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ETSU digital repository has world-reaching effect

Matthew Lane • Jun 1, 2018 at 2:45 PM

Kids these days don’t realize just how good they have it.

The entire history of human existence is in the palm of their hand ... literally. You don’t have to pull out a dictionary to check your spelling, you don’t have to fire up the microfiche machine to track down an elusive magazine article and you don’t have to thumb through a card catalog to locate a book on botany.

When I attended college, this was how we did research. And if I wanted to read another student’s thesis or dissertation, I had to physically use a bound edition of these papers, typically found in the library or a main office.

Today, many of these scholarly works are online. And they’re getting quite a bit of attention from around the world.

At East Tennessee State University, more than 6,000 student and faculty works — everything from theses, dissertations, journal articles and more — can be found online at the university’s Digital Commons site (dc.etsu.edu).

The site is an open-access institutional repository with the goal being to collect, preserve and disseminate the scholarly and creative works of ETSU’s students and faculty. Recently, the site reached an impressive milestone of logging 2 million downloads of its material.

Ashley D.R. Sergiadis, a digital scholarship library and assistant professor who oversees the repository, said theses and dissertations are downloaded more often than you might think.

“A lot of kids come from Google or Google Scholar (a search engine for scholarly works), so if someone is searching for a term in a term paper, they may stumble across one of ours,” Sergiadis said.

The Digital Commons site allows users to browse the collections, journals, and the books and works by faculty and staff. The dissertations date back to 1972, while the theses are more recent. Plans call for additional material to added as much as possible. There’s also a wheel-shaped graphic that has the areas of study sorted by color, you can see the Top 10 downloads, a list of recent additions and the Paper of the Day.

One of the coolest features is a map that drops pins showing the location of the latest download. While I was researching this story, a reader from Turkey was interested in the language of mathematics. Another reader, this time from Vancouver, wanted to know more about nutrition counseling.

Sergiadis said downloads have originated from more than 220 countries, with the most coming from the United States, Philippines, United Kingdom, India, Canada and Australia. The most frequently downloaded work, “The Effects of Character Education on Student Behavior,” has been accessed more than 51,700 times.

That might not sound like causal reading for most people, but what started in 2012 as simply a way to get theses and dissertations online has since grown into a site that’s accessed by thousands of people from around the world every month, interested in what the students and faculty at ETSU have to say.

“It’s about showing off what our faculty and students are doing at ETSU. It’s a great promotion and recruitment took as well,” Sergiadis said.

Agreed, which is why there are plans to do even more with the site, as in adding audio and visual material, along with more journals, conference resources and faculty profiles.

Good job, ETSU. Keep up the good work.

Matthew Lane covers Kingsport city government for the Times News.

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