Bound theses: should they stay or should they go?
Bound theses in the Jane Bancroft Cook library collection.

Bound theses: should they stay or should they go?

Exploring the past theses in the library is an integral part of the New College experience. But with talk of digitizing theses in the near future, students and faculty alike have expressed concerns about not having a physical copy of student work stored in the library.  As of this year, bound theses are an archival option for thesis students, but the push toward a totally digital archive still looms as budgeting gets progressively tighter. 

“Since binding the print theses is a cost to us, we have to request funding each year in order to do it,” Dean of the Library Dr. Brian Doherty said. “Over the past year, costs have increased and our binder is no longer picking up and delivering the bound theses. We are not sure how this will look going into the future.”

Some thesis students just want evidence of their hard work throughout their last year at New College archived in general.

“I think if there’s a record of it, then I’m fine with it,” thesis-student Omar Guerrero said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s physical or digital to me.”

 An entirely digital thesis database could create more space for newer books and ensure that weathering over time does not damage the theses.  Thesis-student Jenna Courtade works in the New College Student Alliance (NCSA) Archives and is in favor of digitalization.

“As someone who is interested in digital archiving, since we are moving in a more digital direction just in general, I feel like I’m not really mad about [digitalization],” Courtade said.  “Personally I understand why people would want them physically and I feel like it would be nice to have physical copy for myself, but it does take up storage.  Plus, if you look at some of the theses from the 60s, the ink is kind of fading because of how they were made.” 

The issue of correctly archiving theses is a concern as not all thesis work consists of 60 double-spaced pages.

“Particularly with the art history theses, with them all being digitized, some of them are just not formatted correctly with all the proper attachments, and some of them are just not available digitally,” third-year Hannah Gatof said. “Even though I think the idea of having all theses available digitally is a nice idea, it just hasn’t been done well enough thus far to force thesis students into only putting them online.  If there’s a physical book on the shelf then it’s not going anywhere.”

For some, the library is a place to document student work and the history of New College in a visible manner.

Digital theses have been an option since 2009.  Thesis students must submit their finished theses in PDF format to for them to be uploaded to the library’s digital repository, which also includes non-thesis digital resources.

“Submission of electronic theses is mandatory while submitting print theses is optional as it was last year,” Doherty said. “Students can mail or drop off their print copy of the thesis to be bound and housed in Cook Library. The guidelines for submitting print and electronic theses are here.”

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