Archiving and Storage

In all of the universities participating in the ETDs Initiative, libraries are responsible for maintaining accessibility by ensuring that files produced by outmoded or obsolete applications are translated into newer media as necessary. That has resulted in the creation of new positions or added responsibilities for many library staff members and administrators. The move from paper to electronic versions of theses and dissertations has been possible only through expenditures of time and money on the part of library and information sciences programs. That need for more resources, however, is not unique to ETDs. Libraries are devoting resources to digitizing all kinds of information, not only ETDs, but traditionally published works as well. While some fear that all the work being done to digitize information will be lost with the next major change in technology, in fact, software publishers in recent years have been careful to assure that newer versions of software usually accommodate files produced by older versions. Thus it is not likely that changes in technology will make ETDs inaccessible.

ETDs are easily backed up, so the risk of losing information is minimal. ETDs stored electronically are less likely to be damaged than their print counterparts, since they have no physical form to yellow and decay with age, and since loaning out a copy does not include relinquishing the original. And advances in technology have made possible increases in electronic storage capacity (such as advances in file compression technology and the availability of larger hard drives) that substantially lower costs. The storage potential of libraries may increase exponentially. IBM recently donated a server with four terabytes of hierarchical storage (or 40,000 gigabytes) to the Virginia Tech pilot project on ETDs, "enough for about 40 million average-sized ETDs" (Fox et al. 1997). That one server could accommodate all existing theses and dissertations worldwide in just a fraction of its memory capacity.