Four ways librarians are essential to the future of open textbooks and OER

When the Open Textbook Project started two years ago, librarians were identified as one of the important stakeholder groups with essential skills and insights to support faculty in finding and adopting quality open educational resources (OER).


BCcampus began a conversation with some interested librarians, and within a year convened an OER Librarians group committed to advocating OER in their institutions. That conversation culminated in an event this week at Douglas College giving librarians ideas, tools, and motivation for continuing to raise awareness in BC post-secondary institutions. Here are just four of the take-aways (from four of the speakers) from that gathering.

1. Librarians can assist faculty in working through the Creative Commons licensing process (Todd Mundle)

Todd Mundle is the University librarian for Kwantlen Polytechnic University. In his talk, he pointed out: “Faculty don’t have a lot experience with the Creative Commons process, and they look to librarians for answers to questions like: what’s going to be happening with my materials? What about my copyright?”

Librarians can help with those questions, and also help acquire resources, gain access and raise awareness of OER, engage with faculty and advocate for OER use. “We do have critical analysis skills as librarians,” he said.

Todd Mundle also told the group about the OER Librarians project to construct guides for use in institutions.

2. Librarians can help construct the unique messages – the elevator speeches – that are going to persuade decision makers (Quill West)

Quill West, the Washington librarian who spoke to the BCcampus Open Textbook summit last spring, once again delivered an engaging presentation to a B.C. audience. “What leadership in Open Education looks like – that’s something I’ve been interested in for a long time,” she said.

She started off with a TED talk by Derek Sivers: “How to start a movement,” in which he pointed out the real “leader” is actually the first follower of the “lone nut dancing with his shirt off.”

“Lots of people in post-secondary education feel like ‘lone nuts’ in advocating OER, but you’re not alone. Mixed nuts are better!” she said.

Ms. West’s main advice was to listen to faculty, students, and administrators, to find out what their concerns and needs are. Then, “construct the elevator speeches that address the issues in YOUR institution.” For instance, using the term “OER” for an audience not already aware of OER is a non-starter. Her project at Tacoma Community College was called “Liberate $250K” to drive home the message that open textbooks save students money, and provide more equitable access to education.

3. Librarians are embedded in their institutions in a unique way (Mary Burgess)

“Librarians are seen as the go-to resource by everyone in a post-secondary institution,” said Mary Burgess, BCcampus Acting Executive Director. “For instance: cataloguing and version control of the resources in our open textbook collection will become a challenge as the collection grows – and that’s something librarians could help with.”


4. Librarians can be a highly motivated, agile resource for textbook authors (Clint Lalonde)

When Clint Lalonde from BCcampus first organized a “textbook sprint” to create an open Geography text in four days, there was no librarian on the sprint team. At the urging of Erin Fields at UBC, Jon Strang was brought on board, and it made a huge difference in the outcome of the sprint.

“He had specialized knowledge in copyright,” Mr. Lalonde told the group. “He did a lot to get us Creative Commons-licensed materials. He got on the phone and persuaded many people to release resources under CC license. If he couldn’t, he would find other resources that were comparable. Not only that, but he kept a record of all the permissions we got over the four-day sprint.”

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Notable Quotes (from the Twitter feed that day):

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