Digital Files Sought for Library's SMARTech System

Archive Preserves Institute's Intellectual Output

A new system available through Georgia Tech's Library and Information Center seeks to preserve the vast quantity of digital files and intellectual output produced daily at the Institute.

The Scholarly Materials And Research at Georgia Tech (SMARTech) system allows faculty, staff and students to store a wide spectrum of useful data -- including dissertations, theses, research papers, databases, large data sets and digital learning objects - on the library's servers.

"What we're seeing is that a lot of this kind of information is being left behind in the wake of the information revolution," Digital Initiatives Manager Catherine Jannik said.

"In lots of cases, important files or data sets are being left on computers unattended or, worse yet, they're sometimes forgotten," she said. "Many of these are valuable files, and they are increasingly lost in the electronic paper shuffle."

Jannik, who's leading the charge to collect faculty and student submissions for SMARTech, said that useful documents such as annual reports, newsletters and classroom presentations are vulnerable to loss if not archived properly.

"Materials in the digital format are quickly produced and easy to lose, and we have to take immediate measures to include and save them," said Tyler Walters, associate director for digital and technical services at the Georgia Tech Library.

SMARTech seeks to corral important files and reduce the loss of data. It also seeks to aid faculty, staff and students in their collaborative research efforts

"First of all, SMARTech is an institutional repository for digital files. We'd like to include anything that's important and something that we'd want to hold on to for the long term," Jannik said. "But it's important to note that SMARTech completely supports the multidisciplinary nature of this campus. It puts all the information in one place so that you can access and search through the Institute's intellectual capital."

What's more, it's also an invaluable tool for increasing Tech's visibility.

"This is free and open to the world, and it's a way to create a permanent record for your digital work," Jannik said. "It gives non-Georgia Tech researchers access through one portal to our intellectual output in a digital format. This isn't collected all in one place right now, and it just disappears whenever a server dies or a system is taken out of commission."

Walters said that SMARTech also might allow faculty and students to note how many people have read or reviewed their work online.

"For example, we want to track file downloads and where the hits to SMARTech are coming from," Walters said. "For authors of research papers and the like, this is an excellent place to help them get their work out there."

SMARTech allows users to create individual profiles for sifting data. This allows them to tailor the system's interface for their own preferences, and they can set it up to send e-mail alerts when there are updates to the collection.

The system's search function also allows users to browse SMARTech according to its collections, publication authors, document titles and dates. Users also can establish SMARTech work groups for different institutional repositories, then subscribe to individual collections or record sets for updates or changes.

The addition of SMARTech is part of the library's on-going effort to place itself at the forefront of information-content delivery and technology, thus enhancing and enriching the Institute's overall learning, teaching, training and research environment.

The SMARTech system is based on a popular software package designed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology called DSpace. But Tech takes that digital archive concept one step farther than MIT.

"I think one of the big differences in our collection-building strategy is that we are collecting retrospective materials and library staff is submitting them," she said. "We'll put in your retrospective collections, then teach you how to submit your new data as you produce it, rather than waiting for folks to submit materials for the system themselves."

Begun in 1997, Tech's Digital Library Initiative seeks to capture all pertinent "born digital" content, implement a campus-wide, digital-publishing program, and continue to create and support online collections -- including collections of digital text, photographs, video and audio files - that meet the needs of the Georgia Tech community and scholars around the world.

Jannik said her office's goal this year is to teach campus clients about SMARTech and make it useful to as wide an audience of users as possible.

Already in their collection is an archive of newsletters from the Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning; back issues of technical reports from the Graphics, Visualization and Usability Center; and annual reports from the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE). Soon, a storehouse of data from the Institute of Paper Science and Technology will be added to their collection, as will more ECE datasets.

A year ago, Georgia Tech's graduate students gained the ability to submit theses and dissertations electronically, and those are included in SMARTech, too. Graduate students are now required to use the Electronic Theses and Dissertation (ETD) system, which benefits them by allowing authors to include multimedia objects, hyperlinks, audio, video, and other objects that enhance their work.

As of June 2004, library officials documented more than 72,000 viewings of ETD files. There also was an average of 7,200 viewings per month and an average of 97 viewings per ETD.

"For the two years prior to the ETD program, the most any Georgia Tech paper thesis or dissertation had circulated was nine times," Jannik said. She added that the opportunity for growth in the use of SMARTech's ETD collection alone is stunning.

"The CalTech database has been available since summer 2001 and it contains 1,256 titles," she said. "Its total accesses as of May 2004 were 926,862, and they're averaging more than 26,000 views per month."