Researchers across the globe may now access over 60 years of Western Michigan University student theses and dissertations through Scholarworks@WMU, the university's institutional repository. ScholarWorks provides a searchable interface so users can find and access these works online in abstract or full-text.
The University Libraries spearheaded the project to digitally preserve these works in collaboration with Lee Honors College, the Graduate College, and the Alumni Association. The project utilized the expertise of library staff, librarians and several graduate assistants to process the significant backlog of documents.
The nine-year project started with digitizing over 3,200 honors student theses from the past 50 years. The Libraries also digitized its print dissertations collection, adding 3,500 documents, dating back to 1968, to the repository.
With support from the Graduate College, the Libraries digitized theses on microfilm from 1949 onward. Over several years, library staff collected permission agreements and scanned the documents. These digital files have been downloaded over 550,000 times globally.
"I am excited that after nine years of hard work, we have every available dissertation and master's theses done by a WMU student in ScholarWorks," said Maira Bundza, associate professor and ScholarWorks librarian.
"We are excited to make these important materials more available internationally and help share the important research happening at WMU on behalf of our graduate students – both now and in years past," said Paul Gallagher, associate dean for resources and digital strategies.
ScholarWorks currently contains nearly 38,000 scholarly documents, WMU Journals, faculty articles, conference proceedings, and newsletters. The theses and dissertations collection occupies one-third of the repository. The institutional repository extends and promotes WMU research and scholarly works to a global audience. Over the past 11 years, ScholarWorks has logged over 1.3 million downloads worldwide.