This Focus on Global Resources newsletter features the dissertation collections developed and held by the Center for Research Libraries. For decades these holdings have supported scholarly research in almost every subject.
Scholars have been able to follow the evolving understanding of the human mind and personality through dissertations written in the early 20th century by students of medicine and philosophy at German universities.They have traced the dawning awareness of the impact of Arab migration from North Africa and the Middle East to Western Europe in the 1930s and 40s in the theses of scholars at the Universities of Paris and Lyon.Many of the 800,000 theses and dissertations in the CRL collection are available to North American scholars only through CRL.
Thanks to a marathon CRL cataloging effort, records for all of these works are now discoverable online. CRL continues to acquire dissertations and theses from universities outside North America. We are also following with interest initiatives to make graduate documents available online. Notable among these are the PQDT Full Text database of the UMI Dissertation Publishing service and the Open Access repositories emerging at universities and consortia in the UK, Germany, France, and elsewhere.
CRL recently did an analysis of the UMI collection as a case study under its National Science Foundation-funded Long-Lived Digital Collections project. The report of that study points out the benefits and limitations of the new service. Whether in paper or electronic format, dissertations and theses continue to be essential to scholarly research. CRL's methods for ensuring access to them will change but its commitment to fulfilling this need will persist.