GVSU celebrates open access week

Courtesy / Flickr

Courtesy / Flickr

McKenna Peariso

For the past several years Grand Valley State University has been dedicated to creating a space for open access materials to broaden the resources for community learning. Grand Valley’s University Libraries currently holds over 40,000 items in its open access e-Reserve, and the libraries’ ScholarWorks service has seen about 5,120,509 downloads to date. These extensive resources are why GVSU is holding an open access symposium on Monday, Oct. 22 to celebrate and learn more about open access efforts. 

From 1:30 to 4 p.m. in room 030 of the Mary Idema Pew Library, the public is invited to come hear from open education resources (OER) champion, Regina Gong, and explore how to use open materials to empower learning and teaching. Gong will serve as the keynote speaker to the symposium, while Student Senate representatives, teaching faculty, librarians and students can also share their experiences of paywalled research, expensive textbooks and Open Access exploration.

“The symposium allows for the interactions between stakeholders across campus,” said University Libraries Dean Annie Bélanger. “Regina Gong is one of the leading figures in open access in Michigan, she’s been collaborating with college across the state about OER. We can not undervalue (open access materials), and we need champions on campus to energize and spread the word.”

Allowing the community to reflect on the university’s impressive supply of open access resources can hopefully inspire them to think about these resources in a new way. GVSU’s University Libraries was an early adopter of OER and aims to continue to be a front-runner in making more academic materials freely available for the public. Even beyond the students and faculty of GV, the university believes open access resources should be made available to anyone. 

“If we go back to President Haas’ belief that a public university is a common and public good, then part of us using the funding is to make sure the knowledge we create can be engaged with a larger community,” Bélanger said. 

To cover the publication fees charged by some journals, the Libraries’ Open Access Publishing Support Fund enables GVSU authors to publish on established open access and peer-reviewed journals. The fund aims to remove the financial barriers of publishing in open access journals while increasing the visibility of research conducted at the university. The submissions fee coverage from the fund has helped publish 18 open access articles from 18 GVSU authors.

“We value your learning and the knowledge that you are creating,” said Bélanger.

All of Grand Valley’s work towards open access educational materials demonstrates the university’s commitment to breaking down financial barriers and supporting learning for all. To celebrate this OER work, International Open Access Week will be from Oct. 22 to 28 as part of a global event promoting the free and open use of scholarly materials. There will be two workshops held on Tuesday, Oct. 23 at 1 p.m. and Thursday Oct. 25, that will focus on open educational resources and expanding open access efforts. The Tuesday workshop will be held in room 002 of the Mary Idema Pew Library, and the Thursday workshop is scheduled in DeVos room 140A on the Pew Campus. The workshops are open to faculty and staff. 

“It may be ‘Battle of the Valleys’ week next week, but that doesn’t stop cooperation,” said Communications Outreach Coordinator Matt Ruen. “Some faculty and staff members from SVSU are visiting the GVSU library on Monday and attending the symposium. They’re just starting an OER support project, and are excited to learn what GVSU has been doing, while we’re eager to learn about their success getting state and national grant funding for their efforts.” 

University Libraries has been making some changes and creating partnerships to establish a strong unit of individuals, focused on increasing free accessibility to academic documents. Partnerships with Student Senate, the Center for Scholarly and Creative Excellence and other university organizations have helped broaden the open data campaign across campus. The library staff has also overseen adjustments to the goals of some positions to be focused more on OER.

“At Grand Valley we have been growing our open strategies in order to support open data sets,” Bélanger said. “We have repositioned a librarian to focus on access collection to harvest new materials, make them easier to find and lower the barriers to using open access materials.” 

Along with these adjustments and the partnerships with other campus influencers, there are also some ideas in the works for the University Libraries to improve student access to these free materials. 

“In the long term, I’d like to see discussion on how to make it easier for people to see that something is open access in the selections at the bookstore, we want to see a symbol or badge to clearly signify that open content,” Bélanger said.

The ability to distinguish between regular materials and those that are open access can assist students in keeping costs down when obtaining books for their courses. One of the biggest reasons for GVSU’s push for open access resources has to do with easing financial constraints that many students may face to get course materials. The continued support of OER at Grand Valley will advance many students ability to contribute to and learn from the university’s research materials and thus be more engaged with their schoolwork.

“One of the best ways students can get involved with open access is using their voices,” Ruen said. “Students don’t always see the factors that lead a professor to assign a particular textbook, and professors don’t always see how that textbook’s cost impacts students. Sharing this information is a vital first step for creating change.”