Online repository provides publishing option for campus community

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KALAMAZOO--Some people dream of seeing their names in lights, but many in academia dream of seeing their names in print.

Western Michigan University students and employees don't have to dream any longer. Getting their research and scholarly and creative work published is just a few mouse clicks away through ScholarWorks at WMU.

ScholarWorks is an online, open-access institutional repository that became fully operational this fall. Academic and administrative units are encouraged to work with University Libraries to create a space for uploading their materials. Meanwhile, graduate students and employees are invited to create an account on SelectedWorks, a companion program, and create professional pages.

The ScholarWorks repository aims to consolidate the campus community's output under one umbrella, making this material easy to locate, access and preserve. As of mid-February, the digital storehouse already featured some 1,500 papers. Full-text versions of many of these papers had been downloaded more than 25,000 times by visitors from around the world.

"There's a huge concern that a lot of material will just disappear into the ether if we don't start digitally archiving it," says Maira Bundza, ScholarWorks librarian in University Libraries.

"I'm finding it's really hard to get a hold of things from before 2005. A lot of newsletters and other projects are just done electronically on someone's computer. When people clean up their computers or get new ones, that material often disappears for good."

Bundza hopes to reduce the likelihood that the important work stored on countless individual hard drives will be lost to future generations. But she isn't advocating taking computers out of the equation--just the opposite.

"By choosing to go with ScholarWorks, a repository offered on the Digital Commons platform by Berkeley Electronic Press, we're using cloud computing. Campuses across the country pay a subscription fee to have their materials published and archived through the service," Bundza explains.

"This is a less expensive way for us to go because Digital Commons provides the equipment, secure backup storage, local customization, training and support. I'm the only campus human resource spending a lot of time on developing ScholarWorks at WMU."

Countless publishing possibilities

As long as submitters have the proper rights and permissions, the repository will store and share material ranging from departmental newsletters, student presentations and faculty working papers to public notices mandated by accrediting agencies, published articles, and entire journals and books. This content may include images, tables and charts as well as audio and video files.

Most of the documents available through ScholarWorks so far are abstracts of honors theses done by current and former members of the Lee Honors College. The college has more than 50 boxes of honors theses and in early 2010, asked University Libraries to start scanning them.

Bundza says that project dovetailed nicely with ScholarWorks because once the repository was up and running, the honors college had a place to post the theses. To date, more than 600 of the undergraduate works from 15 departments have been cataloged and entered into ScholarWorks.

Dr. Nicholas Andreadis, honors college dean, notes that only the most recent honors theses are being published online in their entirety right now because the college only recently started asking students during their thesis defense to give their permission to do that.

"The completion of a seniors thesis is a time-honored Lee Honors College tradition requiring students to create a scholarly capstone work that reflects the expertise they've developed during their undergraduate studies and honors experience," Andreadis says.

"We partnered with University Libraries to digitize our collection of 2,400 theses dating back to as early as 1967. Now that the ScholarWorks website is a reality, we're in the process of contacting our alumni and asking for permission to make available online the full content of their theses from previous years."

Bundza says she's working with WMU's Graduate College to use ScholarWorks as a way of publishing graduate theses and dissertations. WMU, along with many other universities, contracts with an outside company to post decades worth of dissertations online. But to get the full text, people need to have a WMU-issued BroncoNet ID, belong to an institution that subscribes to the posting service, or purchase the posted materials themselves.

"What we're doing here with ScholarWorks is more accessible--anybody with an Internet connection can get to what's posted," Bundza says. "Plus, everything is optimized for the Google search engine, so people are finding our materials and downloading them."

Journals and professional Web pages

ScholarWorks at WMU grew out of the University's 2010 update of its Academic Strategic Plan, and University Libraries is charged with overseeing it.

One section of the scholarly repository is reserved for journals and peer-reviewed series. A one-time $1,500 fee is charged to create journal sites, as they require substantial customization.

Two WMU publications are already set to have all of their issues uploaded: Reading Horizons, which has been publishing scholarly submissions for 50 years, and The Hilltop Review, a peer-reviewed journal introduced in fall 2005 for graduate students. In addition, the University's new Open Journal of Occupational Therapy has debuted on the journals and peer-reviewed series website and is in the process of soliciting its first submissions.

Bundza notes that University Libraries has a digitization center equipped with scanning and optical character recognition technology, so whole issues of printed publications can be converted for upload to ScholarWorks. The center also can digitize maps, art and other objects, making it possible to include even the most elaborate presentations and projects.

The separate component of ScholarWorks that's called SelectedWorks allows graduate students and employees to create professional pages at no charge. Authors may include their vitae and other background information, abstracts or full text of their writings, links to their articles in databases, and links to where their books or artwork may be purchased.

Unlike ScholarWorks, SelectedWorks doesn't have to be archival, and scholars are free to add and take off materials. SelectedWorks sites are easy to set up and can be maintained even after a person leaves WMU.

For more information, visit scholarworks.wmich.edu or visit University Libraries at libguides.wmich.edu/scholarworks. Direct questions and requests for assistance to Maira Bundza at wmu-scholarworks@wmich.edu or (269) 387-5207.