What is ODLRC?
The Ontario Digital Library Research Cloud (ODLRC) project is a collaboration of Ontario’s university libraries to build a high capacity, geographically distributed storage and compute network using proven and scalable open source cloud technologies. The ODLRC will be designed to house large volumes of digital content to allow for cost effective and sustainable long-term preservation and to support data and text mining using innovative research tools.
Who is ODLRC?
The ODLRC is a product of collaboration between the 10 university libraries in Ontario. Within this collaboration, the roles are varied. The University of Toronto Libraries (UTL) provides technical and project management staff for the project through its Information Technology Services (ITS) unit and through Scholars Portal. Scholars Portal is a shared technology service supported by all of Ontario’s university libraries through the Ontario Council of University Libraries (OCUL). UTL provides technology leadership and operational support for Scholars Portal, which houses and makes available millions of digital articles, books and datasets to students and faculty across the province. The other nine initial partner libraries provide local technology support and participate in the governance, implementation, and assessment of the project. All 21 university libraries will ultimately benefit from this collaboration by having a new option to acquire high-capacity archival storage through the ODLRC at cost-effective rates.
Collaboration is a critical component of the ODLRC. The project partners share responsibility for implementation of the technology that ultimately will benefit all of Ontario’s universities and beyond, as Canadian research communities – both within academia and without – come to terms with the challenges presented by the increasing volume of digital objects and the challenges presented by Big Data. The ODLRC aims to be a common foundation on which Ontario’s university libraries will develop services tailored to their particular communities.
Why are Ontario’s university libraries developing a cloud storage service? Based on experience and analysis, the libraries have determined that alternative storage options, on campus and beyond, are not viable from a cost point of view for long-term digital preservation. Initial capital costs are too high and ongoing costs are not sustainable. ODLRC will make use of scalable technologies to build large-scale storage services using low-cost disk farms and servers, providing significantly lower costs of storage for libraries seeking to deliver and preserve massive digital collections for current and future generations of students and faculty.
Further, researchers are increasingly interested in working with large bodies of digital content to explore long-term societal, cultural, and economic trends. On their own, few libraries can devote the resources needed to provide the kind of advanced text mining tools envisioned for the ODLRC. Large collections of digital content, expensive to acquire and maintain, go underused because they are not accessible or not provided in a format suitable for computational analysis. The ODLRC will make this data available to Ontario’s academic community in formats amenable to computational analysis and will provide them with the computational resources they need, creating efficiencies and avoiding duplication of effort and infrastructure across institutions.