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Nearly a century of W&M scholarship now openly accessible online

  • Scholar works:
    Scholar works:  Print theses and dissertations at the William J. Hargis Jr. Library located at VIMS  Photo courtesy of W&M Libraries
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Researchers and scholars around the globe can now freely access nearly 100 years of William & Mary scholarship online in the university’s institutional repository, W&M ScholarWorks.

Last month, William & Mary Libraries placed more than 5,000 digitized master’s theses and dissertations written by W&M students, dating from 1920 to 2015, into the repository. W&M ScholarWorks serves to preserve and promote William & Mary scholarship by providing open, free access to researchers across the globe. 

“We are thrilled to make this announcement, especially this week as libraries around the world celebrate International Open Access Week, an event that aims to inspire wider use of open access materials,” said Carrie Cooper, dean of university libraries. “By digitizing and placing these materials in our online repository, we can increase exposure to the valuable scholarship produced by William & Mary students, adding to the body of knowledge available to scholars.” 

Two years ago, W&M Libraries began its project to digitize the entire print archive of W&M master’s theses and doctoral dissertations, with the goal of adding these materials to ScholarWorks. During the conversion project, every W&M thesis and dissertation dating from 1920 to 2015 was digitized; the libraries began accepting theses and dissertations in digital format in 2016. Although the university’s theses and dissertations have previously been available in ProQuest’s Dissertations Theses Global database, these materials were not freely accessible.

“In April 2017 we embarked on the project, and a tremendous amount of work has taken place since then: pulling copies from the stacks, shipping them to ProQuest for digitization, working out copyright issues, creating an author notification plan, and finally making the digital copies available online through our institutional repository,” said Debbie Cornell, head of digital services for W&M Libraries. “We believe in the value of making scholarship available, and that the quality of openness promotes collaboration, new and better research and recognition of the tremendous scholarly output of William & Mary graduates.”

Of those materials placed into ScholarWorks, 66 percent were master’s theses, most of which came from Arts & Sciences. Authors are allowed to opt out of having their work open to public access, but many graduates celebrated and commended W&M Libraries’ digitization efforts.

“A researcher from Germany contacted me about a quotation she was trying to track down. The quotation had been attributed to my 2004 dissertation, but she was unable to access the manuscript,” said Sharon Zuber Ph.D. '04, director of Writing Resources Center. “Now with open access, we will facilitate global collaborations and sharing of resources.”

W&M ScholarWorks can host a variety of content including peer-review journals, articles, data, books, visual media and more. With its recent update, ScholarWorks is now more intuitive and visually appealing, and faculty can directly submit their materials for permissions review before posting.

At the VIMS Center for Coastal Resources Management (CCRM), ScholarWorks is used to store a diverse collection of historical and contemporary publications and digital products. VIMS CCRM currently has 31 faculty, staff, graduate and doctoral students, and visiting scientists working on various coastal ecosystem and management issues and the IR allows them and other scientists to find information from all VIMS and W&M digital collections more easily.

“We appreciate the flexibility offered by the repository to set up our collection how we want and need it, including recognizable logos and banners associated with our work,” said Karen Duhring, Coastal Scientist and CCRM Outreach & Training Coordinator.

Each W&M faculty, staff and student author who submits to ScholarWorks retains his or her copyrights while gaining more visibility for their work.

“We like how the IR helps to ‘bump’ us to the top of topic searches,” said Duhring.  "This is beneficial for easy retrieval of products by a wide variety of internal and external users, not just faculty.”

Authors also gain the ability to track the impact of their scholarship by receiving regular reports on downloads, social media mentions, and geographic location of where their work is being accessed. With most of the IR downloads currently emerging from the U.S. and U.K., individuals from across the globe and as far away as New Zealand have downloaded content from W&M ScholarWorks.

The magnitude of the institutional repository and the theses and dissertations project reaches far beyond Williamsburg, Va. as W&M theses and dissertations, as well as faculty and staff works, are no longer hidden behind a paywall, but contribute to the growing global appetite for open access scholarship.  This is a new opportunity for W&M graduates and the W&M community as a whole to achieve a more significant influence on global scholarship and to receive recognition for that impact.

For more information about W&M ScholarWorks or open access, please visit