Mission, Goals, and History

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Our Mission

The Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations (NDLTD) is an international organization dedicated to promoting the adoption, creation, use, dissemination, and preservation of electronic theses and dissertations (ETDs). We support electronic publishing and open access to scholarship in order to enhance the sharing of knowledge worldwide. Our website includes resources for university administrators, librarians, faculty, students, and the general public. Topics include how to find, create, and preserve ETDs; how to set up an ETD program; legal and technical questions; and the latest news and research in the ETD community.

The NDLTD Brochure (PDF) is available here.

A short document on the 20th Anniversary of NDLTD. (PDF)

Our Goals

  • To be the leading international organization for promotion of ETDs worldwide.
  • To provide useful and innovative resources, standards, and technology for development of ETD programs.
  • To encourage institutions of higher education to use NDLTD resources and participate in NDLTD activities. 

Through the above activities:

  • We will support institutions of higher education to develop their own ETD programs by adopting the submission, collection, and archiving of electronic theses and dissertations to their own repositories and to international digital libraries and repositories.
  • We will support the Open Access movement.
  • We will raise the awareness at institutions of higher education of the benefits of ETDs, including:
    • the facilitation of the writing process for students,
    • the increased speed of sharing research methods and results,
    • the improved distribution of research methods and results through electronic publication and archiving, leading to improved graduate education and scholarship, and
    • the reduced costs of printing, processing, and storage.

Our History


The concept of electronic theses and dissertations (ETDs) was first discussed at a 1987 meeting in Ann Arbor, Michigan, organized by UMI and attended by representatives from Virginia Tech, the University of Michigan, and two small software companies—Toronto-based SoftQuad and Michigan-based ArborText. 

The project lay dormant for a few years, until 1991, when Virginia Tech’s Dean Gary Hooper financed further critical development.  Virginia Tech Computer Science professor Ed Fox and Graduate School dean John Eaton collaborated on the ETD project, investigating problems associated with production, archiving, and access. In the early 1990s, Fox and Hooper held a series of design and discussion meetings, working closely with the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI), the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS), UMI, and other interested groups. At the same time, the Virginia Tech University Library’s Scholarly Communications Project developed procedures and systems for processing, archiving, and providing public access to Virginia Tech’s graduate research works. 


In 1993, interest in electronic theses expanded with the inception of the Monticello Electronic Library Project (MEL), supported by the Southeastern Universities Research Association (SURA) and the Southeastern Library Network (SOLINET, now LYRASIS). Professor Fox became co-chair of the Working Group on Theses, Technical Reports and Dissertations within MEL. In 1994, at a SURA-funded workshop at Virginia Tech, participants chose Adobe’s Portable Document Format (PDF) and the Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML) for representation and archiving. And by 1996, SURA was backing implementation of these plans with a research, development, and dissemination effort—again, at Virginia Tech. 

The result of several years of intense collaborative work, the ETD db software that emerged from Virginia Tech in 1996 provided a complete ETD submission package from beginning to end. Other southeastern universities—including Auburn, Clemson, the University of Delaware, the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma State, Mississippi State, North Carolina State, and the University of West Virginia, helped to test the software. Since 1996 the software has been freely available to institutions around the world. 


Maintaining its leadership role, Virginia Tech also coordinated development and implementation of a distributed digital library system, so that ETDs from all participating institutions could be accessed easily. The system that was developed allowed browsing and searching based on institution, date, author, title, keywords, and full-text, as well as downloading for local reading or printing of ETDs worldwide. 

The principle investigators for the project at Virginia Tech were:

  • John Eaton, Associate Provost for Graduate Studies
  • Edward Fox, Professor of Computer Science and Associate Director for Research at the Computing Center, and
  • Gail McMillan, Director of Scholarly Communications, University Libraries 
  • Computer Science doctoral candidate Neil Kipp served as the project’s technical manager. 

This early effort to create a global digital library provided the conceptual framework for what became the Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations. 


The National Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations was established in 1996, directed by an informal steering committee. As its scope became international, the organization kept the acronym NDLTD, but changed its name to the Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations.

In 1998 interested institutions began meeting annually for what would become a series of symposia on electronic theses and dissertations sponsored by NDLTD and designed to help universities initiate ETD projects. The first symposium was held at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, and since then, the gatherings have taken place at universities in North America, Australia, and Europe, with the first European venue being Humboldt University in Berlin, in 2003.

In 2003, the NDLTD incorporated as a nonprofit 501(c) 3 charitable organization, with a set of bylaws. A board of directors replaced the steering committee and introduced a dues structure to provide organizational stability. 

Today, the NDLTD’s members include hundreds of universities around the world, as well as partner organizations, including: Adobe, the American Library Association, the Association of Research Libraries, the Coalition for Networked Information, the Joint Information Services Committee, OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Proquest/UMI, and Theses Canada—all working toward the goal of unlocking the benefits of shared knowledge for all.

Official Documents

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