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Patterns of Practice by Types of Electronic Access Organizations

Part of the research goal was to examine the practices of these repositories for patterns or commonalities among them. Even though as organizations they are quite different in size, mission, and overall structure, we expected some similarities in the way they handle their information access responsibilities. Some reasonably consistent patterns did emerge in the relationship between some important features of the organizations themselves and their information access practices. A review of the similarities provides some useful insights into how organizational arrangements should be taken into account in seeking to enhance the provision of information access.

The patterns and consistencies we saw in these organizations can be described in terms of three main characteristics.
  • Nature of the relationships between the repository, users, and information providers, including whether or not their interactions were routine and institutionalized or ad hoc and episodic, whether there were formal authority relationships, how long the relationships existed, and whether they extended beyond information access matters.
  • The relationship of the information storage and access to the overall mission of the organization, whether providing access was the central mission of the organization or just one among many functions.
  • The role of the repository in the overall life cycle of the information, whether the organization was simply a repository, or was involved in other aspects of data collection and processing.
In reviewing the activities reported by these organizations, it appeared that describing them in these terms led to reasonably clear groupings. The groupings could be named according to the common characteristics they shared. There were five in all: communities, advocates, libraries, lone rangers, and composites. Each is described in more detail below