Much of the scholarly output of university faculty members and researchers—including conference proceedings, working papers, unpublished (and even published) articles, data sets, and audiovisual presentations—receives only limited exposure. Institutional digital repositories have been established by colleges and universities, including Marquette University, to organize and preserve such selected educational and research materials and to make them freely available in a reliable centralized online archive. Marquette's IR has been given the name: e-Scholarship@Marquette.
The University of Maryland Digital Repository site highlights the power of an IR to expand the exposure of its scholarly contents:
Scholars and researchers generally publish their work to disseminate it to the broadest possible audience of interested readers. The basic concept of institutional repositories is to use the power of the Internet to make research available and maintain permanent access to this valuable information. By providing stable storage for deposited files and gathering and publicizing basic descriptive information, these digital documents can be found, read, and used by a global audience. Repositories are designed to make it easy for authors to deposit their works and for any researcher to locate works of interest quickly and easily. The costs are kept very low and are covered by the institution rather than the author or the reader.
One of the key features of an institutional repository is the free accessibility of its contents, i.e., open access. According to the Budapest Open Access Initiative, open access refers to the "free availability on the public internet" of scholarly literature "without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself." While most IR content is open access, it should also be noted that scholars have the option of restricting access to their own materials to a selective group of collaborators or colleagues. The institutional repository can even serve as a data storage site for works in progress.