Campuses are moving into the future…and professors may be rejoicing

open-library-campus It’s not just the high cost of textbooks that have libraries scrambling to provide open education (OER) resources. As professors look at alternative options to retain copyright on printed works, and campuses look to expand community partnerships while decreasing budget, going open has never looked so good.

According to a new report, “Open Education Resources: The New Paradigm in Academic Libraries,” by Carmen Mitchell and Melanie Chu of California State University San Marcos (CSUSM) [published in the Journal of Library Innovation, Vol. 5, Issue 1, 2014], a combination of factors have converged to make the use of open resources integral to campuses across the country.

The report aimed to answer the question, ‘As academic library budgets are contracting while library usage is increasing, how can academic libraries best help campuses reduce costs and better serve their communities?”

To answer this question, the report’s authors conducted an online survey distributed to all CSUSM tenure track and adjunct faculty as well as to the Faculty Center, deans, and department chairs to determine the faculty’s awareness of library services and assessed the willingness of the community to support free online scholarly materials.

The survey results were eye-opening.

(Next page: The pros of an open library)

Reviewing current research and responses to the faculty survey, the report’s authors determined these pros of an open library system:

1. It saves money…lots of money.

According to recent research, notes the report, nearly 70 percent of academic libraries reported their current budgets remained flat or decreased from the previous year, while there was a 5 to 6 percent increase in serials subscription inflation rates.

Price increases are also occurring with student textbooks, with numerous reports showing that book cost, not student need, influenced a student’s decision whether to take one particular course over another.

The report reveals that the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s Open Education Initiative, launched in 2011, has already saved students $750k.

Temple University has an Alternative Textbook Project that grants faculty members seed money to create low-cost textbooks.

2. It’s a helping hand for publishing profs.

Mitchell and Chu note that there’s a conundrum in the scholarly publishing model: research is conducted by faculty, the content and rights to that research are given away to publishers, then sold back to libraries and students at exorbitant rates.

Keeping this in mind, open institutional repositories can be part of the shift in academia toward a more fair system. Open repositories can be a first choice for publishing original content, including authors, topics, and formats typically excluded from traditional publishing.

By providing open access, their research will also have broader dissemination than subscription journals, which in turn will lead to increased citations. The research may also be disseminated more quickly than a journal’s review and publication cycle.

Finally, faculty can retain the copyright to their own work.

3.  More materials for curriculum.

In the response to the CSUSM survey question, ‘Are you interested in utilizing free or low-cost primary source materials in your pedagogy/curriculum development?’ 70 percent responded ‘yes,’ 26 percent ‘not sure,’ and 4 percent ‘no.’ 94 percent of indicated strong concern about the cost of education materials.

In the survey, 88 or the 107 respondents indicated they typically find source materials for their curriculum development online, followed by journals in their discipline and colleagues.

Building on these responses, libraries can harness faculty willingness to use online source materials with content available in their institutional repositories.

(Next page: The cons of going open)

1. Staff will need to dedicate time.

The report emphasizes that open repositories may ask users to describe the metadata content, but most open libraries have time commitments in written contracts with departments regarding repository content. For example, faculty generate and collect data for grants, while librarian subject specialists can identify how best to organize and curate the metadata to make it accessible for future use.

2. Roles become more important.

Dedicated staffing, and some funding, is necessary for digitization programs. For example, one snag for CSUSM was when their open repository, hosted by the system-wide Chancellor’s Office, came to a standstill due to a staff person leaving the organization. Since CSUSM’s repository is hosted by the office, progress on ingesting materials was seriously impacted by staffing changes at that level.

The role of librarian will also become even more critical, as they become translators and mediators between content generators (faculty) and content users (students, other researchers, and communities).

3. Marketing efforts are needed.

In the author’s survey, despite the awareness of the library’s physical exhibits, only 10 percent of respondents were aware of the virtual library exhibits, and only 5 respondents had accessed the exhibits online via the open repository.

“The virtual exhibits are in a nascent stage; there is need for a marketing campaign to promote usage and awareness of this library resource,” note the authors.

For more detailed information on the pros and cons of open libraries, included CSUSM’s own case study, read the full report.

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