Guest post written by Bill Kelm, Hatfield Library Systems Librarian
Everyone knows that the library collects books, journals, and DVDs, but did you know that we also collect some of the scholarly output of Willamette’s students, faculty and staff? The library maintains the Academic Commons, a virtual clearinghouse for student research and digital scholarship at Willamette University. The Commons represents an evolving set of services and digital collections that are a resource for Willamette faculty and students and for members of the extended community. Some of the collections are open to the public but others are limited to current WU students, faculty and staff.
Student research ranges from senior theses, publications, grant projects, performances, films, journals, and online exhibits. Highlights include the Senior Thesis Collections and the Willamette Sports Law Journal. Some collections like the law journal are open to the public and indexed in the library catalog. Most of the theses collections are restricted to current Willamette University users; over thirty departments have theses collections in the Commons. Faculty in some departments require students to submit their senior thesis to the Academic Commons and other departments identify outstanding theses and recommend those student researchers submit their theses to the Commons.
Reviewing some of the theses other students have submitted in the past can be a great way for current students to get a sense of what a senior thesis in their major might look like and what kinds of subjects might make appropriate topics. A number of departments have decided to scan their past theses as well; the Biology Department probably has the largest collection with some theses going to back the 1940’s and 50’s.
Submitting a thesis is not the same as adding a new post to Facebook so when students submit their works, the documents will not automatically appear in the Academic Commons. All of our librarians monitor the incoming theses in their specific subject areas. They work to ensure the accuracy of the the metadata (subjects, abstracts, etc.) before they officially release the paper into the Academic Commons. The level or quality of the work found in the Commons can vary greatly. As mentioned previously, some departments add only what they consider honors work and others add all the theses written by their students.
The library is also encouraging Willamette faculty to publish in Open Access journals. When faculty do this, the library can then add their work to the Common’s Faculty Publications section for that department. Right now four departments have Faculty Publications in the Academic Commons. While many faculty might want to make sure they are getting their papers in ResearchGate or Academia, we want to make sure we can legally capture their research in Willamette’s Academic Commons. Many of the publisher agreements that faculty sign only allow pre-print copies of their work to be placed in local digital repositories.
Take some time to checkout the Academic Commons. Students, if you do not see your major or department represented, let us know and we will be happy to check with faculty in that department. Faculty, let us know if you want your department included in the ever expanding and increasingly important Academic Commons.