Cycle of Success Interview with Outreach Librarian, Grace Atkins
Q: You’ve been selected by the MOBIUS Board to serve as a MOBIUS System Leader for the Open Textbook Network Initiative. Congratulations! What does this mean?
A: Thank you! Let’s break it down: MOBIUS is a network of 192 libraries that provides access to shared information resources, services, and expertise. When one of our university libraries doesn’t have a book or other resource, we go into the MOBIUS online catalog and see if one of the other branches has what we need. In turn, we do the same for other MOBIUS partners.
The MOBIUS system just gained membership to the Open Textbook Network (OTN), which provides access to the Open Textbook Library, a set of peer-reviewed, customizable academic textbooks. Over 350 campuses are part of the OTN, and now Mizzou faculty will have access to their huge set of online textbooks that are free to students.
Q: This sounds like a form of OER?
A: Yes, free textbooks are a form of an Open Educational Resource (OER). An OER can be “teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others." To over-simplify, an OER is a free textbook or any other teaching resource/tool that students don’t have to pay for. Which is great, because right now a student at Mizzou currently spends an average of $500—$700 each year on course materials (see May 2017 OER report for more stats).
Q: Why were you nominated for this position?
A: I’ve been the coordinator for our campus’s OER Interest Group for two years, and I recently presented on OER at MOBIUS’s annual conference a few weeks ago. I’m currently working to support the new MU System OER Initiative that Dr. Choi announced today.
Q: How does being a member of the Open Textbook Network support the UM System’s new OER Initiative?
A: The Open Textbook Network (OTN) promotes access, affordability, and student success through the use of open textbooks. Founded and run by the University of Minnesota's Center for Open Education, the OTN manages the Open Textbook Library which contains open textbooks licensed to be freely used, adapted, and distributed. With our membership, we now have access to these resources, which provide options for faculty who pursue the MU System OER Initiative.
Of course, we’ll also be working with OpenStax, SPARC, and other OER organizations and discovery tools. With an UM System initiative this big, it’s useful for faculty to have many options when it comes to OER, and it’s even more useful to have a trained experts and librarians such as myself to provide resources, instruction, and support for those faculty.
Q: So, what is the role of a System Leader in the Open Textbook Network?
A: The Open Textbook Network has what is essentially a train-the-trainer program for new members. As a System Leader, I’ll be trained to train the other libraries in the MOBIUS system, including the libraries here at Mizzou. I’ll be going to a summer institute at the University of Minnesota in August to learn all about how to use and customize the resources and templates in the Open Textbook Library, and then I’ll train other librarians in our MOBIUS system to teach faculty, staff, and other educators on how to use these free resources in their courses.
Q: How does a leadership role with the Open Textbook Network contribute to the libraries’ Cycle of Success?
A: Providing access to course materials at no cost creates a more equitable learning environment for students. When all students can afford to access the textbooks they need, their academic performance and retention improves. If I teach librarians how to teach faculty to use the Open Textbook Library, then the libraries have established a cycle that ultimately results in student academic achievement.
You can learn more about Open Educational Resources (OER) at libraryguides.missouri.edu/OpenEducationalResources