Changing Patterns of Access
CRL's Demand Purchase Program enables patrons at member institutions to request purchases up to $2,000 annually in three areas: foreign dissertations, newspapers, and archival material. CRL attempts to acquire any non-U.S., non-Canadian doctoral dissertation requested by its members. Since the early 1990s, when electronic records were created for this program, CRL has received more than 10,000 requests for dissertations.
In the early years of the Demand Purchase Program, purchasing dissertations could be a time-consuming and frequently unsuccessful process. Changes in worldwide library operations since the beginning of the program have helped increase the fulfillment rate of these requests. Many libraries have digital archives of their dissertations. For dissertations not currently in digital archives, most university libraries have online catalogs and many also contribute records of their dissertation holdings to Worldcat, which makes verification faster and easier. More libraries have an established document delivery or reproduction service, with contact information somewhere on the library's Web site.
Online payment also helps speed the process of ordering and fulfillment. The program now exists in an odd time in terms of accessing the material. On one hand, many libraries are creating open access digital archives to their dissertations. Also, many authors are either posting their dissertations on personal web pages or are happy to provide us with an electronic copy free of charge.
On the other hand, many libraries are restricting access. The number of libraries from which we have recently purchased dissertations requiring a Thesis Declaration Form (TDF) or Copyright Declaration (CD) signed by the person requesting the dissertation has increased from two or three to more than 20. Some libraries require that we receive written permission from the author before we can acquire the dissertation. In the past year, we have had to locate 25 authors to do this. CRL remains committed to the Demand Purchase Dissertation program because it is one of the best ways to ensure that members are able to acquire the material they need for their own scholarship.