In today’s American system of higher education, success often looks like graduating with a bachelor’s degree with thousands of dollars in debt. Failure, tragically, is leaving higher education without a degree, still with significant debt. Even with careful financial planning, first-generation students are often unaware of hidden costs such as housing, transportation, food and textbooks. Some students end up sabotaging their own success by attempting to cut costs by not purchasing required course materials. Our University Libraries have striven to change this narrative, through our leadership in both student success initiatives and open education advocacy. From partnering with the Bookstore to offer short-term textbook lending, to working with programs that support first-generation and underrepresented communities, the Libraries has long been an advocate for students and a proponent of the critlib movement (Nicholson, & Seale, 2018).
To further strengthen our efforts, in July 2019 the Libraries created an innovative strategic initiative which placed a newly-qualified librarian at the heart of the University’s effort to support non-traditional students. Our librarian was asked to investigate and implement inclusive strategies the University Libraries can use to help vulnerable students succeed at NC State by seeking to plant the Libraries directly into gaps within nontraditional students’ knowledge and understanding that are grounded in class and cultural background, not lack of aptitude or application. To that end, the librarian was tasked with gathering and sharing information about Libraries’ resources and initiatives that aim to reduce the overall financial burden of higher education. By developing a social justice-oriented model of advocacy, they have sought to translate principles of critical librarianship into impactful contributions that help to level a campus playing field already compromised by the so-called “hidden curriculum” (Chatelain, 2018).
To supplement this work, the Libraries has taken advantage of its presence as the key stakeholder in the textbook ecosystem. While the Libraries have no direct control over many of the ever-increasing incremental fees associated with higher education, they maintain an unique ability to influence this particular corner of the puzzle. Our librarian has co-led a campus-wide project team which sought to promote to and work alongside faculty in an effort to adopt OER at the expense of the contemporary textbook publishing model in an effort to further drive student success, retention, and completion (Colvard, Watson & Park, 2018) against the creep of a competitive textbook publishing world dominated by access codes, time-limited e-texts, and inclusive access.
We invite you to join us as we reflect upon the first year of an initiative during which we have found early successes by helping to save our students hundreds of thousands of dollars in textbook costs through influencing and supporting multiple faculty in adopting, remixing and creating OER, affecting thousands of students. We will also reflect upon the hurdles and setbacks we have encountered along the way and share strategies to allow others to use our work to date as a research and activist model to promote student advocacy at their own institutions.
Chatelain, M., 2018. We must help first-generation students master academe’s “hidden curriculum.”. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Available at: https://www.chronicle.com/article/We-Must-Help-First-Generation/244830 [Accessed 07 December 2019].
Colvard, N.B., Watson, C.E. and Park, H., 2018. The Impact of Open Educational Resources on Various Student Success Metrics. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 30(2), pp.262-276.
Nicholson, K.P. & Seale, M., 2018. The politics of theory and the practice of critical librarianship, Sacramento, CA: Library Juice Press.