, images and more” said Denise Kitchens, ISKMB chief.

Faster and more intuitive

The ISKMB evaluated several repository solutions before choosing DSpace. Reliability, usability, compliance with archival standards, open-source licensing under the Berkeley Software Distribution License, preservation support, and an active user group were important deciding factors in choosing DSpace. “Users visiting the new repository will find it to be much faster and much more intuitive to use than our previous repository,” said ISKMB Digitization Librarian Jered Lambiotte, “you can easily search the full text of every file or browse by laboratory and sort by date, author, title and subject.” DSpace is used by many institutions — including educational institutions, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Cornell University — and also by government agencies like the Smithsonian Institution.

Preservation of digital assets

Long-term preservation of historical knowledge is an important mission for ISKMB. Knowledge Core uses two levels of digital preservation: bit preservation and functional preservation. Bit preservation ensures that a file remains exactly the same over time, while functional preservation goes further: the file does change over time so that the material continues to be immediately usable in the same way it was originally while the digital formats (and the physical media) evolve over time. “Digital preservation is an evolving field and we can’t predict which formats will be available in the future,” said Jennefer Beyl, Librarian, ISKMB, “but efforts will be made to ensure that functionality of the original content is maintained, even if file formats change over time. ISKMB has a set of recommended file formats that have the greatest chance of long-term preservation, and the repository automatically creates a text backup of each file.” 

Permanent links via Handle and DOI

ISKMB’s new repository is linked with the Corporation for National Research Initiatives, a not-for-profit organization that manages the Handle.Net Registry. The Handle.Net Registry is used for assigning, managing, and resolving persistent identifiers for digital objects and other Internet resources. Each item and collection in our new digital repository has been assigned a ‟handle,” and this handle will never change, even if servers or repository software changes. In addition, technical and other reports that go through the ERDC editing process will be assigned a Digital Object Identifier. DOIs can be assigned to reports, articles, datasets, and monographs and are best known as a means of tracking scholarly articles published through commercial and society publishers. The DOI will appear with the handle as an additional permanent link for the item. ERDC DOIs are registered though CrossRef, which provides an additional layer of discovery through their metadata registry and search tool. “Using both Handles and DOIs for ERDC material means creating reliable, persistent links for our technical reports and gives our resources added exposure online,” said Joycelynn Brooks, Library Technician, ISKMB. 

Search-engine friendly

Ensuring that ERDC-authored reports and articles with appropriate distribution statements are visible in search engines is an important part of completing the publishing process. Search engines are where many researchers are beginning their research and finding experts on important topics. Behind the scenes, Knowledge Core uses search-engine friendly sitemaps and includes Google-Scholar-specific metadata fields in each item’s HTML display pages. ISKMB also describes content using taxonomies, including Library of Congress name authority and subject authority. Search engines are accustomed to indexing these tags, and ISKMB is committed to making sure content in Knowledge Core is highly findable and visible.

Mobile devices

The theme installation and customization of Knowledge Core was a collaboration between the ISKMB and the SEEB. “The theme is responsive so that it will automatically adjust to mobile phone or tablet viewing,” says Randy Fontan, computer scientist, SEEB. The theme was a complex installation with multiple technologies, but so far, ISKMB is getting positive feedback from users about Knowledge Core’s look and functionality.  

Integration with DiscoverERDC

When it was initially launched, the DiscoverERDC search appliance was only able to partially index ISKMB’s existing repository, which was provided by a commercial vendor and did not lend itself to indexing. When designing the new repository, ISKMB worked with the Office of Research and Technology Transfer and the Scientific Software Branch to make sure that Knowledge Core is indexed by DiscoverERDC. “Testing of the new repository’s indexing in DiscoverERDC is ongoing and when the new version of the DiscoverERDC search engine is launched, users will notice that technical reports and documents are much easier to find,” said Kevin Walker, computer scientist, Scientific Software Branch, ITL.

Restricted use materials

In the next few months, ISKMB, the SEEB, and the Cloud Computing Environment staff will complete development of a new restricted use repository hosted on the DSpace platform. “The repository will be restricted by CAC card to USACE employees only and will allow ISKMB and ERDC to share valuable materials and historical knowledge that we cannot share with the general public,” said IT Specialist Bernard du Breuil. A restricted use repository has been a goal of ISKMB for several years. “The ISKMB gets numerous requests for Design Memoranda and Periodic Inspection Reports that are not posted on public servers,” said Beyl. “ISKMB evaluated several commercial options before deciding to use the Cloud Computing Environment because they are experts in providing security for government systems and follow government security standards.” 

More information

For more information about Knowledge Core, to provide feedback, or to suggest a collection that ISKMB should digitize, click on the ‘About’ link at https://erdc-library.erdc.dren.mil or contact the ISKMB at erdclibrary@ask-a-librarian.info. 

ISKMB would like to thank Cornell University’s George Kozak and the Smithsonian’s Alvin Hutchinson for their guidance in getting started with DSpace.

ERDC ERDC Library Knowledge Core USACE