The Robert E. Kennedy Library implemented a new policy this September that senior projects may now only be submitted to the library electronically through DigitalCommons, a new software that serves as a digital catalog for student projects. After having their work published through DigitalCommons, students will be able to search and find their project through any online search engine. The library will no longer be creating a microfiche catalog of senior projects. They were stored on a small card with micro images and text.
Before DigitalCommons was implemented, the old procedure began with students filling out a senior project requirement form and paying a $12 senior project fee to the cashier’s office. Each department collected the senior projects and sent them to the library to be cataloged. The senior projects were then sent to get microfiched. Two to four weeks later, the senior project returned to the library in its original form with two copies of the microfiche. After librarians filed one copy of the microfiche in the library’s senior project collection, they sent the original project along with the second copy of the microfiche back to the department. The department then had the responsibility of recording the senior projects and finding a place to store them.
Now the process is completely digital. After students pay their senior project fee and turn in a senior project requirement form to their department, they may upload their senior projects to DigitalCommons on the library’s Web site. The department then forwards a copy of the requirement form to Beaton, who makes the senior project public on DigitalCommons, allowing anyone searching for the project to find it through any web search engine
As the third California State University to implement a university-wide digital catalog, Cal Poly follows Humbolt State University and Cal Poly Pomona in creating electronic databases for graduate theses. With more than 170 electronic theses available on DigitalCommons, the university’s cyber storehouse software, Cal Poly has the second-largest collection of theses available online, second to Humbolt. Because Humbolt and Pomona do not require senior projects from their students they only store graduate theses while Cal Poly plans on storing both theses and senior projects. Digital repository librarian Marisa Ramirez hopes that Cal Poly will surpass all the CSUs in terms of having the most student projects digitally stored.
“We’re hoping to eclipse them,” she said.
Ramirez and senior project coordinator librarian Karen Beaton provided training sessions over summer to teach faculty and staff how to submit senior projects to the library. Since September, the library will no longer be accepting any form of senior projects besides those submitted electronically through DigitalCommons.
The Digital Commons software that the university is using to store the projects is a hosted system, meaning that the staff working to maintain the site at Cal Poly is small because most of the system maintenance is outsourced. The system is backed up every six hours and backed up again every week.
“We take digital access very seriously, but we also take digital preservation very seriously. Again, this is the record of scholarship that the students are doing. We find it very important to preserve it. That’s our role as librarians,” Ramirez said.
The librarians wanted to consider how this would disrupt each department’s procedures for submitting senior projects. Beaton and Ramirez were conscious of not disturbing each department’s current senior project policies and procedures.
“We did not want this to impact negatively the department workflow because we know every department is different and they know how to do their work the best,” said Ramirez. She said that during her training sessions to teach departments about the new process faculty and staff have been very positive about the change.
A few glitches that Ramirez and Beaton ran into while researching and implementing this project was the issue of copyright. If students do not want their work visible to anyone on the Web because their work is copyrighted, there are two levels of viewing access that the library permits students to choose from. The first level allows completely open access to the world. The second access lets students restrict access for a certain period of time due to patenting or propriety reasons.
Another issue of concern is submitting past students’ work. Ramirez expects that many graduates from last year will want to upload their senior projects to DigitalCommons. Alumni are allowed to submit their senior projects to the library using the new senior project submission process to have their project online.
Training sessions for student and faculty are continuing throughout the school year to teach students, faculty and staff the policies of submitting senior projects.