The Washington and Lee University Library has long served as permanent repository for honors theses and similar research projects produced by W&L students. In fact, the library catalog records over 1,200 such theses, dating back to the late 19th century. These printed materials reside in the University Archives, within the library’s Special Collections area.
During the past academic year the University Library began work on a project to digitize students’ honors theses from the Class of 2010, making as many as possible available online. We hope this development will make our students’ research more accessible and will serve to guide and inspire future W&L students.
The initial results of this project are available through the library Web site.
The legal, technical, and professional issues associated with posting such material on the Web are myriad. In particular, legal concerns require that the theses’ authors – our students – agree to this global sharing of their work. This is no small matter, since their intellectual work will become retrievable around the world via Google and other Internet search engines. And, indeed, some thesis authors preferred to limit online access to only W&L campus researchers or to not have their content made available online at all. We are very grateful for the invaluable help of Jennifer Kirkland, W&L’s Associate General Counsel for Compliance Support , in guiding us through this legal maze.
The scorecard thus far: We received 27 theses, of which 8 will be fully available online, while 10 will be restricted online to only current W&L researchers. The remaining 9 will be represented online by a title page, with full-text content available only in printed form in the library’s Special Collections.
This is just the first year of what we hope will be a long-term effort to digitize and share online W&L student scholarship for the benefit of our students and the University. No doubt, our experience with this first digital generation of honors theses will help to guide us in future projects. Accordingly, the University Library is very interested in the comments, questions, and suggestions of the W&L community about this and future digital projects.
This collection is the second major project of the Washington and Lee Digital Repository, which is intended to “collect, preserve, share, and enhance the use of selected materials owned or created by Washington and Lee University and members of its community, by making these materials available in a digital format.”