While most faculty members are still unaware of open educational resources, use in introductory courses nearly rivals that of traditional textbooks, study finds.
Almost half of all respondents (48 percent) said open materials are too hard to find, and that they don’t have access to a catalog showing the open resources available to them (45 percent) or a helpful colleague who can mentor them (30 percent).
Source: Study finds use of open educational resources on the rise in introductory courses
I am sure these are resources that people would like to use. But how easy are they to find? Is there a problem with the searchers or is the problem elsewhere? In any case, it seems to me a perfect chance for creating something–something that people are actually asking for: they don’t have access to a catalog showing the open resources available to them (45 percent). So, to get an idea of the problem, I decided to take a look.
IMPORTANT NOTE: I may have missed something, but that is always the case.
I immediately thought that someone may have already made a separate catalog for open textbooks. I found http://collegeopentextbooks.org but this site seems to have much more than textbooks. For instance it has a link to the CIA Factbook, which is useful, but cannot be considered to be a textbook. Plus, I found open textbooks that do not seem to be listed here. In any case, it seems to me that our shared catalogs in Worldcat could and should provide this kind of search. What do we find there when we consider how easy it is to find these items?
A search for “open textbooks” (as an exact search) in Worldcat retrieves 352 records. The first three records are for open textbook projects. If we scroll down, we see some records for single items with interesting headings such as “BC Open Textbook Project” or “OpenStax College”.
A very quick examination of the first four projects gives the following subjects:
|Electronic publishing — Textbooks — Web sites.
Electronic books — Web sites.
Textbooks — Web sites.
|Textbooks — Computer network resources.
Textbooks — Bibliography.
Community colleges — Curricula — Computer network resources.
Teaching — Aids and devices.
|Digital libraries — Web sites.
Textbooks — Web sites.
Electronic books — Web sites.
Subject analysis for these projects goes all over the place.
When we examine records for individual open textbooks, I found that the subjects will either follow either this formula:
Microeconomics — Textbooks.
or there are no subjects at all.
The directions in the subject headings manual for textbooks don’t provide much help. They discuss how their policies have changed over the years (since 2002) and then:
Also use the subdivision as a form subdivision for individual textbooks at all levels.
Title: Chemistry : an introductory textbook.
650 #0 $a Chemistry $v Textbooks.
So, there is only the subdivision “Textbooks” which is used only intermittently. Concerning the subdivision “Web sites/Computer network resources” the only directive is in the list of free-floaters where we see it is used only as a topical subdivision and there is no subdivision “Web sites”. (By the way, many libraries prefer “Web sites” to the admittedly strange “Computer network resources” which is a term, that, I fear, even an infinite amount of time would not be enough for that proverbial roomful of monkeys to randomly type out)
So, from the subjects, we find that we are limited to $vTextbooks. The next part of the search (i.e. the web part) I presume people will get by limiting to format: ebook or web site. Searching Worldcat for textbooks “openstax college” (one of the open textbook projects), I found that open textbooks can be cataloged as either an ebook or a web site, or even as a print book because open books can be printed out.
Finally, we want to get to the “open” part of the search, i.e. textbooks that are free-to-use vs. paid textbooks. And that information is not in our records. One 856 (the field used for the link) is like any other 856 and (at least at this moment) we cannot distinguish between a link that is free to everyone, vs. a link where you will be expected to pay. For this, you must already know the project you are going to: Openstax College, SUNY Open Textbooks, BC Open Textbook Project, or one of the many others, or even Project Gutenberg or Gallica or the Internet Archive.
So, it seems as if the only search is to find all of the open-textbook projects, search for them and “textbooks” as I did here with only three projects. Of course, the problem with this search is that we cannot assume that all textbooks will have 65x $vTextbooks.
I can’t call this easy in any way at all. Consequently, this seems to be a project that is absolutely screaming to be done. If instructors can find open textbooks easily, they may be encouraged to use them and students could save scads of money. If faculty found enough good in these open textbooks, faculty might decide to write their own open textbooks or contribute to others that are already online.
But the current cataloging rules and options do not seem to be enough. Therefore, the only option would be to make a separate catalog.
Too bad, but at least it is doable.