Late in 2016 Florida International University’s Digital Collections Librarian, Rebecca Bakker, began a lofty and ambitious project: seeking permissions from over 4,300 alumni to post their theses and dissertations to FIU Digital Commons. The repository now includes about 80% of the works she has investigated.
Much of the project was detective work, including searching campus records, LinkedIn and social media profiles, and a variety of other tools. Most interesting were the responses Rebecca received. Some former students were perplexed that she was able to locate them, some politely declined, and others were thrilled to be included. One of Bakker’s favorites was from the family member of a deceased nurse, beloved by her family and colleagues: “Thank you for contacting us regarding my mother’s thesis for her masters in dietetics. We were all very proud, on the day of her graduation, of her accomplishment which for that time period was not a common event for a mother of three to return to school for a Masters degree. We are thrilled to hear that her thesis will be digitized and grant you permission to proceed. In return if you could be so kind to send us a digital copy for our records.”
Bakker detailed her project in a presentation at last year’s Digital Commons Southeast User Group IR Day, describing working with the institution’s general council to determine what permission from alumni would look like, to the wide variety of ways that Bakker located authors, to the messages she sent and the ways she tracked responses. Take a look!