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The Treasure Trove

UNLV Libraries Digital Scholarship offers a wide-ranging repository of research coming out of the university, accessible to all.

Research  |  Nov 30, 2017  |  By Jason Scavone
Lied Library

Digital Scholarship@UNLV is a key initiative to share the university's research to anyone with an internet connection. (Aaron Mayes/UNLV Creative Services)

Seventy-eight thousand women’s fashion fans can’t be wrong.

If there’s a piece of scholarship that has a legitimate claim as UNLV’s academic ambassador around the globe, it turns out it’s Meghann Mason’s 2011 master’s thesis in theater, “The Impact of World War II on Women’s Fashion in the United States and Britain.” As for why? Well, that’s still unresolved.

But Andrea Wirth, a librarian and associate professor, suspects the subject resonates with a bloggers who focus on the era. “It gets mentioned in readings about fashion in WWII, so there's a blog post out there somewhere that mentions it along with a bunch of other references,” she said.

Wirth helps maintain Digital Scholarship@UNLV, the online repository of the university’s academic work that works hand-in-hand with Open Access — free online literature that isn't bound by most copyright restrictions.

“We don't actually know if that's the source of all these hits. But as long as I've been here for the last two years, (Mason’s thesis) has been here repeatedly at the top of the list.”

Mason's analysis of rayon and simplified silhouettes aside, Digital Scholarship provides access to anyone from any country to read UNLV’s scholarship, free of charge without access restrictions.

Faculty also have an opportunity to use Digital Scholarship for their work. Academic journals can be costly, and not every institution can afford to subscribe to every journal that may help faculty and students. Open Access offers an alternative.

For academics, contributing articles and other published works to Digital Scholarship may require navigating through a labyrinth of publishing rights. But Wirth and other librarians will do the heavy lifting here, working within copyright and publishers’ policies to deposit a legal, open access version into Digital Scholarship.

For example, using a database of publisher policies, Wirth knows which publishers allow UNLV authors to deposit an earlier version, like a peer-reviewed manuscript and which publishers allow the final version of an article to appear in UNLV’s online repository after a predetermined embargo period.

Not surprisingly, hot button topics garner the most traffic. “Cyberbullying in Schools: A Research Study on School Policies and Procedures,” a 2011 doctoral dissertation from Brian Wiseman is nearing 26,000 downloads; and master’s thesis “The Effects of Social Media Networks in the Hospitality Industry” by Wendy Lim has netted nearly 60,000 downloads since 2011.

Readership reports, available to participating authors and the library, demonstrate where that research is being downloaded. Including to Siberia, where one Russian institution was drawing on research from the College of Engineering.

“We think it supports the Top Tier initiative,” Wirth said. “It’s showcasing the research of faculty and students. We get some really cool data out of it. Faculty … department chairs or deans can look at their college or department or schoolwide usage across the board.”

Mason now works full time for Cirque du Soliel's KA and continues to do professional makeup and wigs as a freelancer for film, theater, and special events.