One million downloads and counting
McMaster University Library’s Digital Commons has surpassed one million full-text downloads.
Originally conceived as an online space for faculty members to archive and share their research outcomes and work in progress, the Digital Commons has evolved to support a range of content and academic activities.
While the overwhelming amount of content in the Commons is theses written by McMaster graduate students, other publications include student Major Research Papers (MRPs), multimedia projects (in print and other formats), conference papers and presentations, published articles and McMaster calendars (undergraduate and graduate) – totaling more than 16,000 records.
Ann Herring, a professor in anthropology, is one faculty member who has embraced the use of the Digital Commons as a way to introduce her students to research and publishing.
Herring’s fourth-year capstone course, entitled “The Anthropology of Infectious Disease,” requires students to research an epidemic in the 19th or 20th century that affected the local Hamilton community.
In the winter 2012 semester, students conducted research on cholera. For some, the original research led them to primary sources such as Anglican burial registers found in the University Library’s Archives and Research Collections. By the end of the course, each student had written an article and become one of the proud authors of the book Ch2olera: Hamilton's Forgotten Epidemics.
This most recent book is one of six to originate from Herring’s course over the years.
A small number of copies are printed and sold at Titles Bookstore, and copies are also placed in the collections of the University Library, the Hamilton Public Library and the National Library of Canada. Primary exposure, however, is through the Digital Commons.
According to Herring, the Digital Commons helps showcase student research and makes it widely available, which may be beneficial when applying for graduate schools, scholarships and jobs. It also makes the information available at no cost to the people of Hamilton.
Herring says the course puts into practice a “very important part of the training and ethics in anthropology which involves giving information back to the community.” She adds that “so much can be done with the Digital Commons in terms of putting up material and making it available.” In order to keep track of the usage of each book, Herring relies on the monthly emails that she receives automatically via Digital Commons.
Members of the McMaster community are invited to deposit completed scholarly work, work in progress and university-created materials to the Digital Commons. In addition to preserving the item, providing a permanent link and generating a recommended citation, the Digital Commons will make the content searchable and accessible, worldwide. To date, the site has received visits from individuals in over 150 countries.