IUScholarWorks has a Graduate Assistant, Carol Lubkowski, to help us with many aspects of our work. Carol’s job description is basically “other duties as assigned.” We thought it would be interesting and useful to see things from Carol’s point of view occasionally, so this is the first of her posts. Welcome Carol!
Before coming to IU and joining IU ScholarWorks as a Graduate Assistant, my previous experience with the concept of a digital repository was in a corporate context, at a Boston-based biotech company. I was working in records management there and the term and concept of a digital repository were just getting introduced. However, it was not aligned with the company’s existing corporate library. Thus, when I started as the Graduate Assistant for IU ScholarWorks, I understood the basic concept of a digital repository, but had a lot to discover. Within the academic world, an institutional repository addresses a wide variety of concerns and needs for scholarly communication, reflecting the increasing importance of digital formats and sources both inside and outside of the library. I am particularly excited by the ways in which institutional repositories can help disseminate dissertations and theses, and by the services they provide to researchers and authors.
IU ScholarWorks is working on getting the dissertations of IU doctoral students into our repository, which has exciting potential for both disseminating research and for bringing new researchers into IU. It is often very difficult for researchers to access dissertations – very few of them are available in print format on library shelves. Some are available on microfilm, and many must be requested either through interlibrary loan or directly from the author. Expanded, easier access to dissertations will make the most recent research available to the wider scholarly community. Not only will this help researchers, it also has the potential to attract new researchers to IU through our graduate programs. By having access to recent graduate work, prospective students can get a clearer picture of what IU’s programs can offer them and whether a department’s focus and strengths match their own research interests.
As someone who has several friends in academia, I am also excited by the services an institutional repository can provide to authors and researchers. The repository provides a permanent digital home for their work, accessible via the internet with a stable and permanent URL. This also gives the authors the advantage of using a system and location backed up by established and robust IT services and infrastructure. The repository can thus provide a convenient and reliable way for authors to make their work widely and freely available without forgoing the aegis of official institutional support and authority.
I work at a small liberal-arts college, and my students sometimes find a thesis that would be a _perfect_ source for the project they are working on. They’re often dismayed and frustrated when they try to order the source, and it takes a long time, or they are asked to pay for copying and shipping charges, or any number of other things that can go wrong.
Improved access to theses means more people citing these works, period. It helps my students to produce better research, and gives your scholars more name recognition. I know that some thesis writers worry that e-publication of their thesis in an institutional repository will hamper their efforts to turn this thesis work into their first book, but I have never, _ever_ spoken to a scholar or publisher who has found that to be the case– publishers want you to heavily rework that material in to book format, expanding and revising it, and having your name out there with your thesis in an institutional repository may help you to seal that deal.
So thanks for all that you do! My students and I here at Mount Holyoke College really appreciate it.