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Shared Repositories, Shared Benefits: Regional and Consortial Repositories in Japan

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Takeo Ozono, Daisuke Ueda and Fumiyo Ozaki describe the work of the ShaRe Project and its influence upon the development of consortial repositories and the benefits they have brought to Japanese institutions.

The ShaRe Project (Shared Repository Project 2008-2009), which aimed to promote the concept of consortial repositories and facilitate their implementation, has made a significant contribution to the rapid growth of institutional repositories (IRs) in Japan. Following precedents including White Rose Research Online (UK) and SHERPA-LEAP (UK), 14 regional consortial repositories have been set up on a prefectoral basis across Japan*. Their success is demonstrated by the fact that as many as 92 bodies have set up IRs despite having no institutional hardware of their own.

In this article we discuss the role and effectiveness of consortial repositories in Japan. Consortial repositories make it possible for each institution to reduce its economic and system management overheads, especially in the case of small and medium-sized universities. Consequently, repository managers can focus their efforts on other important activities, such as content recruitment. Furthermore, consortial repositories have played a significant role in the development of community co-operation among participating organisations, which has contributed greatly to the expansion of the Open Access movement in Japan.

Repository Development across Multiple Institutions

As of 2012, there are over 300 academic institutional repositories operated in Japan, and the amount of content, including full-text material, reached over a million items. In this emerging landscape, we have seen the development of a project to build institutional repositories with the establishment of the “Next-generation Academic Information Infrastructure -NII Institutional Repositories Program” (from here on referred to as the “CSI Commission Project”) [1] that the National Institute of Informatics (NII) has been supporting since 2005.

Additionally, we have also witnessed the promotion of Open Access principles into “The 4th Science and Technology Basic Plan” [2] as well as “Infrastructure Development for Strengthening the Capacity of International Scholarly Communication” [3], both of which are making good progress. Meanwhile, in July 2010 the report of the Science Technology / Science Council Environmental Underpinning Commission Section Meeting, proposed that, ‘In the future, for institutions experiencing difficulty in constructing or operating their own repository, we need a shared repository system which is commonly available for each institution.’ [4]

banner: ShaRe (Shared Repository) Project, Japan

Following the above statement, the National Institute of Informatics launched its official service in April 2012, establishing the shared repository JAIRO Cloud (Japanese Institutional Repositories Online Cloud) [5]. As of November 2012, the NII provides more than 70 institutions with a repository environment.

Prior to these developments, dating from 2007, a number of systems deploying shared hardware and repository software were set up by several institutions which had been struggling to build their own systems due to local budgetary difficulties and shortage of local technical know-how in their respective regions.

In United Kingdom, White Rose Research Online [6] and SHERPA-LEAP [7] were known to have shared repository facilities [8], and so in in Japan, it was decided to promote the construction of similar systems for each prefecture**. This model of sharing repository systems across multiple institutions reduces the financial and operational burdens of each participating institution, thereby making it relatively easy for smaller institutions to gain a first foothold on the territory of IR development and operation.

Following the work of the CSI Commission Project, the Shared Repository Project (ShaRe), led by Hiroshima University, worked over 2008-9 in order to familiarise researchers with the aims of regional shared repositories [9].

Based on the substance of the March 2010 ShaRe Report [10] and later findings, this article will analyse the working of the community shared repositories and consider the operational model of institutional repositories in Japan as well as the development of the JAIRO Cloud.

Figure 1: Regional shared repositories in Japan (2012)

Figure 1: Regional shared repositories in Japan (2012) (further details in the Appendix).

The Growth of Institutional Repositories and Regional Shared Repositories

A full listing of the repository consortia categorised by prefectoral location is available in the Appendix but this section will describe the organisation and growth of Japan’s repositories in broad terms.

As previously explained, as of 2012, the number of community shared repositories in Japan stands at 14, which means that about one third of Japan’s 47 prefectures now have repositories. Moreover, in addition to these 14 community-based repositories, 92 institutions have constructed their own institutional repository (IR). As of November 2012, based on the number of institutions registered on the IRDB (Institutional Repositories DataBase) contents analysis system [11] run by the National Institute of Informatics (NII), we observed a rise in the proportion of regional shared repositories as compared to the total of institutional repositories in Japan.


Institutions constructing single IR

Institutions joining in development of shared IR

Constructing institutions using JAIRO Cloud

Total number of institutions constructing IRs

National university





Public university





Private university





Junior college





Technical college















Table 1: The figures for institutional repositories in Japan categorised by class [12]

* IRDB Contents Analysis System (National Institute of Informatics)
NB: figures in ( ) denote the number of community shared IRs using JAIRO Cloud.

Table 1 shows the number of IRs categorised by each institution, with single IRs, Community-shared IRs and those operating in JAIRO Cloud identified separately.

Figure 2: Proportions of institutions involved in developing IRs categorised by type

Figure 2: Proportions of institutions involved in developing IRs categorised by type

Figure 2 provides a graph illustrating the proportions of different kinds of repositories. The reason for the relative predomination of IRs developed by national universities is explained by the fact that in the first year of the operation of the CSI Commission Project (2005), 17 of the 19 universities were national, and national universities had a greater capacity to share and construct repositories at a relatively early stage. 

As one examines the different categories of individual institutional repositories and community shared repositories, national universities are seen mainly to operate IRs (ie as ‘host institutions’). However, it is worthy of note that there was no national university which collaborated in the development of a repository in other words operating in the role of partner or participating institution. Therefore, this table fails to account for the number of national universities acting as partners or participating institutions contributing (rather than leading) to the development of a community shared IR. Meanwhile, in terms of public universities, 12 of 25 institutions, and as regards private universities, 46 of 97 institutions achieved completion of their repository through participation in community shared repositories. Meanwhile, as regards junior colleges and technical colleges, all institutions engaged upon IR development are involved in regional shared repositories, just as 8 of 15 other institutions and institutional laboratories are also participating in the scheme.

In fact, regional shared repositories are the largest contributor to IR development in universities and Higher Education institutions other than national universities. Additionally, as far as development of IRs with JAIRO Cloud is concerned, the number of registrations on the IRDB stands at just eight institutions at the time of writing. However, since some institutions are releasing papers without registering on the IRDB, while over 70 institutions are now constructing institutional repositories, the proportion of regional shared repositories is set to rise in the not too distant future.

Figure 3: Annual growth of IRs in Japan 2005-2012, categorised by type of development

Figure 3: Annual growth of IRs in Japan 2005-2012, categorised by type of development

Next, Figure 3 illustrates the annual figures separately for single IRs and community shared IRs since 2005. In 2009, for the first time, the number of institutions launching IRs through participation in community shared repositories schemes surpassed the number of single IRs developed. Moreover, since 2012 when the JAIRO Cloud service was launched, the number of community shared repositories or JAIRO Cloud repositories rose appreciably, whereas the proportion of single IRs decreased to approximately 20%. This trend is likely to continue in the future.

Operation of Regional Shared Repositories  

In this section we propose to classify and analyse the operating methods identified through a survey in December 2012 conducted among 14 representatives of community shared repositories now in operation.

Operational Leads and Eligibility to Participate

The management of regional shared repositories falls mainly into the categories of either 'regional consortia' or 'host institutions' (ie national universities). In the case of the management of regional consortia, there is the advantage of using the existing framework, but eligibility to participate is limited to member institutions. On the other hand, in the case of host institutions they enjoy the advantage of managerial flexibility and the opportunity to seek partners from a wider variety of backgrounds. In any case, operation of regional shared repositories calls for a deal of co-operation and collaboration with regional consortia and a variety of institutions.

The Rationale of Repository Development

The reasons for opting to develop a repository are mainly as follows:

  • Regional development: support for prefectoral institutions experiencing difficulty in implementing their own IR single-handedly through provision of an appropriate repository environment.
  • Information centre: Storage and access to the academic findings of the prefecture, as well as promotion of principles of Open Access.
  • Community Development: Enhancement of co-operation within the prefecture through the implementation of a collaborative project.
  • Support of construction of portal sites providing public access to regional information.

The Okinawa regional academic repository, which has a plan to harvest data on Okinawa from other prefectoral institutions, is being developed as an information centre of the regional academy.

Operating Costs

Operating costs include those for server system maintenance, content creation and advocacy; however, according to research on expenditure incurred during 2011, most of the costs are met through funding by host institutions or from other bodies. Currently, only Hiroshima and Kagoshima collect these costs from the participating institutions. Hiroshima collects the costs of system maintenance (outsourced) and server updating from the participating institutions and the Hiroshima Association of University Libraries. The annual participation fee was 30,000 yen** for each institution. In Hiroshima, it has been five years since system development was initiated and therefore these costs will be used for system replacement. Moreover, in Nagano, there will be no cost for using JAIRO Cloud for the moment, and therefore there are currently no running costs.

While one of the perceived benefits of developing shared repositories is their low cost, nonetheless concern has been expressed by some of the participating institutions that they may be obliged to shoulder operational expenditure in the future. Currently partners may look to the CSI Commission Project to meet costs raised by other parties. However, since this project ended in March 2013, we need to consider how we go about securing stable and sustainable operational funding for the future.

Methods of Operation

Whereas the routine operation of shared repositories tends to be performed by host institutions and participating institutions separately, generally speaking the central role of host institutions is system management. This is because, with the exception of the Nagano service, all servers are installed and managed at the host institutions. The assignment of other tasks generally depends on the region, and the types of tasks assigned are mainly classified into ‘Concentrated Type’ and ‘Diversified Type’.

‘Concentrated Type’ is the remit of host institutions which conduct the ingest and digitisation of content deriving from participating institutions, whereas the participating partner institutions engage solely in content collection. The Yamagata region is a typical example. The advantage of this type of workflow model is that short-staffed institutions can nonetheless participate because of the reduced burden on staff that this model affords. On the other hand, the host institutions are somewhat disadvantaged by the larger burden they are compelled to assume, with the added difficulty that they have less opportunity to improve the knowledge and experience of the participating institutions.

By contrast, the ‘Diversified Type’ of operations is where participating institutions conduct each operation as a leader of the project, while host institutions carry out only system management and support for the partner institutions. The Hiroshima region is a typical example. Nagano region is a typical example of a host institution enjoying a reduction in operational workload characterised by the ‘Diversified Type’. This is because the National Institute of Informatics assumes the system management of JAIRO Cloud. With the ‘Diversified Type’, the principal advantages for participating institutions are that they can accumulate knowledge and experience while awareness- raising efforts will also improve. Meanwhile, by comparison, the ‘Concentrated Type’ of working can represent a considerable operational burden for participating institutions in which those already experiencing budgetary or staffing shortages will find no advantage whatsoever.

System Environment

Repository systems currently operated in Japan are divided, as mentioned above, into the ‘Shared Type Model’ and the ‘Independent Type Model’. This section seeks to provide further detail and a description of advantages and disadvantages of the two types.

Shared Type Model

Figure 4: Shared Type Model

Figure 4: Shared Type Model

In this model, one repository system is shared by several partner institutions, and this model is used in 10 of the 14 Japanese regions involved. They share one set of hardware and one type of repository system software (the latter is generally DSpace [13] or XooNips [14]).  They do require a variety of functionality which therefore does differentiate each partner despite its usage of the same system.

Required Functionality

The institutional repository must be regarded as the showcase for the academic findings provided by each partner institution. Given that every IR has a role to play in the publicity of its institution’s research effort, even in the instance of community shared repositories, each partner should have display capacity for its exclusive use. In addition to this, in order to support the capacity of searchers to search across the content of each individual partner institution, each institution must be able to make its own arrangements for indexing and harvesting of its content.

Specifically, each institute will individually set its own baseURL or ‘set’. Moreover, to operate the ‘Diversified Type’ model among participating institutions, it is also necessary to separate the access logs so that content management authorities can be separately identified and so each institution can manage its own log data. This means that each partner institution in community shared repositories customises its own access logs.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Since regardless of the (even large) number of participating institutions, there is only one system, most of the partner bodies experience a relatively light burden in terms of the management of their repository system and can as a result concentrate on their principal role of content collection. Moreover, their financial burden also tends to be reduced. A further advantage is that sharing the same system with other institutions has a very beneficial effect on inter-institutional co-operation. Moreover, it is often worthwhile developing a portal site to display the fruits of regional co-operation where there are considerable benefits to be gained, for example with system installation.

Meanwhile, as to disadvantages, as described under ‘Required Functionality’, the customisation of functionality across the system means that there is little that can be shared with each institute. Therefore, it is difficult to deal with individual requests from the partner institutions where there is no common cross-environment system.

Independent Type Model

Figure 5: Independent Type Model (operated on a single OS)

Figure 5: Independent Type Model (operated on a single OS)

In this model, all hardware is shared while the participating institutions each possess their own repository software. Of the 14 regions, four use this model of operation. In Yamaguchi and Kagawa, multiple repository software Earmas [15] is operated on one operating system (OS).

Figure 6: Independent Type Model (separate server on the OS level)

Figure 6: Independent Type Model (separate server on the OS level)

In Okayama, EPrints [16] and a Vmware server are used to separate servers virtually at the OS level. Nagano operates JAIRO Cloud and uses this model; the software deployed is called WEKO [17].

Advantages and Disadvantages

The greatest advantage of the independent type model is that there are no limitations placed on the system through the operation of sharing whereas the shared type model does suffer from this disadvantage. Therefore each participating institution can operate the system with considerable flexibility. Moreover, it is relatively easy not only to add a new partner institution but also restore the hardware whenever a technical difficulty arises. The principal disadvantage of this model is where some institutions find it difficult to meet the demands of managing the system.

Nagano uses JAIRO Cloud and has developed portal pages. It also plans cross-searching functionality to enhance the demonstration of its portal.

Problems with Regional Shared Repositories and IR Operating Models

Finally, we describe a problem with continuing community shared repositories and IR operation models.

Role of Host Institutions

As described above, in the 14 regional shared repositories currently being operated, it is the national university of each region which is operating as the host or lead institution.

The conduct of each host institution’s repository work will inevitably involve system  management and maintenance, the provision of appropriate technology and technical  know-how to support those repository operations, content ingest duties, organisational effort both in respect of the participating institutions and towards community building. The size of each repository will depend on the size and the degree of activity pertaining to each region, which will naturally determine the scale upon which each host institution will be obliged to operate. Consequently if the regional shared repositories are to be accounted a success, it is vital that the host institutions have the leadership and resources with which to accomplish the essential tasks noted above.

There can be no denying that the operational burden placed upon the host institutions is a very large one. They play an essential role in promoting and supporting regional efforts in achieving the aims of partner institutions in addition to the latters’ work towards library co-operation and of course the development and operation of the shared repository. However, in order to maintain the host institutions as a driving force in these partnerships it is important to address the difficulties they experience in terms of human resources.

Repository Operation

It is important to build both a robust and flexible system of operation if we are to maintain the viability of the community shared repositories. While clear leadership by the host institutions is a key ingredient to such success, the importance of the efforts by the partner institutions in shared repository development should not be underestimated. The ideal that we should seek to achieve is where all members of a shared repository system are involved in its work irrespective of their rank or role of their employing institution. In the end it is closely knit co-operation among its members that will assure the success of every consortium.

Independence from Regional Shared Repositories

Where partner institutions in a shared repository system begin to find that they can no longer deal with the demands made upon them through membership of a regional shared repository, and they are able to acquire the necessary technical know-how to operate their own independent IR, then any application they make to launch an independent IR should be carefully considered. As of 2012 there has as yet been no such an occurrence although some harvesting operations have been conducted. Any institutions considering such a move will need to take particular care over the necessary adjustments they will have to make in order to migrate from a shared to an independent repository.

Development in the JAIRO Cloud

Shinshu Shared Repository in Nagano has been developed as a JAIRO Cloud of the National Institute of Informatics. Essentially, although each institution applies individually to be part of the JAIRO Cloud that is, a single independent IR can become part of the Cloud, the JAIRO Cloud is nonetheless regarded as community shared repositories. Considering the problems described above, this aspect represents quite a significant development. First of all, the partner institutions can maintain their independence which is generally regarded as a distinct advantage of the independent model, while at the same time host institutions can support the participating institutions while bearing a considerably lighter burden in terms of system management. Second, they can also retain their regional information hub and maintain their community co-operation activity. There is less chance for the participating institutions to become independent, and operation as an academic portal site is realised in each region by approaches such as cross-searching with institutions in their prefecture that have already developed a portal themselves. Thus, the regional shared repositories can begin to entertain the prospect of a new type of operation.


The shared repository operating model has clearly worked well in reducing the operational burden of participating institutions such that Japan has seen a tangible increase in the number of its institutional repositories as a result.

A further and distinct characteristic of this process has been the fact that not only Higher Education institutions such as universities and technical colleges but also smaller research and local public bodies as well as academic associations have become actively engaged in the development of IRs.

If it is possible for Open Access to apply to all academic output in national university repositories, then we need to consider the application of Open Access to all such material deposited in the regional shared repositories as well.

It would be true to assert that the development of such a large number of  regional shared repositories in Japan has, as far as we can tell, no real equal anywhere else in the world and that this approach to repository operation is unique to this country.  At the local level, institutional repository community action, as represented in particular by the Digital Repository Federation (DRF) [18] is a significant factor, thanks to the high level of co-operation among most institutions, not only in the continuing development of community shared repositories themselves, but also in the process of raising awareness of the value of repositories among researchers and other members of the academic community [19][20].

*Editor’s note: Japan consists of 47 prefectures, each overseen by an elected governor, legislature and administrative bureaucracy. Each prefecture is further divided into cities, towns and villages. (Wikipedia, citing McCargo, Duncan (2000). Contemporary Japan. Macmillan. pp. 84–85. ISBN 0333710002 )

** Editor’s note: In July 2011 the sum of 30,000 yen roughly equated to £230. ( historic look-up.)


  1. NII Institutional Repositories Program
  2. The 4th Science and Technology Basic Plan (FY2011-FY2015) (Point)
  3. Infrastructure Development for Strengthening the Capacity of International Scholarly Communication, July 2012
  4. Ideal approach to maintenance of university library and academic information distribution (Summary of discussion): Technology / science research council academic subcommittee research environment infrastructure section
  5. JAIRO Cloud
  6. White Rose Research Online
  8. Moyle, M. and Proudfoot, R. Consortial routes to effective repositories. (RSP Briefing Papers). Repositories Support Project: UK. April 2009
  9. “Joint repository: construction and diffusion of model” (National Institute of Informatics Academic institutional repository construction cooperation support project 2008 - 2009 consignment service area project 2)
  10. ShaRe Report, March 2010
  11. NII Institutional Repositories DataBase Contents Analysis
  12. 2009 MEXT statistics directory
  13. DSpace
  14. XooNips
  15. Earmas
  16. EPrints
  17. WEKO
  18. Digital Repository Federation
  19. This paper is based upon but also updates information from “Repository made by everybody: Local corporative repository”. March 2011, Junior College Library Research, no.30
  20. Ikuko Tsuchide, Yui Nishizono, Masako Suzuki, Shigeki Sugita,  Kazuo Yamamoto, Hideki Uchijima. "Hita-Hita: Open Access and Institutional Repositories in Japan Ten Years On". July 2013, Ariadne Issue 71

Author Details

Takeo Ozono
Central Library
Kagawa University

Web site:
Takeo Ozono is a librarian, working at Kagawa University Library, Japan. His current main role is library system and repository manager of Kagawa University. He is also a member of the Planning and Co-ordinating Working Group of the Digital Repository Federation (DRF) and was involved in Shared Repository Project (ShaRe).

Daisuke Ueda
Central Library
Hiroshima University

Web site:
Daisuke Ueda is a librarian, working at Hiroshima University Library, Japan. His current main role is guidance, academic information user support, multi-subject training course. He was involved in Shared Repository Project (ShaRe).

Fumiyo Ozaki
Central Library
Hiroshima University

Web site:
Fumiyo Ozaki is a librarian, working at Hiroshima University Library, Japan. Her current main role is general planning and coordination of Hiroshima University Library. She is also a member of the Planning and Coordinating Working Group of the Digital Repository Federation (DRF) and was involved in Shared Repository Project (ShaRe).



Here is the full list of regional shared repositories in Japan as of 2012.
In 2012, regional shared repositories in Japan are as follows:

Date published: 
26 March 2014

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How to cite this article

Takeo Ozono, Daisuke Ueda, Fumiyo Ozaki. "Shared Repositories, Shared Benefits: Regional and Consortial Repositories in Japan". March 2014, Ariadne Issue 72

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