Changing Practice: School Librarians as OER Curators

School librarians play a vital role in curating instructional resources to match the needs of their targeted school audiences. They have long been the experts in how to find resources and make them discoverable by others, and in understanding copyright and its pitfalls. These skills are especially useful when OER are part of a school system’s curriculum development process—where the selection of openly licensed materials depends on careful evaluation of use permissions, and where the outputs of curation may be adapted and shared for discovery by future users.

A recent study conducted by ISKME in partnership with school librarians across five states reveals that librarians who are leading the way in OER curation are not just finding and selecting materials, they are collaboratively adapting, evaluating, and re-sharing those materials—all important tenets of open practice.  As an example, one school librarian from the study demonstrated how she worked with a district-level content specialist to curate and scaffold openly licensed primary sources for an inclusive social studies unit addressing tribal sovereignty in Washington State. After refining the unit based on classroom teacher feedback, the completed unit  was shared as OER in a public OER library.

When asked in the study about the factors that have enabled their ability to take the lead on OER curation,  librarians pointed to the support they receive from their school and district leaders, and from classroom teachers, as central. This translates into a few key steps that states and districts might take as they consider ways to develop the OER curation role for their school librarians:

  1. Make OER Curation a Formal Part of the School Librarian Role Description. Work with your school librarian(s) to develop formal role description that highlights the collaborative role they play in supporting high quality instructional resources, and that incorporates both OER curation and open licensing expertise. In such a description, the librarian is positioned as an instructional leader that utilizes the curation of OER to support transformational teaching and learning and to develop the digital curation skills of others.   

  2. Encourage School Librarian Partnerships Around OER. Promote collaboration between school library staff and other school system stakeholders to leverage the best of a school’s resources. For example, prompt teachers to include school librarians in their curriculum meetings, and encourage curriculum specialists and other district-level folks to invite school librarians  into OER initiatives and into discussions about material ownership and intellectual property.

  3. Support OER Learning Opportunities.  Even school librarians that are the most well versed in OER can benefit from opportunities to extend their OER knowledge—especially in the area of open licensing, as ISKME’s study revealed. There are many web-based trainings and resources, including  Creative Commons Certificate Program, and ISKME’s  OER Curation Framework for School Librarians.

These are just a few ideas for how to support library staff in their work to further OER use in their schools. We’d love to hear from you about  your school librarian OER leadership stories, or questions about the study that this blog post is based upon. Please write to for additional information.

More About ISKME’s School Librarian Study
A full report on the study,  entitled “Exploring OER Curation and the Role of School Librarians,” will be published in the summer of 2019. The study was conducted by the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education in partnership with  Florida State University School of Information. The study was supported by the Institute of Library and Museum Services under grant number LG-86-17-0035-17.  

April 15, 2019