A Couple More Thoughts on Library Openness…
Getting blog links in to the OUseful.info blog has been getting harder over the last few weeks, but my post on Open Educational Resources and the University Library Website (which I’d tweeted as “Are academic libraries conspiring against OERs?”) generated a couple that I thought I’d comment on here.
First up, Stephen Downes suggested: “Is the university library actively subverting the movement toward opn [sic] educational resources? One could argue that it has significant incentive to do so. … We cannot, I argue, expect support for open educational resources from institutions dedicated to their elimination.”
The thing that first came to my mind when I read that was that it’s the vendors of systems into libraries who have a commercial stake in directing attention towards their systems, particularly in the journals/ebooks area. (I’m not sure what the library catalogue vendors sell other than their pretty much unusable OPAC systems?) On second breath, it then struck me that the people in the library who hold the budgets to pay for these expensive systems also have a stake in retaining them, under the assumption that the bigger the budget you hold/spend, the more, I dunno, important you are?
I haven’t had a look round the library websites to see how obvious the open repository searches are, but I’d be willing to bet that they still aren’t as prominent as the bought in systems that direct attention towards subscription journal content. (Maybe that’s right? Maybe the prominence should be proportional to the amount of money spent on the resource compared with allocating it in proportion to website traffic (cf. OU Library Home Page – Normalised Click Density). But it is worth remembering that the research repository projects are often run under the auspices of the archiving role of the library.)
The next point that came to mind was clarified for me by David Davies in OER and library websites, time for integration:
[H]istorically it’s not been libraries that worried about those kinds of educational resources [i.e. OERs]. While libraries were cataloguing books and journals, other parts of the central institutional services were managing learning objects, multimedia resources, e-learning content, whatever you want to call the stuff. These resources were locked up in WebCT or some other VLE/LMS and were discoverable there, at least in theory. Teachers and their students knew, and still know, where to look for books & journals and where to look for other kinds of learning resources.
This suggests that teaching material type stuff is to be found through the VLE or CMS. But I’m not sure that’s right? Locally suggested resources are almost definitely linked to from those environments, but do those environments also offer wider search facilities over external teaching materials? Why shouldn’t that sort of material be the sort of material that you’d expect to find in using academic library search tools? (See also: ACRLog: The Question They Forgot To Ask: “But why are we only considering the role of the academic library as gateway, archive and buyer? I would argue [we need] to add a new dimension for faculty to consider – the academic library’s role as learning center and instruction partner [rather than focusing] on the acadmic [sic] library’s traditional role as collector, organizer and gateway provider. … I would argue that an equally essential part of the academic library’s digital transformation is the shift from the gateway role to the teaching and learning role in a much more aggressive way that integrates the library into the digital learning environment that has become many faculty’s preferred method of delivering their educational content“; okay, so here we gt into invisible library territory – the library providing services in other locations. But it’s still a library service… What I think we need to do is tease apart library services and where those services are accessed. It may be that we don’t want OERs to be discoverable through the library website, but then we need to ask exactly what sort of proposition the library website is offering?)
There’s another thing I’d like to pick up from David’s post – the phrase: “While libraries were…”; because while they were (doing whatever? conspiring with the publishers against academic authors’ rights?, or conspiring with the publishers to pass off sponsored publications of as academic journals?;-), the web arrived, websearch arrived, Google arrived, Google Books and Google Scholar arrived, arXiv already was there (but did the library build on it?), OERs started gaining funding, if not traction (yet), Library Thing arrived, Creative Commons arrived, print-on-demand has almost arrived (Amazon has a POD capability, I think?), all manner of how to video tutorial sites arrived (and their aggregators – like How Do I?;-), custom search engines arrived, and so on…
Ho hum, I hadn’t intended that to b so much of a rant… Sigh… maybe I need to go and look at JISC’s Library of the Future debate to see how to think about libraries in a more considered manner?;-)