Reflecting on Open Access Week as a First-Year Academic Librarian

As an Affordability & Digital Initiatives Librarian, planning, hosting, and executing events and workshops on campus for Open Access Week is an essential part of my position. For those unfamiliar with Open Access Week, Open Access Week is a designated week, typically towards the end of October, to celebrate and spread awareness of the open access movement. This year’s theme was “Community over Commercialization.” I did not incorporate the theme into the programming primarily because I want to center our events around the university’s Affordability Initiative.

Monday

We started the week off with a celebration of affordability and open access on our campus. The purpose of the event was to highlight accomplishments made throughout the past year, such as increased use of Open Educational Resources (OER) and submissions to our Institutional Repository (IR). Next, I hosted a workshop on OER adoption, adaptation, and creation with my new faculty cohort. During the workshop, we discussed the impact OER has on equity as well as resources for finding and creating OER. New faculty were intrigued by OER and expressed interest in exploring what is available in their field. I hosted the same workshop for all faculty in the afternoon. Interestingly, this workshop sparked more of a discussion regarding Creative Commons and self-publishing.

Tuesday

On Tuesday, my colleague and I hosted two launch parties for our new sponsored affordability development opportunities, one in-person and one virtual.  We were promoting the launch of the textbook affordability self-paced course we created on D2L Brightspace (our LMS).  The course was designed for faculty to strengthen their knowledge about the open movement, pathways to open authoring, and research related to textbook affordability and OER.  Additionally, we were promoting our new program in which faculty could apply and receive sponsorship to adopt, adapt, or create OER.

Wednesday

Wednesday was dedicated to the Institutional Repository.  My colleague hosted an event regarding the role of the IR on campus.  He also encouraged faculty to bring their CVs to see how they could contribute to the IR.

Thursday

On Thursday, I hosted a small panel event about the power of self-publishing your expertise.  The panelists were faculty with experience creating OER and had all authored at least one textbook.  The panelist offered great insight into the process of self-publishing in varying disciplines.

Friday

To conclude the week, I hosted affordability and faculty collaboration hours.  These hours give faculty a chance to meet with me directly and discuss where to search for OER, how to navigate Creative Commons, how to make textbook selections for the bookstore, etc.


Reflection

Unfortunately, attendance for almost every event was lower than I had hoped.  Most of the events were held in-person in the library.  Next year, I would try doing more virtual events that could be recorded and sent to those interested.  I also wondered if the time of day was a factor in the low attendance.  We varied the times in hopes of reaching as many people as possible, but the inconsistency in time might have been a deterrent. 

An idea for next year would be to incorporate events or activities for students.  Our library’s student advisory board did hand out snacks to students on Wednesday and told them about our Textbooks on Reserve program and textbook donation drive; however, I think we could do more.  An opportunity to connect with students and amplify their voice on the topic of textbook affordability and open access would be beneficial to our Affordability Initiative.

Lastly, not having experience coordinating a week full of campus events, I was thankful to have the support of the University Library’s Dean’s Office.  They scheduled rooms, ordered refreshments, organized swag (pens, stickers, water bottles, keychains, etc.), and coordinated social media posts throughout the week advertising events, highlighting campus affordability champions, and listing resources to adopt, adapt, and create OER.  I could not have survived the week without their help.

State OER Policies on the Rise

This post is from a guest poster, Emma Wood. Emma (she/her), is the Scholarly Communication Librarian at UMass Dartmouth.

As a Scholarly Communication Librarian, I have been thinking a lot about how best to expand Open Educational Resources (OER) awareness and use on campus. The key for OER success in higher education seems to be quite simple – administrative support. OER advocates, librarians, and faculty members encourage OER through committees, faculty stipend programs, workshops, panels, OA publisher agreements, and the list goes on, but the path forward is easier to traverse once these efforts grab the attention of provosts and administrators, those who can offer sustainability to these projects and address structural barriers such as policies or operational norms that hinder progress. The same is true when scaling up to the state level; universities’ OER success is bolstered by government support. Ultimately that recognition cycles back to librarians and other advocates working on the ground floor – each level powering the other.

Open Educational Resources (OER) have earned the attention of state legislatures because of their cost-savings to students, and because data has shown the positive impact of OER on student success indicators.  Students achieve higher grades when they have consistent access to the required reading from day one of class. There are compelling equity considerations in favor of OER as well from the standpoint of access for all students regardless of socioeconomic background as well as increased diversity in OER authorship. According to SPARC, 11 states have OER-related bills in the current legislative session. 28 states have enacted OER policies in some form. Many are appropriations bills that deploy funds to incentivize and increase OER usage. Some states have committed money to OER directives that establish an OER committee or state-wide OER program which may include initiatives such as OER training and incentives for educators.

In Massachusetts we have an OER Advisory Council launched by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education (DHE). The council is composed of one representative from each of the state’s public institutions of higher education, community colleges as well as 4-year universities. The committee seeks opportunities to fund OER in the state, provides trainings, discusses trends and strategy, and more. Further, MA public institutions of higher education report to the DHE annually on their OER cost-savings to students.

The most efficient way to collect OER cost-savings data is with a course marking system. Course marking, sometimes referred to as course flagging, is a system of transparency that indicates to students which courses require free or low-cost materials instead of traditional textbooks. In a nutshell, faculty members check a box to inform the registrar that their course uses free or low-cost resources, and the course is flagged as such in the course catalog where students choose their classes. This transparency helps students to make an informed decision about their course load when the cost of materials may be prohibitive to them.

Although MA does not currently have legislation that requires course marking, this data collection by the DHE may compel state schools to implement course marking systems. Some states have made course marking mandatory. Oregon’s course marking legislation passed in 2021 and went into effect January 01, 2022. The law “requires each public university and community college to prominently display, or establish link to website that displays, estimated costs of all required course materials and directly related course fees for no less than 75 percent of total for-credit courses offered by public university or community college.”

The increase in OER policies and legislation is reflective of the momentum that the OER movement has built over the years. OER is no longer a new concept, and worries about quality of content have fallen away as three little letters (OER) have proven themselves to be a mighty force capable of breaking barriers. All of the kudos to the wonderful people who pushed for open course materials when the topic was less mainstream, maybe even controversial on some campuses, and paved the way for OER to reach the administrative and state level. We are at a zenith point for OER now that Open Educational Resources are included in policy-making conversations and educational infrastructure. With that upsurge in OER on college campuses, comes a bonus opportunity for librarians – heightened demand for OER professionals. OER is in a peak position right now (or at least more visible than it has ever been previously), but to continue gaining administrative support, advocates can’t drop the ball on the work that we do. We have to be “so good they can’t ignore” us.

Reflecting on Seven Years of Librarianship

Since 2008, ACRLog’s “First Year Academic Librarian (FYAL) Experience” series has annually featured 1-2 academic librarians in their first year on the job in an academic library. This new series, “Where Are They Now?: Former FYALs Reflect,” features posts from past FYAL bloggers as they look back on their trajectories since their first year. This month, we welcome a post from Ariana Santiago, Open Educational Resources Coordinator at the University of Houston.

Just over seven years ago, I began my career as an academic librarian. I also had the opportunity to write for the ACRLog First Year Academic Librarian Experience series. I’m so glad I did, because writing a monthly post motivated me to assess and reflect, and now I’m thankful that my old posts capture the unique experience of my first year on the job. So what have I been up to since then? And how have things changed?

Let’s start at the beginning

I started as the Residency Librarian for Undergraduate Services at the University of Iowa in August 2013. In my undergraduate services role, I focused on library outreach and information literacy instruction, and had a lot of flexibility to try things out so that I could make the most of my residency program. I got involved in campus committees, collaborated on outreach and programming events, was introduced to critical librarianship, and dove into learning about instructional design. I participated in professional development programs that had long lasting impacts on me, specifically ACRL Immersion: Intentional Teaching and the Minnesota Institute for Early Career Librarians from Traditionally Underrepresented Groups. I also dealt with uncertainty, knowing that I didn’t yet understand the full picture – of the library and university where I worked, and academia more broadly. I struggled with imposter syndrome, especially when it came to teaching, and hadn’t yet figured out how to ask for the help that I needed. I definitely didn’t have a long-term plan for my career, but I knew I wanted to improve and excel at what I was doing. 

Finding my niche with a side of burnout

After my residency, I moved to the University of Houston where I started as the Instruction Librarian in 2015. By this time I had gotten a lot more comfortable and confident with instruction, and really enjoyed not just being in the classroom and working with students, but the problem-solving nature of figuring out how to teach and engage students in different learning contexts. It was around this time that I started to realize my facilitation skills and that I really wanted to facilitate others’ success, whether through IL instruction, working with colleagues on their teaching, or leading a library project or committee. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize I was headed towards burnout. I got increasingly involved in professional service, started presenting and publishing as I prepared for eventual promotion, and was working on a second master’s degree (M.A. in Applied Learning and Instruction, which I completed in 2017), all the while maintaining a heavy teaching load. I think it’s safe to say I still hadn’t figured out how to ask for help, or even admit when I was struggling and needed help. 

Then in 2018, I got the opportunity to move into a new position at the University of Houston, and started as the Open Educational Resources (OER) Coordinator. I’ve read my fellow former FYAL’s posts and they all speak of the inspirations that shaped their career paths and landed them where they are today. For me, this part of my career trajectory was far less intentional. I had the opportunity to take on this position, though to be completely honest, at the time I wasn’t sure if I wanted to. But I took a chance, and I’m definitely glad that I did. 

Although an OER position wasn’t something I had been purposefully working towards, I’m now 2+ years into it and clearly see how this work builds on my previous experience and strengths. I’m contributing to improving teaching and learning by helping instructors incorporate OER into their courses, allowing students to have free and immediate access to course materials. I get to incorporate elements of instructional design and campus outreach, and there’s no shortage of problem-solving on a regular basis. I enjoy working closely with instructors to support them in reaching their instructional goals, and further facilitating student success. 

However, because I didn’t start with a strong background in OER, I often went back to feelings of imposter syndrome. When I transitioned into this new area, I was reminded of how it feels to truly step outside of your comfort zone and became painfully aware of how much I didn’t know or understand yet. Fortunately, by this time (or perhaps because of this experience) I had gotten a lot better at identifying when I needed help and asking for it. In recent years, I’ve also practiced my ability to say “no” to things. Earlier on, my eagerness to get involved and help out wherever help was needed led to burnout from taking on too much. Now I know the value of my time and to be more selective about the commitments I take on. 

Still figuring it out

In my very last FYAL post, I gave the following advice: don’t take on too much, ask for help, and keep the big picture in mind. Turns out this was pretty good advice for me to listen to throughout the years! To add on to that advice now: it’s okay to not have things all figured out. I admire people who know exactly where they’re headed and what they want out of their careers, but I’m not that person (at least not right now), and I think it’s okay to figure things out as you go. 

Along with everyone else right now, I don’t know what the future holds. I know that I’m about to submit my portfolio for promotion, and that I’ll continue to work from home for the immediate future, but that’s about it. I don’t know what the next seven years will bring, but I’m excited to find out!

Building OER Momentum with a Mini-Grant Program

At my institution, we’ve been talking more about open education in the past year. Open access has long been on our agenda, but open education is such a large umbrella. We’ve begun to bring other open education-related work to the fore.

I wrote about open pedagogy in the context of information literacy in a blog post this past fall, while reflecting on Jim Groom’s visit to our campus for our Domain of One’s Own launch. Earlier this semester, Robin DeRosa came to campus to help us grow the conversation around open pedagogy and open educational resources (OER). My colleague, Lora Taub-Pervizpour, shared some curated articles and videos in two great posts (here and here) as our community prepared for Robin’s visit. These conversations have helped us focus in on our motivations for deepening our OER work. Helping to reduce financial burdens/barriers for our students by lowering textbook/course materials costs is a significant motivator for our OER interest, as is often the case. But the pedagogical opportunities OER can help to create are particularly energizing for our community, so deeply invested in teaching. (Check out David Wiley’s recent posts “How is Open Pedagogy Different?” and “When Opens Collide” for some interesting discussion on open pedagogy.)

As open education efforts on our campus continue, my colleagues and I are planning to launch a small grant initiative to help build momentum. We are imagining these stipends as a way to support faculty/instructors interested in adopting, adapting, and creating OER for their courses. We are also excited about the pedagogical possibilities that OER work might offer, so I’m particularly enthusiastic about the option we’re including to support the development of assignments in which students collaborate in the OER work of the course.

We’re developing the application guidelines and evaluation criteria for this grant initiative now. A few searches easily turn up helpful examples of such initiatives at a range of institution types: American University, Bucknell University, College of William & Mary, Davidson College, Old Dominion University, University of Kansas, and Utah State University, to name a few. These have been helpful in informing how we’re shaping and framing our application and outreach process. But I’m particularly eager to hear reflections on the successes, challenges, and outcomes of the work from those who have already taken a lap around this track. I recently revisited Sarah Crissinger’s thoughtful and helpful reflections on her OER work with faculty (part 1, part 2, part 3). Yet I’m eager for more and find myself wondering about your thoughts. I expect many of you have experience administering OER-related initiatives with similar goals. If so, how have you framed your program? What have you found to be important to your success? What barriers have you encountered? Or perhaps you are someone who has participated in this kind of initiative (or would like to). If so, what kinds of guidelines or support were (or would be) most useful? I would love to hear about your experiences and thoughts in the comments.

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).