Digital Scholarship @ The Libraries

Inspiring innovative digital scholarship at the OSU Libraries and beyond

Category: Student scholarship

Hackathon in the Library 2014

With nearly double the students in attendance, this year’s hackathon was an overwhelming success.

What is a hackathon?

A hackathon is “an event in which computer programmers and others involved in software development, including graphic designers, interface designers and project managers, collaborate intensively on software projects.” A hackathon lasts anywhere from 8 hours to a couple of days, typically fueled by caffeine and pizza. In 2013 the first Ohio State hackathon was held for 24 hours. The full report from that hackathon is available here:

Why a hackathon at Ohio State?

The goal of the event was to foster a tech culture amongst students at Ohio State and cultivate technical talent in Columbus and the Ohio region. “OHI/O” — Ohio State’s Annual 36-hour Hackathon and programming contest was held Friday October 3rd through Sunday October 5th. Over 200 undergraduate and graduate student programmers built working software and demonstrated them to a live audience of students, faculty, and representatives from tech companies. Students competed for over $5000 in prizes and were judged on categories including technical difficulty, creativity, usefulness, and presentation. Projects ranged from music apps, to a Google Glass project that put people in context, to an app to check in which had applications in doctor’s offices as well as class room attendance. One team used a Raspberry Pi and inkjet printer motors to rake a zen garden.

Why is the library involved?

The Ohio State University Libraries are co-conceivers of this event because it positions student learning in a fast-paced environment. The libraries have the infrastructure in building spaces that can hold the participants, there is enough bandwidth within the library to handle the amount of traffic that the students require for their hackathon projects, and the library is open 24 hours, so little extra staff is needed and separate procedures are not required. Additionally, students have commented that they enjoyed the library support of this event and that it encouraged them to “think of the library as supporting their entire academic career- both for classes as well as for fun.”

Suggestions from some of the hackers this year included projects that might be in the queue for next year: “It would be cool if you guys had an app that everyone downloads before that sends SMS alerts or in app notifications like “It’s time for dinner!” or other important messages so that people who aren’t right next to the headquarters knows what is going on.

Other comments included: “Enjoyed the opportunity to build an application from start to finish. I learned a lot and truly understood how to apply my classroom/personal learnings.”

“I felt like I got a lot done and really accomplished something cool. I enjoyed working with my team. We will continue working on our project, so it helped us get off the ground.”

One of the changes this year was that we focused on providing a healthier culture around the hackathon. Mentors were on call round the clock to provide guidance and support. The timeline was extended from 24 hours to 36 hours, to allow for time to take a break, get some rest (and maybe, shower). The variety of food provided included healthy snacks from nuts to veggies, and all meals had options for dietary restrictions. While there was ample coffee, there were also other choices of beverages including tea, hot chocolate, and water.

A video of the event festivities is available here:

Demystifying ETDs: Anatomy of an ETD record

This is the final post in our “demystifying ETDs” series. The first post looked at the process for current ETDs, and the second looked at digitized theses and dissertations. This one will ‘dissect’ an ETD record in the OhioLINK ETD Center. As an example, we will look at one of the most frequently downloaded ETDs in the OhioLINK ETD Center: a dissertation by Charlotte Weber titled Making common cause?: western and middle eastern feminists in the international women’s movement, 1911-1948.


First, a note about accessing it: All ETDs may be accessed by a “Permalink,” which starts with “” This URL is used in the records in the Libraries’ catalog and OCLC’s WorldCat database. It is the URL that should be used whenever the ETD is cited in a bibliography or reference list.

The title and author’s name are near the top of the page. The Permalink is under the author’s name.

Then follows more information:

Year and degree: This line also includes the institution and major.  In this example, we have a doctoral dissertation written in 2003 at Oho State.  The author’s major was in history.

Abstract: This is a brief description or summary of the document. The initial display is truncated, but you can click “More” to see the whole abstract.

Committee: At minimum, as in this case, the advisor’s name is listed.  Authors often include the names of everyone who served on the committee (at OSU, this is usually three or four persons).

Pages:  This is simply a statement of how many pages are in the document.  This ETD has 236 pages.

Keywords: These are included at the discretion of the authors.  Many authors choose not to list any keywords or phrases.  The author in this example listed five keywords and phrases. Each term is hot-linked as a keyword search back into the ETD Center. As of this writing, the last keyword in this example, “orientalism,” is also used as a keyword by the authors of 17 ETDs from six OhioLINK institutions.

Recommended Citation: This area provides links to Refworks, RIS, and Mendeley (each of which may require a separate log-in). Clicking on the arrows next to “APA Citation,” “MLA Citation,” and “Chicago Citation,” will show the citation in each of these styles.  (N.B.: “Chicago” means “Chicago Manual of Style.”)  However, the citations don’t include the Permalink, which needs to be filled in manually.

Files: This line starts with the document number. All ETDs produced at OSU start with “osu”, which is followed by a string of numbers and the file type extension.  In this case “.pdf” for a PDF file.  The size of the file is in parentheses. Following the size, are “View”  (which opens another window to view the document) and “Download” (which automatically saves the document to the computer).  For an example of an ETD with multiple files, go to this ETD page.

Document number: As described above, all of Ohio State’s ETDs start with “osu”.

Download count: This is a counter of the number of times the documents has been downloaded. As of this writing, this ETD has been downloaded 163,920 times!

Then, near the bottom, there is a copyright statement, followed by the line, “This open access ETD is published by The Ohio State University and OhioLINK.”  All non-embargoed ETDs are openly accessible, meaning that the ETD Center is crawled and indexed by Google and other search engines.

Demystifying ETDs: Digitized theses and dissertations

This is the second of three posts on demystifying electronic theses and dissertations (ETDs). The first post looked at the process for submitting, approving, and making available current ETDs by OSU students. This one examines the process used to provide access to older, print theses and dissertations.


Several years ago, OSU implemented a program to digitize “pre-ETD” theses and dissertations.  Although there are several factors and flows involved, the main drivers for this program are increased accessibility, preservation, and interlibrary lending. The university makes these works available for the purposes of research and scholarship.

Digitizing and submitting

The basic flow for digitized ETDs is this: A document is requested for interlibrary lending or otherwise identified for digitizing. A copy is pulled from the stacks, notes are entered into the record for that copy, which is then made unavailable for further requests. It is scanned to a PDF file, which is then submitted by a Libraries staff member to the OhioLINK ETD Center using the same process that current ETD authors use for theirs. The Graduate School sees that it is an older document, checks for machine-generated errors, and releases it to the ETD Center.

Making discoverable

Catalogers receive notification emails for the digitized ETDs just as they do for the current ones. These older documents already have records in the catalog and WorldCat, so these records are updated to include the URL for the online copy.

Next time…

The last post in this series will look at the anatomy of an ETD record in the OhioLINK ETD center.

Demystifying ETDs: Current theses and dissertations

Image by flickr user quinnanya, CC BY-SA

Image by flickr user quinnanya, CC BY-SA

The quantity of student-produced scholarship and research here at Ohio State is staggering. The oldest Ohio State thesis/dissertation dates from the late 1890s.  Since then, more than 82,000 theses and dissertations have been written by OSU students and deposited with or had access provided through the Libraries. Since Autumn 2002, all doctoral dissertations have been required to be electronically submitted to the OhioLINK ETD Center.  (“ETD” means “electronic theses and dissertations”.) The requirement for electronic deposit to the ETD Center was extended to masters theses (except for those in Creative Writing) in 2009.

In addition to the required electronic submission of new theses and dissertations, the OSU Libraries are digitizing older theses and dissertations to make them more accessible, and in some cases as a means of preserving and presenting the contents of crumbling documents that can no longer be safely physically handled. These documents are also added to the ETD Center.

This is the first in a series of  three posts demystifying the process by which Ohio State ETDs are submitted and made available online. This post looks at current ETDs, the next will examine the process for digitizing and making available historic ETDs, and the third will examine the anatomy of a record in the ETD Center.

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Library acquisitions and ETDs

It’s been an interesting week in digital scholarship. The American Historical Society’s “Statement on Policies Regarding the Embargoing of Completed History PhD Dissertations” kicked off a firestorm of comment and criticism. Public discussion has taken place on Twitter and any number of blogs, and has encompassed everything from the role of the AHA to the selection policies of university presses and the plight of junior scholars in the humanities. A very timely recent article in C&RL (“Do Open Access Electronic Theses and Dissertations Diminish Publishing Opportunities in the Social Sciences and Humanities? Findings From a 2011 Survey of Academic Publishers”) provided some useful backdrop for the discussion, as have personal statements by history scholars (Jennifer Guiliano’s was particularly interesting) and thoughtful commentary by librarians and others (Kevin Smith at Duke University is, as always, worth a read).

One voice that has been largely missing, however, has been that of library acquisitions. What libraries will and will not buy would seem to be the linchpin of the whole discussion: Scholars are afraid to make their dissertations openly available because presses won’t publish them. Presses won’t publish them because libraries won’t buy them. Or will they? The policies and motivations of acquisitions librarians seem to be the least well-explored aspect of the whole situation, so I asked Dracine Hodges, the Head of the Acquisitions Department at the OSU Libraries, to respond to a few questions. I think her answers shed some light on what goes into an academic library’s decision to buy a book – or not, as the case may be.

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Engineering Undergrad Posters – Headed Your Way

Ever go to an event and end up creating work for yourself – and others?  Well, just that happened to me just over a year ago.

I was invited to view the student posters for CETI (CERCS for Enterprise Transformation and Innovation) student projects.  These were some very interesting projects – one of which I even referred to a colleague in preservation.  Eventually, a thought popped into my head – “Knowledge Bank!”

Undergrads have been contributing items like honors theses to the KB for some time, and I thought these items would be great to put in there as well.  The posters show major research projects these students worked on.  They also highlight Ohio State’s work with industry (companies and government agencies) from around the world.  The students should be proud of this work and  may want to point to it for years to come.

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