Last month, I attended the ASERL SCUNC, another in my (I hope) streak of small, nimble conferences. I stretched myself at this one — I am not the Scholarly Communications librarian at Georgia Tech (that’s my friend and fellow Lost in the Stacks producer Fred Rascoe) and so I was putting myself in conversation with experts on subjects in which I was a novice. While no stranger to Open Access or Open Educational Resources, I bring nothing to the table but a strong sense of “something ought to be done.”
What did I learn?
Open educational resources are a hard slog. Even with specific, targeted, funded initiatives, schools have difficulty getting faculty interested in using OERs in their classes. The most likely obstacle is the effort it would take a faculty member to switch a class from established, useful resources (usually textbooks) to a new set. That doesn’t even take into account the time it would take to find, assemble, or create freely available resources. The pitch is essentially “increase your workload to save your students money.” A hard sell for sure.
Open access policies are similar to open educational resources in that they are attempts to change how faculty work and how they approach the longer arc of their professional life. A discussion at the SCUNC about getting faculty buy-in on OA policies revealed weariness about misunderstandings about OA in general. My takeaway was that OA is a mindset that we (librarians) want to promote but it is also a collection of research and publication habits that faculty resist changing. There will need to be some structural changes in how OA is encouraged in the university, i.e. provosts and presidents need to lead the charge.
And finally, university presses are wicked cool and the library should definitely host one! Okay, that might be personal bias. I’ve being dreaming of the Georgia Tech Press for a while and am hopeful that the GT Library renewal will be a chance to set the stage for a GT Press. My more realistic takeaways are that university presses with very specific focus (Irish poetry, Appalachian literature, quantum physics) seem to survive. And, really, do you need a university press? The whole campus is a press, in a way, and the library can support publication and provide quality preservation just by being the library.
I want to leave you with two quotes I heard at the SCUNC. First, “we’ve already gone from print to digital. What’s next?” A good reminder in general of how librarianship has already transformed — we are in the change! Second, and to finish, something I hope to use in the future: “I am skeptical, in the most collegial way.”