Abstract: When There’s Only One: resource sharing and the predicament of the dissertation request
Electronic theses and dissertations (ETDs) are one of the many resources interspersed throughout the current environment of online content. The past two decades have witnessed a shift from print to electronic theses and dissertations and an accompanying growth in university mandates requiring deposit of ETDs in institutional repositories. While these changes should have paved the way for unfettered online access, barriers such as embargoes requested by the author and vendor licensing restrictions have also emerged, hampering access to these unpublished works. Likewise, policies governing cataloging, deposit, and repository access may differ widely across institutions, adding further complexity to the landscape. Interlibrary Loan practitioners are looking for ways to share this unique content and help users navigate the terrain despite the obstacles. This presentation will explore recent trends in thesis requesting and fulfillment using five years of borrowing and lending requests for theses and dissertations from two U.S. public research universities, along with the perspectives of colleagues at peer institutions. Both data sets demonstrate that the demand for these materials extends across borders, raising the question: how can we encourage the sharing of ETDs on a global scale? The authors hope their research on the accessibility of theses and dissertations will inform the international academic community on ways to improve the sharing of these important institutional assets, including raising awareness of the need for a policy and workflow that permits controlled ILL lending of embargoed ETDs that mirrors lending of print dissertations.
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