The famous (and famously reclusive) author J.D. Salinger died on 27 January this year, two days after the anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns â€“ a day which is celebrated across Scotland and in many parts of the world. Salinger and Burns are of course connected, since the title of Salingerâ€™s most famous novel, The Catcher in the Rye, is based on a mishearing of the Burns song Cominâ€™ Through the Rye by the protagonist, 17-year old Holden Caulfield:
… Iâ€™m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliffâ€”I mean if theyâ€™re running and they donâ€™t look where theyâ€™re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. Thatâ€™s all Iâ€™d do all day. Iâ€™d just be the catcher in the rye and all.
Salinger, J.D., The Catcher in the Rye, Chapter 22
The idea of being a â€˜catcherâ€™ struck me when I attended a conference held at the British Library last week, Subject Repositories: European Collaboration in the International Context. Neil Jacobs of JISC mentioned Glasgow University Libraryâ€™s policy of seeking to â€˜catchâ€™ researchers close to the end of funded projects to ask if they would like help with their outputs. Certainly, it is easy to argue for libraries to be the â€˜catchers in the ryeâ€™ when it comes to digital scholarly works and outputs â€“ and the obvious place to deposit these materials is the institutional repository.
However, we were gathered at the BL to hear about subject repositories â€“ including EconomistsOnline which was being launched during the event. And we heard about several very successful subject repositories in a number of very good presentations. The event left me reflecting on a number of things. For example, some subject repositories are success stories almost against all odds. Services like arXiv and RePEc have captured their respective corners of academia so effectively that they go on existing and attracting even without much resource (almost none in the case of RePEc), and their proven value is such that people probably would pay to maintain them (as arXiv is now proposing for its heaviest users). This makes them the inverse of many institutional repositories, which canâ€™t attract content almost irrespective of the amount of resource invested. Read the rest of this entry »