The term institutional repository implies a community based service although this is interpreted by repository developers in different ways. Some embody a cross-subject, cross-department service which requires flexibility to meet the requirements of many different types of users. Some focus more specifically on a particular subject and possibly type of material to be archived, while still delivering an institution-wide service.

Although, as Lynch implies, the term institutional repository suggests a higher education context, this is not always the case. Institutions with requirements to store, preserve and provide access to digital materials may require their own repositories, and this is likely to become more common over time.

In the context of this report, the term institutional repository will be used simply to refer to an actual instance of an institutional repository or the software that enables an institutional repository.