Aug. 30, 2007
eCommons, née DSpace, is eclectic, esoteric and expanding
Not long ago, wandering into DSpace, Cornell's online digital repository, was like exploring that dusty room in the basement of the town library, full of zoning maps and town council minutes from the early 1900s. There were gems here and there, but you had to know where to look.
Now Cornell librarians have moved everything upstairs, dusted it off, put a new sign on the door and, most importantly, added a lot of new stuff. What once was known as DSpace has become eCommons@Cornell, an expanding repository for Cornell research and scholarship.
"It's important to have a place to capture, preserve and make accessible the digital output of the university," says John Saylor, interim associate university librarian for scholarly communication and collections and chair of the committee that overhauled DSpace.
eCommons can contain images, audio, video and datasets. Researchers and scholars can use the repository to post preprints of journal articles, supporting material associated with published articles, book chapters or anything else they want to make available. If necessary, some material can be posted with limited access. The repository is indexed by major search engines.
eCommons is eclectic and often esoteric. You'll find, for instance:
eCommons also is filled with Cornell history, including departmental histories and oral history interviews. Much of this will be found in Internet First Publishing, a venture launched by J. Robert Cooke, Cornell professor emeritus of biological and environmental engineering, which offers full-text books for reading online free or to be printed for a fee. Along with several scholarly treatises and how-to books, the collection includes histories of agricultural economics, animal science, animal husbandry, physics and computing at Cornell and a reprint of Carl Becker's 1943 classic, "Cornell University: Founders and the Founding." Internet First also offers videos that can be viewed online or purchased as DVDs, including retrospectives on Nobelist Hans Bethe and Cornell President Emeritus Dale Corson and a Schwartz Center production of "Antigone."
Top 10 most viewed items in eCommons:
1) How Do I Do This in ArcGIS/Manifold?: Illustrating Classic GIS Tasks by Arthur Lembo (17,747 views)
2) Nonlinear dynamics and chaos: Lab demonstrations by Steven Strogatz (17,288 views)
3) "I Can Do That!" Hans Bethe's First 60 Years at Cornell (video) (13,350 views)
4) Report of the CUL Task Force on Open Access Publishing presented to the Cornell University Library Management Team Aug. 9, 2004, by Phil Davis (12,832 views)
5) New Concepts of Cattle Growth by Berg and Butterfield (10,359 views)
6) Lecture Notes on Fracture Mechanics by Alan Zehnder (9,943 views)
7) The Changing Nature of the Catalog and Its Integration With Other Discovery Tools: Draft 2B by Karen Calhoun (8,206 views)
8) Chapter 2 - Figures and Tables by Daniel Loucks (8,100)
9) Calculating the Cost per Article in the Current Subscription Model by Phil Davis (7,647)
10) Barbecued Chicken and Other Meats by Robert Baker (7,040)
An archive of Cornell publications includes 102 issues of Cornell Engineering Quarterly, the Cornell Alumni News (now Cornell Alumni Magazine) going back more than 100 years and the Cornell Chronicle from its first issue in 1969 plus its predecessor, Cornell Reports (1967-68).
Saylor is working toward the mandatory deposit of graduate theses, which is currently optional for students. To date, 605 Cornell theses have been voluntarily deposited in eCommons.
The dusty old gems are still there, and worth a look. For instance, anyone interested in the ideas that led to the founding of Cornell as a "secular" university might want to read the two-volume "A History of the Warfare of Science With Theology" by Andrew Dickson White, which is available as a PDF.
eCommons is managed by Cornell University Library, currently using free, open-source software known as DSpace, developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It was brought to Cornell by Cooke, Kenneth M. King, former Cornell vice provost for computing, and the late Ross Atkinson, associate university librarian for collections. A grant from the Atlantic Philanthropies supported much of the digitization of Cornell publications and collection of local history. The library is exploring ongoing university support.