Islandora and the COAR Next Generation Repositories Report

Late last year, a working group of the Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR) released a report with recommendations to adopt "new technologies, standards, and protocols that will help repositories become more integrated into the web environment and enable them ​to ​play ​a ​larger ​role ​in ​the ​scholarly ​communication ​ecosystem." Islandora's own Institutional Repository Interest Group took up the report and measured Islandora against it, looking at both the current functionality available in Islandora 7.x, and how we can best shape Islandora CLAW to meet these recommendations for the future (complete with issues in the CLAW GitHub so we can track our progress). They have shared their own results, written up by convenor Bryan Brown:


#1: Exposing Identifiers

The brunt of the recommendation here seems to be implementing best practices listed at regarding typed HTTP links. I’m not sure what Islandora 7.x is doing in terms of typed HTTP links, but I’m assuming nothing beyond whatever Drupal 7 does by default. It could certainly be doing more, but there’s a lot to chew on in the best practices in terms of deciding what actually needs to be done, and how this should be done for different types of objects. CLAW, being a linked data application that operates primarily via HTTP, should definitely be doing these things. I’ve made a use case for this at


#2: Declaring ​Licenses ​at ​a ​Resource ​Level

Very similar to Behavior #1 (Exposing Identifiers), this recommends using best practices from to use typed HTTP links to expose the URI for the license that best describes a resource. Good in theory, but not all licenses have machine-readable URIs, and would require either migrating existing free-text licenses to ones that have a URI, or in the case of special one-off licenses, creating URIs for local licenses (which wouldn’t be very interoperable). COAR recommends using Creative Commons licenses since they have readily available URIs, but CC licenses aren’t really a good fit for scholarly works since publishing introduces a lot of issues that CC licenses don’t cover. As for the human readable part, that’s just a matter of your metadata and your theming. 7.x and CLAW both should be able to display human-readable rights statements, but neither can do the HTTP link part currently. CLAW use case at


#3: Discovery ​through ​Navigation

Even more emphasis on using the best practices at 7.x’s Islandora Google Scholar module adds a link to the PDF for citation/thesis objects as an HTML meta tag, but that’s it. Its easy to see how adding this as a typed HTTP link, especially for compound objects would be helpful to let a machine know about the different parts of a larger meta-object. This feature would be nice for 7.x, but as a Linked Data Application CLAW should definitely have it. Covered again by


#4: Interacting ​with ​Resources ​(Annotation, ​Commentary ​and ​Review)

Members of the IR IG are not sold on this one for use in university IRs. Perhaps there are very specific types of repo systems where peer review, comments and annotations are useful, perhaps for aggregators or publishing platforms. In a university IR, it seems like it could actually hinder adoption because faculty might not want folks interacting with their scholarship, and would request mediation for such things which would slow down already overworked IR staff. Drupal already has tons of modules for things like this, so you could probably modify one to work with Islandora objects in 7.x, and in CLAW you wouldn’t even have to write any code, just turn the module on and configure it. Turning those annotations into linked data on the object would be a bit more difficult, but that difficulty would be more in deciding how the metadata should look than how to implement.


#5: Resource ​Transfer

This seems to be suggesting a modern form of OAI-PMH, but in a way that includes assets in the transfer. Strong recommendation for ResourceSync, which we have no experience with, but looks like it would do the job. 7.x will probably never have this, but CLAW should focus on it. Use case at


#6: Batch ​Discovery

We aren’t really not sure how this differs from Behavior #5 (Resource Transfer) since this seems to be a use case where someone used “Resource Transfer” technology to put all of your repo’s stuff in an aggregator so that it could be found in multiple places. You take care of #5, you already take care of #6. Covered by use case


#7: Collecting ​and ​Exposing ​Activities

This seems to be a mash-up of #4 and #5: capture interactions, turn them into metadata that you expose, and then push that metadata along with the rest of your data with ResourceSync. There are a LOT of recommendations for possible ways to do this, which underscores the fact that there’s not a clear standard for this and probably not a lot of consumers for this kind of data either. This seems like a “nice to have”, not a “have to have”.


#8: Identification ​of ​Users

This seems like a good idea, and ORCID seems like the obvious best choice in a scholarly context. We don’t know much about the other two ID systems involved (Social Network Identities and WebID), perhaps they would be good for folks who don’t have an ORCID, but then again perhaps this could be a good way to get people to use/understand ORCID. Use of ORCID could potentially lock out non-academic users, which may be a bug or a feature depending on your goals. Whichever you pick, the problem is going to be getting something that people use across the web in order to deliver on the promises outlined in this section. In an age where people are wary about privacy and the web knowing too much about you, we don’t think this one would get as much broad adoption as COAR thinks.


#9: Authentication ​of ​Users

We don’t understand how this is different from #8, it seems like the two go together to such a degree that separating them is only confusing.


#10: Exposing ​Standardized ​Usage ​Metrics

This is a nice dream, but much harder than it sounds. Current generation repositories are pretty close to doing all they can in terms of capturing views/downloads on objects, although client-side triggers are better than server-side ones in order to avoid problems with caching, and Piwik seems to be a winner in the international community due to its focus on privacy and flexibility (although it does require setting up your own Piwik server). Standardizing the way usage stats are exposed from the same repo is a good idea as well, but none of us have experience with SUSHI or COUNTER.

All this can be done to perfect aggregation of usage stats on the same repo, but aggregating/summing stats from external sources is not going to be a practical option until there is a centralized source that does this with a solid API.


#11: Preserving ​Resources

While we agree with the sentiment here, we’re not sure they are saying anything new. Fedora should take care of the actual preservation bits, and Islandora has always requested least-common-denominator open format file types for archival master datastreams and used derivative processes to spin into other formats.

New Member: Amherst College

The Islandora Foundation is very pleased to welcome our newest member: Amherst College. Currently the owners of a custom Fedora 3 digital collection (ACDC), the team at Amherst College are explorers on the bleeding edge of Islandora, working with Islandora CLAW and Fedora 4. They have played an active role in development and discussions for the future of Islandora and we look forward to working more closely with them as members of the Islandora Foundation.

Islandora CLAW modules on

I've taken the liberty of putting CLAW's Drupal modules on as sandbox projects.  It is my intention to promote these to full projects once CLAW is released so that our modules can be distributed through and made available under the 'drupal' namespace on Packagist.  We've always been on the sidelines of the Drupal community, and this feels like a step in the right direction.  Not only will our modules be available somewhere other than just Github, but Islandora will also get exposure to the wider Drupal community.

This does not mean that we're adopting Drupal's workflow, as CLAW encompasses more than just Drupal modules.  As of now, there will be no impact on day to day development, which will continue as-is on Github.  However, the subtleties of its inclusion in the release process will need to get discussed and ironed out as we work through our initial release.

They're not much to look at, but here are the links if you're interested:

Islandora Show & Tell: Story City by Vancouver Public Library

This week we have a special two-part Show & Tell, looking at the remarkable Story City from Vancouver Public Library from the point of view of both the library behind it and the service company that helped with development.

Story City tells the stories of cultural life of the citizens of Vancouver and surrounding areas, through an extensive collection of audio recordings, photographs, videos, and scanned historical documents. Because these stories are built around the places where they happened, VPL decided to use a map interface as the point of entry for browsing these repository objects.

A map, plus a whole lot more. Story City allows visitors to filter stories on the map by neighbourhood, community, time period, and format, with visual markers for different kinds of content. Grouping pins keeps the interface neat in the face of multiple objects, and the power of Solr lets visitors share a ‘canned search’ with terms built into the url, such as showing just audio files featuring Chinese Canadians from 1971 - 2020.

The interface is sleek and intuitive, with viewers available for digital objects right on the map, so you can view an image or play a story about growing up in the West End just by clicking on a pin.

I spoke with Kay Cahill, Acting Director of Collections & Technology at VPL, about their Islandora Site This Vancouver, and the new Story City feature that prompted this Show & Tell:

Why did you choose Islandora?

We chose Islandora for our repository, This Vancouver, following a comprehensive evaluation of a variety of commercial and open source products. Islandora offered all of the features and flexibility that we were looking for, and we felt there was real value in choosing an open source product that would allow us to develop in-house expertise in configuration and development. Additionally, the concept of open source supports the value of resource sharing which is core to our mission as a public library. Undoubtedly there was a bit of an up-front staffing cost in the time it took to install and learn the software, but it has proven to be a robust tool that has served us well as we have developed our community collections.

We chose to develop the Story City site as an Islandora module for a number of reasons. Firstly, we wanted to build on the internal expertise we had developed over three years of working with Islandora for This Vancouver. Secondly, we wanted the map – which was developed through a Canada 150+ grant to showcase stories of journeys to and interactions with Vancouver - to serve as a discovery tool for the content in the broader repository. And thirdly, we wanted to develop something that could be released back to the open source community so that other organizations and individuals would be able to make use of it in the future.

What feature in your repository are you most proud of?

We are particularly proud of the Story City map. Digital Echidna did fantastic work bringing to life our vision of a map that would be fast, responsive, visually appealing, and provide a compelling discovery tool for the amazing content that we gathered from community members over the course of the project. We particularly like the way that pin clusters break into a spiral when a number of stories are linked to the same location on the map; this is a really user-friendly and effective presentation of something that could have been very confusing.

Do you have plans to expand your site in the future?

Absolutely. Providing venues for community stories to be shared, discovered and explored is a core part of VPL’s current strategic plan. The stories that we’ve gathered and shared through This Vancouver and Story City are a testament to how technology, which so often leads to an increased sense of isolation, can spark new dialogues and help build connections and understanding between community members. Our Community Digital Initiatives team continues to work on identifying new content for the repository,  and on sharing the stories and experiences of Vancouverites through this platform. Because we collect and curate new content for each project, there’s a lot of work that happens behind the scenes: developing community relationships, interviewing community members, and then editing the resulting files prior to adding them to the collection. To date we have mainly focused on audio recordings, but we are hoping to introduce our first video collection later this year.

What is your favourite object in the collection to show off?

I think I’d like to reframe this question slightly, and speak to the item that I think is the most important and impactful in the collection – the Women’s Memorial March Quilt. This, to me, is the perfect example of why we put the work into building our repository and developing tools like the map to make the content easier to discover and explore. The quilt was created to commemorate the murdered and missing women of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Made by friends and family of the women, it’s carried through the streets once a year at the annual Women’s Memorial March. It is incredibly important to the community as one of the few places where the women, who are so often objectified by the press as drug addicts or sex workers, are remembered as their loved ones knew them: mothers, sisters, daughters, friends. By capturing the panels of the quilt in high-quality digital images and sharing them through the repository, they are not only preserved for the future but are available for anyone with access to the internet to view online.

Digital Echidna the company that worked with VPL to create the site,  shared further details about developing Story City and the Islandora Story Map module, which is available on GitHub:

Because this collection centres around places and the movement of people as it shapes a city over time, a map was decided upon to serve as the interface for the Islandora repository. This is where discovery is centered and is the landing page of the website. Pins and other visual identifiers on the map indicate the presence of objects -- audio recordings, photographs, video clips and scanned images -- that are in the digital asset collection.

The website has social sharing functionality and operates as an attractive and responsive online experience that is branded with Vancouver Public Library’s existing web presence. Users of the site can navigate both visually using pins on the map and with search facets, such as neighbourhood, background, and era filters. The site’s administrators can manage these assets and add new objects. Training, knowledge-sharing, and open communication were key components to this successful project.

Digital Echidna’s Role

In order for the mapping feature to work, we developed a new Islandora module (story_map). This module takes Islandora Content Objects and pins them to a map using the data from the Location fields within said Objects. Content Objects need to be geotagged with the

appropropriate latitude and longitude coordinates, as well as with the associated metadata and tags for search facets. The interface handles aggregation of multiple pins into clusters, which drills down to a more detailed view when the user clicks.

This is a very visual-dependent module. The pins for different types of content are visually distinct; when the user clicks on an individual pin, a high level description will be offered. Another click will open the media for the object in the appropriate viewer/player, lead to a more in-depth description, and easily return to the map to explore other pins or to explore another search facet.

Key Factors of Success

  • Taking Solr data and displaying it on a map
  • Map solution done with IP Geolocation Views & Maps and Leaflet. The IP Geolocation (a.k.a the mapping engine) takes the data from Islandora Solr Views and displays it on a Leaflet map (a.k.a the map renderer)
  • Displaying media specific pins that lead to pop ups that show the media in the appropriate viewer/player
  • Customizing Views plugins
  • Custom JS social sharing
    • Filter sharing using the Views AJAX History module
    • Popup sharing

Has your institution built an Islandora site or tool that you want to share with our community? Contact us to set up a Show & Tell of your own!

Islandora Camp in San Diego, CA

The last Islandora Camp of 2018 will be in sunny San Diego, CA from November 7 to 9, hosted by San Diego State University. Islandora Camp features:

  • Day One: General and introductory sessions about the softare and the community that uses and supports it
  • Day Two: Hand-on workshop training with tracks for Developers and front-end Admintrative users, featuring both Islandora 7.x and Islandora CLAW
  • Day Three: Sessions on specific sites, tools, and topics of interest to Islandora users

Registration will open soon at our usual USD rates of $450 Early Bird and $495 Regular, so stay tuned and save the date. #iCampCA


Looking back at Islandora Camp Halifax

The Islandora community wrapped up our first Nova Scotian iCamp last week, having spent three days learning and sharing with this amazing Mount Saint Vincent University view as a backdrop:

We opened bit with an update about the state of Islandora CLAW and all of the features it already has in place as it races towards a first release:

Followed by a day of hands-on workshop training. The Admin Track spent most of their day building an Islandora 7.x site from scratch, and we ended the track by debuting the first Islandora CLAW workshop and switching to build mode in the latest software, making objects and collections with CLAW's more Drupal-y interface. The Developer Track did their workshop Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style, building the lesson through questions and requests from the group.

The last day of camp was turned over to session from attendees, including gems like:

You can see slides from all of the iCampHRM sessions in the camp schedule.

Many thanks to our instrutors, our attendees, and to Mount Saint Vincent University for hosting us on their beautiful campus. Stay tuned for news about where Islandora Camp will go next...

Islandora Bibliography is now a GitHub Repo

Have you published a paper about how you use Islandora? Given a public presentation? Had an Islandora-related poster accepted at a conference? We'd like to put it in our bibliography.

Once a static page tucked away in our Resources section, Islandora Bibliography has moved to GitHub to make it easier for the entire community to contribute to the list and keep it relevant. If you know of a good entry that we're missing, please check out and send us a pull request.

Islandora Foundation: Individual Members

Did you know you can be a member of the Islandora Foundation as an individual?

The Islandora Foundation is a federally incorporated, community-driven soliciting non-profit incorporated in Canada. Basically, our funding comes from our members. That funding pays for things like the salaries of our two employees, Islandora events such as Camps and Islandoracon, and other efforts to support development of Islandora and the Islandora community. Most of our revenue comes from our institutional members, who participate in the Islandora Foundation as Partners ($10,000CAD/year), Collaborators ($4000CAD/year), or Members ($2000CAD/year), but we are also very proud to have the support of several Individual Members, who have joined with their own money to show their personal support for the project. Altogether, this group fund the Foundation for more than $2000, making them the equivalent of a Member.

We offer some small perks, like hats and discounts on events, and leave it to the individual to decide the amount that they would like to donate. If you're interested in joining our list of Individual Members, you can check out the details and make a donation here. List of Service Companies

We've recently made some improvements to our Service Companies page, cleaning the the layout a bit and giving some space for text to elaborate on their services and history.

The companies on this list serve multiple roles in our open source community: they are members of the Islandora Foundation and provide financial support for us to do our work stewarding development. They are a source of direct support for institutions that can't or don't want to go it alone, providing installation, customization, hosting, and more. They are also members of this community; employees of these organizations are Committers, Interest Group convenors, Release Team members, and presenters at Islandora events.