2020 Innovation Award Winners: OER Textbook for Composition and Information Literacy

Sarah LeMire, Kathy Anders, and Terri Pantuso standing in a line in front of a building and plants.

The 2020 Innovation Award Winners, Sarah LeMire, Kathy Anders, and Terri Pantuso.

The ACRL IS Innovation Award Committee chose Sarah LeMire, Kathy Anders, and Terri Pantuso from Texas A&M University for this year’s Innovation Award. Their project, OER Textbook for Composition and Information Literacy, used an existing OER English Composition textbook and added information literacy concepts throughout the text. “We knew we wanted the OER’s information literacy content to mimic the way we wanted it taught – integrated throughout the course curriculum,” explained the team. They describe the impetus for the project as partly stemming from frustration at how composition textbooks seem to replicate the one-shot information literacy model by isolating information literacy content into a single chapter and partly from a fortuitous conversation about textbook costs between Sarah and Terri at a faculty mixer.

This textbook has proven successful at Texas A&M as instructors have used the OER in over 35 sections this academic year, and they’ll continue to use it next year as well. The team has found that administrators in the University Libraries and the English department have been very supportive of the switch to an OER as a strategy for lowering financial barriers for students. In addition, the Texas A&M University Press is working with the team to convert the OER into multiple eBook formats, which they plan to share back out with the information literacy and composition communities in the next few months. They will share them on OER platforms as well. “This OER is an adaptation of the work so generously shared by others, and we want to encourage others to continue to adapt, build upon, or remix our version as well,” they noted. In addition to this, the team is considering other ways to promote and advance the project: “We’re considering how we could further develop the OER to support institutions that require two semesters of composition and/or facilitate its use by high school teachers of dual credit/enrollment courses.”

For others out there who are interested in trying something similar, Terri, the faculty member on the team, has this advice: “Find an advocate in your discipline! There are faculty members out there who are willing to partner with you.” Sarah, one of the librarians on the team adds, “Adapting, or even adopting, can seem overwhelming to faculty already pressed for time. But as librarians, we can provide structure, support, and even our own OER content to make the project seem not only manageable, but also rewarding.” And Kathy, the other librarian on the team, notes that “ it’s important to make evidence-based arguments to faculty. Many of them know the costs of their textbooks, but they may not know the financial demographics of their students. Working with the university assessment office to determine how helpful OER texts can be for struggling students is an important part of showing teaching faculty the potential impact of adapting or adopting open texts. Everyone wants to increase access and help students succeed.