Libraries and Open Electronic Resources

Bruce Massis says librarians are in a unique position to offer support for faculty looking to incorporate OER into their courses.

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Open Educational Resources (OER) are defined as '…any type of educational materials that are in the public domain or introduced with an open license. The nature of these open materials means that anyone can legally and freely copy, use, adapt and re-share them.'

While it is a movement that has been around for more than a decade, OER are increasingly being treated as a viable option to replace either expensive textbooks or, in some instances, entire courses. And librarians can offer up their knowledge, skills and training in the development, discovery and evaluation of OER.

Open Educational Resources and Creative Commons around the world

Institutions in countries around the world have adopted OER (visit http://education.okfn.org/world/ for a country-by-country listing).

In Africa OER has been adopted as a continent-wide initiative, the goal of which is to support an affordable alternative to the cost of higher education. OER Africa is the organisation leading this initiative.

Nations are also relying on the resources available through Creative Commons, an organisation that supports OER licenses and permits users to remix and reuse any of more than one billion pieces of content. Creative Commons makes content available, either in part or in its entirety, that can be copied, distributed, edited, remixed and built upon, all within the boundaries of copyright.

Because there are various levels of clearances within the Creative Commons universe from permissive to restrictive, India decided to introduce its own OER initiative in 2013, recommending authors submit material to Creative Commons under one of the most permissive licenses so that the material could be most widely used. Faculty would be able to incorporate OER that are specific to their course design and ensure that the so-called "5 Rs of OER" (Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix and Redistribute) could be implemented in their course without undue restrictions.

In Europe, Open Education Europa, established in 2013, offers OER in 20 different languages. Its portal describes itself as, "a dynamic platform built with the latest cutting-edge open-source technology, offering tools for communicating, sharing and discussing". Creative Commons licenses are also used across this platform. 

Librarian support for Open Educational Resources

Librarians can guide faculty in the use of OER and licensed resources by:

Developing workshops to help faculty find and use OER - One of the greatest challenges is finding appropriate OER for a course. A workshop highlighting effective searching is critical for success. Also showing faculty examples of Creative Commons licenses so that they can recognise which symbols permit the greatest latitude in use.

Providing a website to support the use of open materials – Producing an easy-to-use foundational research guide that supports resources. The benefit of maintaining a site designed by librarians in collaboration with faculty is that the outcome can satisfy the needs of both with resources that support the inclusive initiative.

Collaborating with instructional design professionals – Providing a focal point and support engine for OER.


This is an edited version of an article published in New Library World www.emeraldinsight.com/0307-4803.htm and published here with their permission.


Bruce Massis is the Director of Libraries at Columbus State Community College, Columbus, Ohio, USA. He will be speaking about Open Educational Resources at Internet Librarian International in October 2017 (session C202).