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Eastern Kentucky University Librarian Kelly Smith is involved with an essential program known as Open Educational Resources (OER). Smith is the Coordinator of Collections and Discovery of OER where she, along with many others, assist students who may not have the resources available to obtain textbooks. 

“In the library, over the past several years, we have seen an increase in students requesting that we purchase or borrow textbooks for them,” said Smith “We started an initiative to keep a limited number of course textbooks on reserve to meet some of these needs, especially during the first weeks of school when some students are still waiting for textbook vouchers to come in or their books are on backorder. However, this is not a comprehensive solution – it is just a bandaid on the problem, which is that textbooks are too expensive and are a barrier to student success.”

Studies have shown that approximately 67 percent of students simply don’t purchase their textbooks if they are more than they can afford.

“These students, unsurprisingly, receive lower grades or even fail classes because of that. About half might take fewer courses, or choose different courses or majors that have lower costs,” said Smith

According to the College Board, the average student budgets $1,250 for textbooks each year, often resulting in an increase in student loans.

OER provides a real world solution to financial needs involving textbooks.

“We host an institutional digital archive called Encompass, where we publish student theses and dissertations, special collections, faculty scholarship, journals, and conference proceedings – all available openly to readers worldwide,” she said. 

The Open Educational Program paired with the African and African American Studies approximately four years ago, when the organization expressed interest in authoring their own open textbook. 

“We offered to host the book in Encompass, and help them with technical support such as applying for an ISBN and formatting the book. Slavery to Liberation: The African American Experience, was published in December 2019,” Smith said.

In Smith’s position, she oversees the division in the library responsible for collection development and provision of traditional print and electronic books, journals, and videos, as well as the library’s publishing work. 

Due to her involvement with Open Educational Resources, Smith was asked to chair the Faculty Senate Committee to Review Textbook Resources. This group worked to submit an Innovation Fund grant proposal to the Board of Regents to incentivize faculty to adopt, adapt, or author Open Textbooks in their classes. 

OER was awarded $25,000 to implement this program during the 2020-2021 academic year. As part of that grant, Smith will be leading a Professional Learning Community on OERs in the fall.

More information about OERs in general, and the grant we are offering, is available here: