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By Karen Herland
The combined legacy of Loyola College, Sir George Williams University and Concordia has produced 6 000 dissertations on subjects ranging from literature to linguistics and from exercise science to electrical engineering.
The university has always retained paper copies of this work. ProQuest, in its Dissertations and Theses Database, is responsible for digitizing and distributing dissertations from hundreds of institutions through subscribing libraries, or on a fee-per-use basis.
Last month, during Open Access Week, Concordia University launched its own institutional repository called Spectrum, which allows research to be electronically archived and available.
“The challenge was to take all of this digital material and make it accessible in a structured and interoperable way,” said Tomasz Neugebauer, systems development librarian involved in planning and developing the program. “The system had to make it easy to access the full retrospective range of material, and to enable the deposit of currently produced work.”
Several people within the library evaluated programs that could do the job, and picked ePrints one of the first repository software programs developed and used by hundreds of institutions. It was their choice because it was customizable and because “it has an open source community of people using it that don’t compete like commercial developers, instead they collaborate.”
Having a platform that was well integrated into the current open access landscape, and worked with the major retrieval systems like OAI-PMH and Google Scholar was important. Making it both user-friendly and useful was also critical. With support from the Office of Research, the university obtained a stack of CDs from ProQuest containing the thousands of Concordia dissertations.
These documents had to be integrated with the metadata available in CLUES, including thesis advisor, the department it was produced in, and abstracts. The task was complicated by the fact that the names of the institutions involved, along with the titles of departments have changed over time. Neugebauer developed a software plug-in for ePrints capable of importing theses metadata from CLUES and the corresponding digital documents from ProQuest.
That was one of the first adjustments required. Spectrum was designed to visually fit in with other Concordia web pages, and to operate using NetNames used for other Concordia sites, like the portal.
A pilot project to have dissertations deposited electronically is in the works. At the same time, a number of university policies that specify the existence and management of paper copies are being reviewed.
Beyond dissertations, Spectrum can accept research work, articles, papers, conference proceedings, books and monographs. “We need to work with the faculty to open up the functionality of the system. Research output is different from department to department,” said Neugebauer, adding that it is easier to improve the system as they go forward than to try to anticipate every possible need at the outset.
Spectrum is designed so professors and researchers can upload research materials and easily enter the necessary information about each item. Several professors have already deposited some of their research. Annie Murray and Kumiko Vézina of the libraries can assist researchers who wish to deposit their publications in Spectrum. They are also responsible for verifying the the description and copyright of material before it goes live.
Murray and Vézina can be reached via email.