The University Libraries have recently announced plans to digitize their entire holdings of Master’s theses and doctoral dissertations. This collection, which includes over 9,000 titles written from 1924 to the present, will be scanned and made available online as part of Loyola eCommons, the university’s newly created digital library of research and scholarship.
Loyola eCommons is a networked repository system established to collect, preserve, and provide access to scholarly works produced by the Loyola University Chicago community related to research, teaching, and learning. Sponsored by the University Libraries, this resource will support the creation of knowledge through the open-access dissemination of a wide variety of material, for the benefit of students, faculty, staff, and the larger academic community.
The main goal of this project is to provide greater recognition and exposure to the wealth of information and scholarship that these dissertations and theses represent, but there are a number of other benefits as well. Prior to this project, the majority of these works have only been available in hard copy in the library, or available through costly online databases. Placing these titles in Loyola eCommons will not only make them more widely available, but will also provide a way to preserve them for future generations. (Many of the earlier titles were written on acidic paper, and have begun to decay and crumble.) These works also constitute a valuable record of the academic heritage of the university, which should be celebrated and shared with the world.
In addition, there is also a humanitarian benefit to this initiative: the open-access availability of dissertations and theses has proved to be a huge boon to scholars in developing countries where access to expensive scholarly journals and research databases is limited by economic or political circumstances. Our mission speaks to the need for “knowledge in the service of humanity” and “learning and leadership in openhanded and generous ways to ensure freedom of inquiry, the pursuit of truth and care for others.” Through this project, Loyola eCommons will embody a tangible expression of these core values, providing an online gateway to an abundance of scholarly information created by faculty and students.
Dissertations and theses will be scanned and converted into PDF files, to be accompanied by descriptive information such as the author, title, author abstract, academic department, date, and degree conferred. These files will then be made available online via the Loyola eCommons web site under a Creative Commons license, which stipulates that all copyrights remain in the hands of the original author, that any re-use of the material (such as a quotation in a journal article or other publication) must be properly attributed, and that the work cannot be modified or used for any commercial purpose (except by the original author). These restrictions protect the intellectual property of the author while at the same time allowing for robust online dissemination.