10 August 2021
Image credit: Northern Illinois University.

Northern Illinois University (NIU) is home to several programs designed to facilitate meaningful collaborations that address state and regional challenges, promote growth, manage change, and build stronger communities. NIU’s Division of Outreach, Engagement, and Regional Development (OERD) creates partnerships on and off campus to foster engagement and build networks of thought leaders and decision-makers in education, government, arts and culture, non-profit management, and other sectors essential to building a thriving region. Recently, the University Library stepped up to play a key role in providing access to, curating, and preserving the knowledge generated by one of OERD’s programs, the Center for Governmental Studies.

For many years, a wealth of information and knowledge created by the experts within the Center for Governmental Studies (CGS) resided on the program’s web page. Policy profiles, whitepapers, city planning reports, economic development plans, guidebooks, and more were available to the public via the CGS website. While this approach to information delivery provided free access to potential stakeholders, it left a gap in the long-term stewardship and broader discoverability of these important publications. Additionally, the University was moving away from allowing document storage on its web servers, which accelerated the Center for Governmental Studies’ search for a more robust, permanent solution. Fortunately, Huskie Commons – NIU’s online institutional repository – was ably poised to provide the functionality CGS needed.

Huskie Commons provides a secure virtual space in which the NIU Library collects, preserves, and provides access to the scholarly and artistic works created by the NIU community. When materials are deposited into Huskie Commons, control of the document is established and an enduring link created. To optimize each publication’s discoverability, keywords are generated and the files exposed to multiple indexing services. Moreover, the documents become a part of a digital archive that is stewarded by the Library. Digital preservation activities, like generating multiple copies of each document and evaluating file formats for longevity, are baked into the services provided by this digital archive. These services allow the Center for Governmental Studies to maintain their website, including how the users interact with their materials, while ensuring the long-term availability and viability of the knowledge produced by its experts. CGS needed only to update the hyperlinks to their documents on their website, replacing the web server links with the permanent links provide by Huskie Commons. Everything else happens behind the scenes, guided by the capable hands of NIU Library’s librarians and staff.

With the successful transfer of the Center for Governmental Studies documents into the Library’s custody, my library is eager to identify other collections of scholarly and artistic works in need of increased accessibility and stewardship.

Today's guest blogger is Jaime Schumacher. Jaime is the Senior Director of Digital Collections & Scholarship at Northern Illinois University Libraries.