CARL, OCUL, and University of Toronto Libraries Sign MOU Outlining Collaborative Intent to Develop a National Institutional Repository Service

Wednesday, November 22, 2023. – The Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL), the Ontario Council of University Libraries (OCUL), and University of Toronto Libraries are pleased to announce their signing of an MOU outlining our collaborative intent to develop a National Institutional Repository Service to be hosted by Scholars Portal.  

The agreement establishes a framework for collaboration among the three parties involved in the planning, hosting, supporting and providing access to the service. It articulates a cooperative planning process for piloting and hosting a production implementation of the open-source software, DSpace. The University of Toronto Libraries will be responsible for managing the software which will be available to institutions across Canada through Scholars Portal. 

Starting with a pilot program of a limited number of institutions, the ultimate goal is to create a robust and scalable multi-institutional national repository service – one that is strengthened by a responsive, collaborative community of experts and repository practitioners. Scholars Portal will provide reliable technical hosting, security measures, monitoring, and technical support in line with other services currently being offered, with the potential for integrating digital preservation and other services/workflows, as a benefit to participating organizations.

Three initial areas of partnership will be outlined in subsequent work plans following this agreement. 

    1. One or more Technical Pilots, whereby the partners, led by Scholars Portal, will identify a sample number of institutions from across Canada, with varying use cases and size, and undertake to develop, test, migrate data, and refine a viable institutional repository hosting service that can be scaled out to other organizations as a nationally available service. 
    2. A Governance and Financial Model, developed in collaboration with CARL (lead convenor) and regional consortia, including OCUL, University of Toronto Libraries, and Scholars Portal. The model will determine the costs of start-up, ongoing operations, data migration, and sustainable long-term financial planning, in alignment with practical and responsive governance based on services like Borealis. The governance model will reflect the principles and interests of stakeholders, including regional and national consortia.
    3. Network of Experts and Working Groups, facilitated by CARL, whereby the partners cultivate a network of experts from institutions across the country, to study problems, identify opportunities, and inform decisions related to the service, its policies, metadata and other best practices, workflows, and other areas of related interest.  

CARL President Brett Waytuck (Dean, University Libraries and Archives, University of Regina) stated, “We are very pleased to see this collaborative initiative get underway, as we believe that many research libraries across the country will seize the opportunity to upgrade their institutional repository platforms by adopting this common service.”  

Larry Alford, University Chief Librarian, University of Toronto added, “Institutional repositories are crucial in scholarly communication, and our extensive experience in collaborative technology projects equips us well for this joint venture. The partnership’s three-pronged approach, combining a pilot implementation with the development of expert communities and robust governance and funding models, lays a strong foundation for sustainable and technically progressive infrastructure.”

Catherine Steeves, Vice-Provost and Chief Librarian Western University and chair of OCUL stated, “For more than two decades, Scholars Portal has been an incubator for innovative shared technology solutions, and OCUL is thrilled to collaborate with CARL and the University of Toronto Libraries to develop a national service that supports the preservation of scholarly work.”

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About CARL
CARL members include Canada’s twenty-nine largest university libraries as well as two national libraries. Enhancing research and higher education are at the heart of its mission. CARL develops the capacity to support this mission, promotes effective and sustainable scholarly communication, and public policy that enables broad access to scholarly information.

About the University of Toronto Libraries
The University of Toronto Libraries (UTL) system is the largest academic library in Canada and is consistently ranked among the top-10 research libraries in North America. The system consists of 40 libraries located on three university campuses. Our digital infrastructure encompasses over 600 virtual servers, along with the capacity to manage over 5 petabytes of data, ensuring that invaluable digital assets remain accessible and preserved for future generations.

About OCUL
OCUL is a consortium of the 21 university libraries in Ontario. OCUL works collaboratively to enhance information services in Ontario and beyond through collective purchasing and shared digital information infrastructure, collaborative planning, advocacy, assessment, research, partnerships, communications, and professional development.

About Scholars Portal
Scholars Portal is a service of OCUL, hosted through the University of Toronto Libraries. The Scholars Portal technological infrastructure preserves and provides access to information resources collected and shared by university libraries in Ontario and beyond.

More information:   

For CARL: Geoff Harder, Associate University Librarian, University of Alberta

For Scholars Portal: Kate Davis, Director