Highlighting Student Work: A Global Impact

It used to be that when a student wrote a thesis, it would be bound and placed in Blackwell Library’s thesis collection. Chances are it would just sit and gather dust (well, if we admit that dust does gather in libraries), never to see the light of day. Not so anymore!

A map of the world indicating which countries users of SOAR@SU visit from.SOAR@SU is our online institutional repository. Current students are able to deposit their work – Honors and master’s theses, Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.) projects, education dissertations, and other substantial projects – into SOAR, making that work widely and freely available to anyone with an internet connection. We also have uploaded those theses submitted in the past for which we have received permission from the authors. SOAR additionally includes the work of faculty and staff who choose to deposit their scholarly works there as well as many items from the Nabb Center and University Archives.

The result of having SOAR available is that people all over the world can – and do – read our students’ work. D.N.P. projects have attracted readers from China, Finland, France, Germany, Finland, Hong Kong, Israel, South Korea and the United Kingdom. More than 2,500 people in the past couple of years have read master’s and Honors theses, and these include readers from Canada, China, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, India, Ireland and Israel.

Institutional repositories are one of the ways libraries contribute to a trend in the scholarly world known as “open access.” Rather than putting scholarship behind paywalls, such as subscriptions, the open access movement seeks to make scholarship available to anyone, anywhere, for free. The movement has its roots in the 1990s, when the World Wide Web made it possible to dream of sharing scholarship at minimal cost across the world. Now nearly a third (estimates vary greatly) of scholarly journal articles are published in some form of open access, and many universities make their students’ dissertations and theses freely available online.

SOAR@SU is part of MDSOAR, the Maryland Shared Open Access Repository, sponsored by our library consortium, known as USMAI, which stands for the University System of Maryland and Affiliated Institutions.

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