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IR surpasses expectations with 500,000 downloads

Open PRAIRIE cover photo

South Dakota State University’s scholarly output is getting into the hands of researchers through the school’s institutional repository—and at a rate faster than anticipated.

The IR hit 500,000 downloads of SDSU documents this past April, less than four years after it launched.

The IR is a website that provides public access to academic materials created by SDSU departments, faculty, staff and students. It came online in September 2015 as a service of Briggs Library under the name Open Public Research Access Institutional Repository and Information Exchange (Open PRAIRIE). The SDSU IR was the first of its kind in South Dakota.

Open PRAIRIE (https://openprairie.sdstate.edu) meets several significant needs for institutional research materials. It serves as a central digital home that preserves and stores items contributed by SDSU authors from multiple disciplines. Many types of content are included on Open PRAIRIE, such as journal articles, Open Access books and conference papers.

Researchers worldwide are discovering and downloading SDSU scholarly work through Open PRAIRIE. There have even been downloads in the Vatican City State, the smallest country in the world.

Michael Biondo, institutional repository coordinator, has managed the growth of the IR since its early stages.

To get Open PRAIRIE started, Biondo first added departmental and campus materials that were already digitized and available to upload.

“The initial plan was that between the heritage thesis digitization project and other materials, we should be able to upload 5,000 items in the first year, and then 2,500 items in year two,” Biondo said. “We exceeded that expectation by posting over 5,000 items in the first six months, and almost 9,500 items in year one.”

The 500,000 downloads is a milestone that Biondo hadn’t anticipated to arrive as quickly as it did. Building the IR’s foundation came with challenges. Since Open PRAIRIE hosts content from SDSU departments and personnel, it was important for Biondo to do outreach that educated the university community about the IR and its benefits, and to encourage stakeholders to share their materials.

“An IR can be a great library initiative, but in order to succeed it needs the support of the other units across campus. Luckily, we’ve had leadership that supports it and departmental involvement throughout the university,” Biondo said. He also credited collaboration among library staff and good student workers as part of Open PRAIRIE’s success.

Biondo said the IR furthers the university’s land-grant mission by “disseminating and sharing the knowledge and research that is generated by SDSU.”

“It has increased our reach across the globe. It’s provided a platform for SDSU to showcase its heritage materials and highlight the research and scholarly output of its faculty and students,” Biondo said.

The heritage thesis and dissertation digitization project that was part of the beginnings of the IR is halfway done and will take several more years to finish, Biondo said, but will result in all SDSU graduate theses and dissertations with copyright approval—dating back to the first one in 1893—being in Open PRAIRIE.

Biondo expects the IR will hit 1 million downloads in October 2020.

“We’ll continue to grow and be here to meet the needs of the SDSU campus community as a place to house its digital materials,” he said.