The Linked-data Disconnect with OERs

Open Educational Resources (OERs) are all the rage in the library world lately. This is with good reason – free textbooks, lesson plans, and group activities, oh my! A quick search produces as wide a collection of OERs as there are libraries.

We want our patrons to have access to these free materials. Unfortunately, the common library offering is a ever-growing list of links to these OERs. This is similar to the frustrations of e-resource subscription journals. Some libraries have the journals connected with one-search functionality but many don’t. Neither OERs nor non-linked journal subscriptions are user friendly. Patrons wants to one-search for a list of objects, not click through multiple databases to do the same search over and over in the different source sets. It’s great to offer access, but this kind of offering is not user friendly.

I implore libraries to NOT simply link to multiple sets of OERs. This is the easy way out. I offer two alternatives:

  • Short-term solution: Make it an object in your e-resource database. Instead of making a list of OERs, make a list of the specific objects within the OERs that fit your mission and list those. Tag them such that they will come up in your one-search with ease with your other items.
  • Long-term solution: Linked data. This is also the answer to library catalogs around the world in efforts to not have to enter item information (book, e-resource, etc.) when thousands of others have cataloged that same item. OERs do not have to follow MaRC (or the new BIBFRAME) schema like book catalogs or archives though. My suggestion for using linked data will only work if other OER creators get on board so that we can all link to each others’ objects without having to make full object entries such as my short-term solution. Users love their filters when making purchases with the more sophisticated online retailer systems (Amazon, Zappos, etc.) which requires mucho time in entering metadata. It doesn’t even have to be done by a professional cataloger according to the latest research (unfortunate trend for catalogers – we’ll soon see the reprocussions of this).

I am prone to make lists for days of cool, free OERs and Learning Object Repositories for my customers, but Google has spoiled them with their fabulous webcrawlers loading instant unvetted information into their information-thirsty hands. Let’s give them good, free information they can EASILY access at the cost of just a few more man hours.

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