Building a Successful Open Access Textbook Collection on Your Campus

When Ted Sundstrom, Professor of Mathematics at Grand Valley State University, learned from his publisher that they would not be pursuing the third edition of his textbook, he decided to seek a different outlet. He asked his editor for the rights to “Mathematical Reasoning: Writing and Proof” back and was soon approached by liaison librarian Debbie Morrow about adding the textbook to GVSU’s growing open educational materials (OEM) collection. Sundstrom worked with the library to put the finishing touches on the textbook, then added it to the repository in July of 2013. By December it had become the most downloaded item in the OEM collection, and soon after soared to the third most downloaded item in GVSU’s entire repository.

Sarah Beaubien, Scholarly Communications Coordinator at GVSU, said that as the momentum behind open access textbooks in higher education grows, so has her campus’s collection. “Once I saw how much of an impact and how many downloads they get with a small investment of our staff time, I’ve started to do more and more presentations specifically about OEMs and the services the library can offer through our repository.” With the help of dedicated liaison librarians and more concentrated outreach efforts, Beaubien is seeing word about the collection ripple through campus and beyond. She’s heard from several faculty members who have received emails from both their students and students at other institutions thanking them for making their textbooks free, online, and open-access.

For those institutions looking to grow their own OEM collections, Beaubien offered several useful tips: First, she says, make sure you define exactly what kind of materials you’re looking for—whether that’s syllabi, lecture notes, or completed manuscripts only. Second, approaching faculty that you know have already completed manuscripts is a good place to start. “Many faculty over the years have written their own course materials because that’s the way they want to teach. Writing a textbook is a significant, time-consuming endeavor, so find the things that are already out there and once you have a few of those, show them off as examples.”

For more information about how to build an Open Educational Materials collection on your campus, check out this webinar by Beaubien and GVSU professor Charles Lowe.

Grand Valley State University's Open Educational Materials Collection

Grand Valley State University’s Open Educational Materials Collection