This spring marked the last conference presentation, and it was a good one.
The Alberta Library Conference (ALC), which is held at the Jasper Park Lodge annually, is a beautiful venue. Attending the conference is as much a getaway as “work event,” which explains the number of smiling faces.
This year I was lucky enough to speak to academic, public, and some school librarians about the library’s role in the open education movement in Canada. Speaking at ALC is fun but it poses a challenge insofar that there librarians from various sectors. As a speaker, one wants to create something that’s meaningful to everyone.
I’ve addressed the topics of the open education movement and open educational resources several times. This particular presentation covered a lot of ground:
- OER and the open education movement
- OER policy in Western Canada (this is my primary research project)
- A discussion about OER and the public library
- Examples of ways the public library can support open education
- Challenges to OER
About two-thirds of this presentation was me talking, but I tried something a little different this time around. First, before launching into my own ideas about the public library’s role in open education I posed two questions to the audience.
- Are there patrons, or specific groups, that would benefit from OER in any way?
- Can you think of an experience you had when you were trying to help a patron find some information where an OER might have been helpful
Literature about the public library and OER is greatly underrepresented, and I made specific mention of that in the presentation. The participants were extremely vocal and their examples were quite surprising.
Some identified patrons / groups included high-school students, those looking for career changes, second language learners, not-for-profit employees, internationally trained professionals, people with access barriers (health and otherwise), and people looking to start their own business. These examples give an idea of the variety of patrons the public library is expected to serve. While the participants admitted to using some good commercial products, there are still resources not available for purchase. OER can fill this void, but many of the participants were unaware of the repositories that exist. This underscores one of the primary shortfalls of OER – a general lack of awareness.
It is my presumption that public libraries are equally – if not better – suited to advancing OER awareness. They have broader needs than academic or special libraries, and they service a wider segment of the population.
Participants’ answer to the second questions was equally surprising. Responses included programming lesson plans for robotics and STEM, examples of in-depth reference questions (I presume for training purposes), resources for children to keep up with their school studies, homeschooling resources, and oral histories. Again, this demonstrates a wider need than academia which is largely focused on course plans and textbooks.
At the end of the talk, I encouraged participants to ask if there were resources they wanted that were not covered in the presentation. I also asked them where they’d like to see scholarship on this topic published. In response to the latter, one participant suggested a K-12 or teacher librarian publication that’s open access.
I think public libraries are largely underrepresented in the OER literature and, given the thoughtful feedback and positive reactions to this presentation, I’m considering what such a publication would look like.