OER Outreach for Newbies, Part III: Embracing the Messiness

This post is the third in a three-part series devoted to OER outreach (here are the first and second posts). I’ll use this post to advocate for more transparency from the library open education community in order to encourage OER newbies to take risks and share mistakes.

The most important thing I’m going to do moving forward is be open about my OER work—both the pretty parts and the ugly parts. Emily Drabinksi has acknowledged that the stumbling blocks of our work often don’t make the cut as conference proposals. They aren’t flashy or impressive. But they’re important. So I’d like to ask: how can we, as a community of librarians, make our OER work more open?

Many (though not all) of the OER sessions I’ve attended, particularly those that were facilitated by librarians, have been success stories. These sessions usually focus on (currently) high buy in from stakeholders and administration, high adoption rates, and increasing infrastructure. These sessions can be incredibly intimidating to someone new to OER outreach. Moreover, they privilege product over process and hide the messiness, the mistakes, and the misunderstandings—the work that I believe is most important for us to share in order to grow as a community.

As an example, Eleta Exline, the Scholarly Communication Coordinator at University of New Hampshire, shared tips and “what I wish I would have known”s with me before I started our OER stipend program and, as a result, I was able to think proactively and improve logistics before the program was even announced. Eleta encouraged me to create OER support teams for our recipients and brainstorm opportunities for the recipients to build a community and cross-pollinate by sharing successes, failures, and stumbling blocks with each other throughout the semester. Our faculty have a much more robust and thoughtful support structure in place because of her. For this reason, I’ve been explicit about what I wish I would have done differently here on ACRLog (for everyone to read!) but I also hope to continue to share moments of learning through Twitter and possibly conferences.

Perhaps one of the most important (and frankly disappointing) things I’ve learned as a new librarian is that academic librarianship can sometimes be an exclusive, impermeable club where our hiring practices enable us to swap superstars back and forth and our conference decisions mean that the same people are asked keynote again and again. We don’t always make entry and success easy for those new to the field or a specific area, like open education. I’m not yet embedded in the open education community to know if the same is true there. But I want to continually ask myself: am I making space for new voices? If I have an opportunity to lift up someone new to this area, do I? How do I privilege the same voices, knowingly or unknowingly? We need both transparency (the tools newbies need to get started) and inclusivity (the space newbies need to learn, grow, fail, and most importantly, share).

4 thoughts on “OER Outreach for Newbies, Part III: Embracing the Messiness

  1. I’ve enjoyed reading your series on OER and i hope that gets more academic librarians thinking about the possibilities

    With respect to sharing mistakes or pointing to better ways to engage in a textbook affordability initiative, at the recent CNI conference in a panel session (with alison armstrong of OSU and kevin stranack of Simon Frasure U) on “partnering for textbook affordability” I started off my presentation by letting attendees know I wasn’t nearly strategic enough when starting our alt-textbook project. I just jumped into it. But had I been more strategic in building partnerships – the start might have been delayed a bit – but we would have made more progress in less time. Then I recommended five institutional strategies that could prevent others from making my mistake. So there may be other OER talks where people are sharing mistakes or “don’t do it the way I did it” information. It probably gets less attention than the success stories.

    I think the SPARC LibOER informal network is very inclusive. Anyone can join the list and then find out when the monthly phone conferences are. There are librarians from all types of institutions. From my experience it has been a great forum for the transparent sharing of information.

  2. Robert and Sandra, thanks for your encouragement! I’m so glad that these posts were helpful to you.

    Steven– thanks for sharing an example of this. It’s really encouraging to hear that sharing “mistakes” has been welcomed in venues like CNI. I would really like to see as many of these stories as the success stories. Both are useful! +1 on what you say about the SPARC OER forum. I’ve never participated in a call but the forum itself is extremely helpful.

    Thanks again for reading and engaging with me while I think through this.

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