As an author, I just love my institutional repository!
Here are my thoughts on some of the benefits for the author, and what I believe the institutional repository will one day do for departments, universities, and the academy in general.
A few weeks ago, I placed a peer-reviewed preprint in SFU's D-Space called The Dramatic Growth of Open Access: Implications and Opportunities for Resource Sharing and sent a note about the article to a few of the listservs I participate in. Within a couple of days, there were references to my article on a couple of blogs (at least one with very high traffic). Several people wrote to thank me for the article. One person specifically thanked me for self-archiving the article, because their library cannot afford to purchase journals in library and information science. Someone else mentioned that they would be putting some of the resources mentioned on their web site as a result of reading my article. At least two people are using ideas from this article in conference planning.
To me, this illustrates several of the benefits of D-Space:
Timeliness: by archiving a preprint, I am able to reach potential readers in a much more timely fashion.
Impact: by sharing the article openly, more people are reading it, and acting on the ideas. Others have demonstrated the academic impact advantage of open access (increased citations) through research. This is real world impact - most likely to be relevant for faculty in the professional programs. This makes professional practice informed by research possible, illustrated by the trend towards evidence-based medicine.
Access: people whose libraries do not have subscriptions are much more likely to read the article.
Prestige: for those who do write and present a fair bit, this is a way to show off. This is not (entirely) self-serving; read on...
There are other advantages to the author, in terms of convenience. Self-archiving my work in D-Space creates a "one place to look" for my work. I can refer to all of my recent writings and presentations with one URL: http://tinyurl.com/autqd. One example of how this can be used is the link to my "Publications and Presentations", on this blog, The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics. Or, if I'm referring to one of my works in an e-mail, I can add a statement, if you're interested in reading the rest of my work, click here.
This is more convenient for me than having my work on my own desktop. It's easier to find - only the final versions are there, and all are together. It's easier to access - I can reach my work from anyplace with an internet connection.
These conveniences will apply to departments as well as individuals. Once the D-Space is full, if a professor is at a conference and wants to refer someone to the work of a colleague, this will be easy to do, without having to remember any of the bibliographic information.
Prestige: Once departmental communities are filled, it will be easy to show the value that the department contributes to the university and society, by browsing the department community.
A great deal of creative and interesting research is done at universities like SFU. Filling a university's institutional repository will provide an easy means to showcase this work and illustrate the worth of the university. This will make it easier for administrators to demonstrate the value that the university brings to the communtiy, and help to ensure ongoing support for the university. For example, alumni will be able to follow the research of their professors, and keep up in their fields. Local journalists and writers will have a ready means of learning about the research of local experts; their works will provide a means for the university's research to further enrich the community.
Once all of our universities have their institutional repositories up and running, it will be easier to demonstrate the value of academe to society as a whole. This will build the connections between town and gown that create the climate for true lifelong learning - around the globe.
If you publish or present: please consider self-archiving. No library can afford to subscribe to all the journals, not even in fields like library and information science where most of the journals are not that expensive. Outside the developed world - there aren't even many libraries - at least, not yet.
This post reflects my personal opinion only and does not represent the opinions or policy of the BC Electronic Library Network or the Simon Fraser University Library.