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As UBC’s institutional repository, cIRcle houses the published and unpublished intellectual outputs from the UBC community. Currently, more than 51,000 theses and dissertations are archived in cIRcle in our UBC Theses and Dissertations collection, with the oldest dating back to 1919. While pre-internet theses and dissertations were primarily text-based, in recent decades students have developed more diverse components to their theses and dissertations. As theses outputs evolved, materials created as part of thesis work became both easier to preserve and more integral to the long-term intellectual value of the thesis. However, compatibility issues with other systems, such as the Theses Canada portal managed by Library and Archives Canada (LAC), resulted in a workaround that separated these materials from the primary thesis into a companion collection named, ‘Supplementary Thesis Materials and Errata’ which contributed to administrative workload and impacted discovery and access.
Recently, a solution has been implemented and all related thesis files have been consolidated into a single access point. This blog post will share some insights into the relationship between UBC’s theses and dissertations and Library and Archives Canada, as well as some highlights about our process of migrating files from one collection to another and decommissioning the Supplementary Thesis Materials and Errata collection.
Institutional context & national connection
Previously, UBC’s theses and dissertations were harvested by Library and Archives Canada (LAC) for discovery in the Theses Canada portal using the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH). Until recently, the LAC harvester could only accept records containing a single PDF file. Because of this limitation, a supplementary thesis materials submission workflow was created to house additional files created by UBC students to accompany their theses and dissertations in a separate collection. The two resulting records were linked by adding the corresponding persistent URL in the Description field.
LAC harvesting of UBC theses and dissertations was suspended in 2016 while LAC investigated and tested a new harvester. In recent years, cIRcle has been working with LAC and our repository software service provider on technical modifications to meet LAC’s harvesting requirements. In March 2023, a test harvest of a small sample (each containing multiple files and types), was successfully completed by LAC. Following the successful test, the cIRcle Office began the work of connecting theses and dissertations to their accompanying files.
File migration process
With the aim of decommissioning the Supplementary Thesis Materials and Errata collection by July 31, 2023, cIRcle’s Digital Repository Librarian (Technical Lead), Digital Repository Specialist, and Digital Repository Research Assistant took a collaborative approach to perform file migration and item record updates. Working together, more than 170 item records containing thesis and dissertation materials were merged with their primary thesis or dissertation record over the course of 3 weeks.
In carrying out this work, it was important to us that users could continue to access theses and dissertations in cIRcle and that thesis and dissertation materials were not deleted or misplaced during the migration process.
Migrating files from one record to another was straightforward but required detailed attention and careful management of files and metadata. After downloading all of the supplementary files for a thesis or dissertation, the cIRcle team member then re-uploaded them to the primary thesis or dissertation record. Maintaining the order of files from the supplementary record was important, as the order of files generally align with the progression of the primary thesis or dissertation file. Because these two records were previously linked by adding the supplementary item record’s persistent URL to the thesis or dissertation’s Description, the team member also had to remove the link and update the primary item record’s metadata to reflect the fulsome record. Finally, after all files were moved from the supplementary record to the primary thesis or dissertation record, the supplementary record was withdrawn from cIRcle so that access to its previously associated files would only occur through the primary thesis or dissertation record.
Benefits for students, past and future
The decommissioning of the supplementary thesis materials submission workflow and associated collection in cIRcle marks an important step for the development and use of theses and dissertations at UBC. Accessing supplementary materials previously could be challenging, since navigating between item records to experience the entirety of a thesis or dissertation introduced accessibility issues and limitations on how students could express their research outputs. Redesigning the LAC harvester to allow for multi-file theses reduced the need for separate, but connected, thesis and dissertation collections. Now, all thesis and dissertation records hold all of the components of a student’s research, regardless of which accepted formats they take.
Next Steps for UBC Theses and Dissertations in cIRcle
With the work of consolidating thesis and dissertation materials complete, the next step is re-starting harvest by LAC to ensure all the merged theses files display and function properly in the Theses Canada portal. We have also begun the process of reviewing our associated submission guides (Uploading Electronic Theses and Dissertations and Uploading Electronic Creative Arts Theses and Dissertations). Our goals include making the guide workflows more streamlined and accessible for graduate student submitters.
cIRcle Guide – Uploading Electronic Theses and Dissertations: https://wiki.ubc.ca/Library:Circle/Uploading_Electronic_Theses_and_Dissertations
cIRcle Guide – Uploading Electronic Creative Arts Theses and Dissertations: https://wiki.ubc.ca/Library:Circle/Uploading_Electronic_Creative_Arts_Theses_and_Dissertations
Library and Archives Canada: https://library-archives.canada.ca/eng/Pages/Home.aspx
Library and Archives Canada – Information for Universities: https://library-archives.canada.ca/eng/services/services-libraries/theses/Pages/information-universities.aspx
Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting: https://www.openarchives.org/pmh/
UBC Theses and Dissertations: https://open.library.ubc.ca/cIRcle/collections/ubctheses