Since the beginning of August CAUT has received a deluge of calls and e-mails from its members expressing their concern over the commercial sale of Canadian theses through Contentville.com.
For many years graduate students have provided copies of their theses to the National Library of Canada on the understanding that the library would make the material available on a non-commercial basis to the academic community. The program has received wide support because it created a large and accessible body of public knowledge. The library contracted distribution to UMI Dissertations Publishing, now a division of Bell & Howell. UMI has in turn subcontracted the use of Canadian theses and dissertation material to Contentville.com, which this July began selling Canadian theses on the Internet.
CAUT believes that the promotion of Canadian scholarship is not well served by the costly for-profit commercial system that the arrangement with the American UMI/Contentville represents and in mid-August asked the National Library to sever its relationship with private corporations.
In response to complaints by graduate students and faculty, Contenville announced in late August that it would cease distributing Canadian theses in the near future. The same day, CAUT sent the following letter to David Balatti, director for bibliographic services at the National Library. ed.
CAUT has learned that Contentville.com has, as a result of the outcry from Canadian graduate students and academics, decided to remove all Canadian dissertations and theses from the offerings on its web site within the next several weeks.
The removal of this material creates the opportunity for the National Library to arrange a more affordable and accessible alternative. The Contentville decision adds urgency to our request that the National Library set up a consultative committee on this matter as soon as possible. That committee should include all interested parties and should work expeditiously to develop a model of non-profit theses distribution that all stakeholders can agree is appropriate.
Please let us know your plans as soon as possible. We look forward to working closely with the library in this endeavour.
James L. Turk
Executive Director, Canadian Association of University Teachers