Stuart Lewis' Blog » Is the Repository Developer a dying breed?
“Cast your mind back, perhaps seven or eight years. It was the heyday of repository development. Projects such as DSpace and EPrints were taking off, and institutions around the world were watching the area closely and with excitement to see where this glorious new world would take us. But back in those days repositories were similar to the early motor car – you needed a lot of money, several years, and your own mechanic/driver (developer) to make it work. Luckily, back then these resources were often available, money was perhaps a little easier to come by, and there were many funding opportunities from the likes of JISC to help out too. As the repository developer worked with the repository software for a few years, they became intimately related with the software – they knew how it worked, how it was structured, what it could and couldn’t do, how to structure data within the repository, and often became key players in the development of the open source platforms by taking on roles such as DSpace Committership... However… life moves on. The early repository developers have taken different career paths, and now find themselves in different situations... It is rare to find a role these days where a developer can specialise in repositories, spending the majority of their time in that area. I believe there is still a need for repository developers, as they bring many benefits such as:  An understanding of the technology that helps them to know when repository technology can and should be applied, and when it should not...  They know the underlying technology and data structures used by repositories, and how these can be mapped onto new domains...  Equally and opposite, they know the weaknesses of repositories, and where current or future functionality will not be suitable.  They provide technical credibility. Often repositories are run by libraries, but in environments where there are IT departments who may hold varying views on the technical development competence of the library.  They make the running of the current repository/ies more smooth, and can help manipulate the data they contain (import / export / update / delete) in ways that are not supported by the native interfaces.  Repositories are starting to become integration targets of enterprise systems such as CRIS systems. Having a repository develop around can make these integrations easier. I think we’re seeing a downward spiral in the availability of repository developers... hey seem to be becoming a rare breed – a breed which I think we should protect, recognise, foster, and grow. I’m lucky to have worked in several large institutions lately where there have been small, effective, embedded, and valued repository development teams. However these types of teams are starting to become fewer and harder to find... I think that there will be increasing problems in the repository world if repository developers become a very rare breed:  The large open source platforms that we have come to rely upon (installations of platforms such as DSpace, EPrints, and Fedora number in the thousands) will find it harder to continue to develop and keep pace with current requirements...  There will be fewer exemplars of good practice of repository use to inspire and drive forward the innovative use of repositories.  Those who administer repositories will lose their local allies who are able to provide the tools and integrations to make repositories a local success.  The potential for repositories to be involved in new hot topics such as Research Data Management, the resurgence of interest in open access publishing, or the need for better digital preservation may be missed.  It will be even harder to recruit experienced and passionate repository developers, and without well-established teams of these, new developers thrust into the arena will find it harder to grow their skills and knowledge... As we value multi-talented systems librarians, we should value the repository developer as a multi-skilled employee that allows us to correctly apply and integrate repository technologies. Looking around at commercial companies that offer repository development services (for exampleCottage Labs and atmire) we see the sort of innovative thinking that has so much potential in this area, and when I talk to staff involved with these companies there seems no shortage of people wanting their skills. And this is good, and shows that there is a demand... [This blog post was written on the way to a DevCSI event for managers of developers, where we shall be looking at how we can show the positive impact of having local development teams within universities, and from my perspective and passion, their particular value to libraries.]”