The Mission of the Library
Most, if not all, interviewees stated that the library was the natural selection as the home of a university’s open educational resources program because of how closely the movement falls in line libraries’ focus on education and public access to knowledge. Facilitating open access education and publication can in many ways be seen as an extension of what libraries have always done.
The Position of the Library
Institutions agree that the library is in an ideal position on campus to run an OER program because of its interdisciplinary nature. Libraries – especially at larger institutions, but even at smaller ones – have relationships with all departments on campus. Some have dedicated faculty for each department, who can serve as open education liaisons. Aside from the practical function that the library plays in connecting all academic fields, the library also holds significance as a traditionally well-respected, credible institution. This makes it easier to create connections with faculty, increase campus-wide advocacy and awareness, and garner interest from students and faculty alike.
Out of the six cases in this study, five explicitly described their program as being funded in part or in full by their state or province. Of particular note are the two consortium cases (eCampusOntario and SUNY). Both consortia are publicly funded and their services are currently available and open to all public colleges and universities in their respective regional boundaries. The structure of these programs provides its own set of challenges, and its own rewards. The University of Texas at Arlington also claimed that much of their success is due to a major push for OER on the part of the Texas legislature. Legislators at the regional level can have a significant impact on the funding an OER program receives, and funding plays a large part in the success of a program; advocacy is important not only at the university level, but at the regional level as well. Building passionate communities of OER advocates has the potential to create real change.
One of the largest costs to an open educational resource production program, outside of staffing the program itself, is likely the funding of individual projects through grants. Many programs will themselves facilitate a grant program, or otherwise participate in a larger consortium’s grant program. Though each institution differs in the breadth, depth, and longevity of its grant program, the incentive has been found to be a successful method to get faculty interested in and involved with open educational resource projects.
Though each of the cases in this study were OER production programs, there’s an element of advocacy included in the overall mission of each program. Many faculty don’t know what open educational resources are, or have misconceptions about their creation and use. Many believe that OER aren’t vetted rigorously enough to be used effectively in a classroom. Each program focuses some if not the majority of their effort on educating the faculty about what it means for a textbook to be open.