Open Access, Open Education, Open source, Open...   Let’s start with the basics: what is it


Open Access focuses on free, unrestricted online access to content created by users (faculty, students, trainers, teachers, researchers, scientists, and possibly even you!)

If you have ever uploaded a presentation to slideshare and allowed others to download it, you are already participating!

Open Access is just one piece of the larger open movement which

includes Opensource software, Open Data, and much more.

Open Access content can be reused, shared, and modified (the 5 Rs: Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix, Redistribute). Although Public Domain content which has no copyright is often included in Open Access resources, copyright content is also included if it is licensed for open use, such as under a Creative Commons license, which makes it easy to determine usage and citation policy (attribution). There is some discussion about how "open" open content has to be, to meet the criteria of "open" (see, Defining the "Open" in Open Content). Open Content can be educational in scope (Open Educational Resources aka OER, like lesson plans and course content in OERCommons), research oriented (journals in the DOJA), images such as those shared via social media and licensed for sharing and reuse,   public domain content (like the Prelinger Archives in the Internet Archive), and much more. 

So, why should we care? Why should libraries, universities, faculty and librarians care?

Resources are expensive. Journals and textbooks are expensive. MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) are changing the landscape of education. Content is being created an extraordinary rate everyday and uploaded to the internet – why not harness the power of the crowd?  Why not make it easy to reuse and remix, facilitating creativity and fostering a culture of innovation? Sharing and access to information are some of the things that libraries do best. Sharing saves resources (time, money, and even space within buildings!) but also make libraries stronger as a whole, giving patrons much more information than any one library could offer.  


This is where libraries, librarians, faculty, and other educational staff come into the picture. Not only can we use the resources ourselves, but we can share those resources with others. We can also help create these materials, organize them, describe them, and provide access to these resources, through digitization projects such as the DPLA and Digital Library of Georgia, DLG; through large collections of OER, such as Merlot; Open Textbooks such as OpenStax, Affordable Learning Ga, BC Campus, Open Textbook Library (Univ. of Michigan)


So, the next time you present at a conference, or create a reader’s advisory or finding aid, write a blog post, create some course material, or share an image on social media, think about how you can start opening up your content to the world at large.