Business librarian Mark Bieraugel works with two students on a computer.

Written by Victoria Billings on August 5, 2013

Kennedy Library is an open education library

Kennedy Library recently introduced OATS (Open Access to Textbooks for Students). For more about how students can use OATS for their success, please see this Q and A.

The rising cost of textbooks is no secret; it affects every Cal Poly student who shells out $200+ a quarter on books they may not use after their 10-week course (I mean, I loved oceanography, but that book is just getting dusty on my shelf now).

Kennedy Library is working to change that, and decrease the cost of education through a series of new affordable learning solutions being implemented this fall. The library is also committed to inclusive access for the future, which is why they have made an open education librarian position dedicated to open and affordable education.

Open textbooks

“Open textbooks are textbooks that are available through a creative commons license,” associate university librarian Sarah Faye Cohen said. “They don’t involve a publisher and are editable.”

Kennedy Library is continuing to experiment with open textbooks. As just one example, the library is working with the University of Minnesota, which runs the Open Textbook Catalog, to make number of open textbooks available for printing.

Remix culture

Not only are open textbooks an inexpensive alternative to regular textbooks for students, but they also allow faculty to further customize their lesson plans, said business librarian and open textbook advocate Mark Bieraugel. Faculty members who adopt an open textbook engage in a “remix culture” where they can edit the text, rearrange the chapters, add new information or remove sections as they see fit.

“It gives the professor a lot more autonomy,” Mark said.

Kennedy Library is hoping that by offering this resource as an option students will see the cost of textbooks drop, Sarah said.

“It’s really saying, ‘How can we make textbooks more affordable?’” Sarah said.

First to hire an open education librarian

But Kennedy Library isn’t stopping there. The library is also creating a brand new librarian position: Open Education Librarian.

Once hired, the open education librarian will work with other librarians and Cal Poly faculty to bring in new, cutting edge resources and create more affordable learning solutions for students. Though several other schools have adopted open textbooks, Kennedy Library is the first to create a librarian position focusing on open and affordable education, Sarah said.

“We’re really looking for someone who can bring a level of engagement and expertise,” Sarah said.

More textbooks and resources!

The library is also increasing its collection of textbooks, study guides and online and print resources to help students keep costs down and grades up, Sarah said.

“When students don’t buy the textbooks for their class, it can be a big deterrent to student success,” she said.

To remove that deterrent, Kennedy Library is exploring ways to make textbooks less expensive or freely available to students.

Kennedy Library started by purchasing more textbooks for an expanded and improved Course Reserves system. While Kennedy Library can’t carry every book for every class, because the required books are constantly changing and faculty do not always submit requests to Course Reserves, the library will carry books on a wide array of topics to add to students’ class experience, Sarah said.

For more on the Open Textbook Catalog, check out the University of Minnesota’s site.

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