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A Guide to Getting Started With Open Access and Open Educational Resources
by
Posted On April 2, 2024
In working with serials in an academic library, I interact frequently with open access (OA) publications and open educational resources (OERs). Not only do OA publications and OERs free up physical space in libraries, but they also make education fairer and more equitable, providing students with resources that they otherwise may not have access to.

Why OA Is So Important

OA, specifically pertaining to journals, refers to publications that are of no cost for patrons to access. Libraries can provide these journals as part of their collections for no extra cost. Periodical collections are some of the most expensive parts of an academic library’s collections. Depending on the library budget, as well as usage statistics or certain journal packages, many libraries cannot afford to purchase all of the journals they may need for the communities they are serving. With OA journals, libraries can widen the pool of what they are able to provide and with no extra cost.

OA titles make educational and research materials accessible to patrons, as well as make access fairer and more equitable. The cost of education and the necessary resources in the U.S. is steep, and OA journals allow resource centers, such as libraries, to provide more resources than they can afford, helping to combat the limitations of traditional periodical collections.

ACRL recommends that academic librarians and other information professionals attempt to publish their research in OA journals in order to make their work accessible for all. They also encourage academic and research libraries to make use of these OA titles due to the steep price of journals.

Why OERs Are So Important

When considering the equitability and accessibility of educational materials, OERs also come to the forefront of the conversation. These are materials that are available for free use. They can be used for research, teaching, instruction, and in a number of other areas. OERs are typically created and authored by researchers and instructors for researchers, instructors, and students.

OERs are so important because their main goal is to make research and education fairer and more equitable. Textbooks and other course materials are so expensive, to the point where many students cannot afford the materials they need for their classes. OERs work to combat this disparity, providing materials for instructors, teachers, professors, and other educators so that they can better supply accessible resources for their students.

OERs are similar to OA in that both aim to make resources more accessible to those who need them. Finances are often in the way, whether in the form of a paywall or a price tag on a university textbook, and OA and OERs offer ways around these obstacles, providing people with the resources they need while doing away with the cost.

The Obstacles in the Way of Using OA and OERs

As far as OA content goes, there is not much standing in the way of libraries and information professionals making use of them. The main obstacle is libraries learning about what materials are OA, discovering what OA titles their vendors have, and going in and adding them to their collection. As the person who manages the serials for my library, I find myself turning to more and more OA titles to be able to provide diverse and accessible resources for our patrons and researchers.

With OERs, there are some legal things to know about. According to IFLA, there are certain copyright and legal measures that must be ensured for something to be considered an OER. For example, content must either be published within the public domain or released under licensing that explicitly specifies no cost for users to access the material. To use OERs, it is important that the licensing, copyright, and other legal conditions are well-understood before use so that no copyright mistakes are made.

There are also some privacy concerns with OERs, as some of them involve data collection. Some users are also wary of the quality of OERs, but that is something that must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. There are plenty of reputable OERs out there that have gone through similar editorial processes that pay-to-view resources go through.

How Information Professionals Can Make Use of These Resources

As mentioned previously in regard to OA, librarians, information professionals, and others in the information field can make sure to publish or submit to places that encourage the practice. Only publishing with OA publications, depositing works in OA repositories, and making use of OA resources for their own research, instruction, and other purposes are major ways to ensure that OA resources are available and known about in their institutions and libraries.

With OERs, there are a number of things that information professionals and librarians can do to utilize them. A lot of the steps in creating and authoring OERs are similar to OA processes. Encouraging their use and ensuring their availability and accessibility are good places to start. Brushing up on copyright literacy is also a necessary step with OERs, to ensure that the resources are being used in the way they are legally intended to be.

Both OA publications and OERs are wonderful resources for information professionals, librarians, researchers, and students. While they both come with some obstacles, they are definitely worth considering and implementing in your own work, as well as in your libraries or other institutional sectors.


Xanthippe Pack-Brown is currently the serials collections specialist at the duPont-Ball Library and is hoping to pursue a degree in library science in the near future. They are fairly new to the world of information science, but they are excited to dive into new areas! They can be reached at xanthippepackbrown@gmail.com.

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