Open Education at GCC is delighted to announce that we have been able to choose two GCC librarians for a special fellowship. We are inviting them to become OER Librarian Facilitators for faculty and to support the adoption and adaptation of OER materials for the Near-Z Degree program. This week, we are putting the spotlight on Sean O’Brien, long time GCC librarian and supporter of OER.
My name is Sean O’Brien and this is my tenth year as a librarian at Glendale Community College. At the library, I have interests that range from the ancient to the modern as I am a lead in both the library historical archives along with the website, systems, and technology. I also have a strong interest in fostering equity across campus through my work on the DEI Council and several years on the Diversity Committee. To this end, I see my new OER library fellow position as a continuation of these efforts and as an area in which I might help faculty engage in a great opportunity to help students of all backgrounds become capable of affording college and completing their courses.
As a librarian, I witness students struggle with textbook affordability every day. The library reserve shelf where we house copies of textbooks for 2-hour use within the library is probably one of the most used services on campus. Especially during the first days of the semester, it is not a rare occurrence to see lines consistently snaking around the library several students deep at our reserve desk and scanners as students desperately seek any method they can to get a glimpse at their textbooks while they deal with supply issues or wait to accumulate the funds to afford textbooks during their first fragile moments at the college.
During the COVID quarantine, this desperation was especially acute as so many students had to struggle not only with a shaky economy and a supply-chain system that had fundamentally broken down, but also closed facilities and services across the campus and district. To this end, we at the library worked hard to pivot our efforts into the new online environment that followed. And while I am very proud of the library’s efforts in this regard and feel that we have done much to both expand and improve our textbook and reserve services since the start of the pandemic, there are a number of systematic issues within the textbook industry itself that threaten to exacerbate textbook affordability to even more painful levels, such as increasingly stringent eBook copyright restrictions and the dramatic inflation of textbook costs year over year.
To this end, I decided to participate in the OER committee with hopes that I can help faculty free themselves of the current restrictive textbook environment and work with them to find an affordable path forward for our students. As a librarian, this work is not entirely unfamiliar to me. Whether it be finding a list of sources for a faculty member that they could use in lieu of a textbook, developing educational tutorials and videos that can be used as parts of lesson plans, or assisting in the creation of research guides to help students find free library sources to help them complete assignments and pass their college classes—there are a variety of ways in which I have sought to help faculty find information solutions for students. Yet, with my new involvement as an OER library fellow, I hope to expand my efforts in a more organized and focused manner, utilizing OER to make a more substantive difference in the quality and affordability of our students’ college education.
If I had to give advice to a faculty person interested in OER, the first thing I would say is: you are not alone. Any new territory or terrain may seem intimidating without a compass or a map to help you find your way. Yet, that is where organizations like the OER Committee and your OER library fellows come in. They can serve as guides to help the unfamiliar become familiar. I think that is one of the things that really excites me about starting work with the OER team on campus—helping faculty help their students. Therefore, whether you heard about some of the educational benefits of using an OER textbook, are looking to make college more affordable for your students, or are simply curious—don’t hesitate to reach out and we’d be more than happy to help.
The OER Spotlight reveals faculty and staff in different departments across the campus to whom you can reach out to ask questions about OER. If they don’t know the answer, they are willing to help you find out. Contact Open Education @GCC for more information.