- Introduction: Open Educational Resources and the Academic Library
Every issue of Library Trends begins with a proposal from one or more librarians volunteering to guest edit an issue about a topic they feel needs discussion in the scholarly literature. The would-be guest editors must feel a great deal of passion for the topic because they are going to be living with it for over a year. As guest editors for this issue, we found our work with the articles in this issue only increased our passion and fervent belief in open educational resources (OER). In addition, we confirmed our belief that there is a need for more scholarly communications and research about OER and open pedagogy, and their relationship with librarianship.
When we proposed this special issue, we thought we’d be able to hit the high points of all—or at least many—of the ways libraries impact OER, and the OER movement impacts libraries. But when we received sixty article proposals covering many different aspects of the topic, it was apparent that we were not even going to be able to scratch the surface! We looked for articles that represented trends in our existing areas of interest—advocacy, academic support, campus collaborations, social justice, and open pedagogy among them. We also learned about important new facets of the topic and were frustrated that we could not more thoroughly represent different scholars and issues in the space allotted. In this issue we present merely some of the high points, with articles selected for both theoretical and practical use.
The entry point for many people involved with OER is the problem of student finances. Affordability of a college education is an issue, as student loan debt reaches crisis proportions and some question whether a college education is a wise economic decision (Barrow and Malamud 2015; Friedman 2019; Vedder 2019). Some majors may be less economically feasible due to their expense or prospects of a career that is not likely to make a living wage. Issues of social justice emerge when not everyone can afford a college education. The cost of textbooks and other learning materials is [End Page 335] a piece of this puzzle, as textbook costs have risen more than the already skyrocketing cost of education (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016).
One potential solution to this problem is OER (Senack 2015). As most OERs are freely available from the first day of class, they have the ability to “level the playing field” for students who cannot afford to buy the textbook on the first day of class because they are awaiting financial aid (Salem 2017), or simply cannot afford the purchase at all. Advocating for OER, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) states,
For too many years, too many children, particularly African American, other minorities, and underprivileged people from all groups have been subjected to lesser educational opportunities, leading to lesser opportunities for success in their personal and professional lives. A major contributing factor to the disparities continues to be the lack of appropriate instructional materials.(Goode n.d.)
The term “open educational resources” is not consistently defined and is sometimes hotly debated. Our working definition is that of Creative Commons: “Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning, and research materials that are either (a) in the public domain or (b) licensed in a manner that provides everyone with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities” (2020). In other words, we consider open licensing to be a critical part of the definition of OER including all of David Wiley’s “Five Rs”—retain, revise, remix, reuse, and redistribute (n.d.).
However, some discussions of OER include other affordable resources, such as resources freely available on the web regardless of license, resources openly available only within their institution, and library-owned and library-licensed resources and items placed on course reserves. In this issue, all articles primarily focus on openly licensed resources, but since some also include a broader use of the term “OER,” we asked that each author clarify their use of the term so that it is...