Survey Results: Librarians and OER (Part I)

Picture Credit: Loughborough University (CC-BY)

Picture Credit: Loughborough University (CC-BY)

What do librarians think about OER? If they create OER, do they share it? What awareness is there of CC and open licensing? What challenges do librarians face when using OER? What kind of policies would help librarians be more open?

There are just some of the questions we sought to investigate in a survey of librarians conducted during Autumn 2013. Working with Co-PILOT (Community of Practice for Information Literacy Online Teaching) project members Eleni Zazani (Birkbeck) and Nancy Graham (Roehampton), we launched two questionnaires during Open Access Week at the end of last October. Both surveys closed 2 January 2014 and were identical in content (the only difference being that one version mentioned Co-PILOT explicitly in the opening text and title). A big thanks to all those who either tweeted, blogged or promoted the surveys and, of course, a massive thanks to those who participated.


A total of 312 people responded to both questionnaires, with 219 respondents working full- or part-time as a librarian. These respondents are the focus of the following preliminary analysis. Although 82.4% of respondents came from either the US or UK (n=178), the remaining 17.6% of contributions came from a range of countries including Italy, Tanzania, Ghana and Lebanon (n=38).  81.1% of respondents were female (n=176) and 89.4% of respondents have English as their first language (n=194).  87.4% of librarians also reported having a postgraduate/graduate school degree as their highest qualification (n=188) whilst over a quarter of respondents (25.6%) reported having been a librarian for 20 years or more (n=51).

We asked respondents about the different ways that they access the Internet. 98.2% of librarians reported that they do so at work (n=214), with 89.9% accessing the internet at home using broadband (n=196) and 75.2% of respondents accessing the internet via their smartphone (n=164). The least popular ways of accessing the Internet were via a games console (5.0%, n=11) or at home using a dial-up connection (5.0%, n=11).

Over half of respondents reported publishing a blog post (50.7%, n=111) or posting on a microblogging site, for example Twitter or Tumblr (56.2%, 123) in the past year.  84.9% reported contributing to a social network (n=186) in the last year. 100% of respondents reported using word processing software (n=219) in the last 12 months whilst only 8.2% have recorded and uploaded a podcast (n=18) during this period. 10.0% of respondents have downloaded a file using a torrent client (n=22) during the last year.

Using OER 

The top three types of OER used for teaching/training purposes by librarians were images (77.7%, n=129), videos (58.4%, n=97) and E-books (42.8%, n=71).

We asked respondents what kind of purposes they used OER for, within the context of their role as librarian.  The most popular response (73.5% of librarians) was that OER was used to help find available content for learning, teaching and training (n=125).  72.9% of respondents reported using OER within the context of their role as librarian for getting new ideas and inspiration (n=124) whilst the next popular response was that OER was used to enhance professional development (n=95). Of note is that the least popular response to this question was using OER to give to learners as compulsory self-study materials (8.8%, n=15).  This contrasts with 39.4% of librarians having given learners OER as optional self-study materials (n=67) and 37.1% as e-learning to online learners (n=63).  Unfortunately, from this survey, we don’t know who is making the decision about compulsory/optional materials or what context librarians are suggesting OER as optional resources to students in (e.g. are OER listed as compulsory/optional study materials by educators or are librarians selecting and advising on suitable OER content themselves?)… It would appear that further research is needed to make sense of these results and the role librarians play in selecting OER for use by students.

The top three challenges most often faced by respondents when using OER were reported as: Knowing where to find resources (60.8%, =n=121), finding resources of sufficiently high quality (59.8%, n=119) and finding suitable resources in their subject area (56.3%, n=112)

Creating and Measuring the Impact of OER 

79.5% of respondents have used OER (n=171) whilst 39.5% reported that they had adapted open educational resources to fit their needs (n=85).  Whilst 32.1% librarians have created OER for study or teaching (n=69), 14.9% of librarians reported that they had created resources and published them on an open licence (n=32).

Librarians who reported either creating OER for study or teaching, and/or creating and publishing resources on an open license were asked how they share the OER they create and whether they measure its impact. 60.8% of this group of librarians reported that they do not measure the impact of OER they create (n=45). This contrasts with 29.7% of librarians who told us that they do measure impact (n=22) in some way. Of the remaining 9.5% who reported that they didn’t know whether they measured impact (n=7), this appeared in some cases to relate to uncertainty around what constituted “measuring impact” (we did not define this term for respondents).  One librarian noted: “Not really – although we do look at how many times the video has been watched.” Another noted “I track the usage of them but this (e.g. downloads) but I don’t think this is an adequate measure of impact. There may be 1,000’s of downloads but who knows whether anyone has looked at them again.” Of those who told us how they measure impact, the majority of respondents use either number of downloads/analytics or user surveys to assess the impact of OER they create.

The most popular subject for librarians, both in terms of use, and creation of OER was Computing and Information Science. 47.6% of librarians reported using OER in this subject area (n=65), with 16.9% have created OER in this subject area (n=23). Whilst 36.8% of librarians report using OER in Social Science (the next most popular option, n=50) only 5.9% reported creating OER in that subject area (n=8).  The second most popular subject to create OER in was reported as Health and Social Care (8.8%, n=12).

Open Licensing 

70.8% of librarians have seen the Creative Commons logo and report knowing what it means (n=155). Elsewhere 69.4% of respondents told us that the reason they select one OER over another was due to the resource having a CC license (n=143)  This was the third most popular answer to our question asking respondents what factors make them more likely to select a particular resource when searching for open educational content (the top answer was the resource being created/uploaded by a reputable/trusted institution or person (87.9%, n=181).

More than 10% of respondents thought that open licensing was “of little importance” or “unimportant” when using resources in their teaching (5.7%, n=12 and 6.2%, n=13 respectively) whilst over 60% thought it was either “very important” or “important” (34.3%, n=72 and 37.6%, n=79 respectively).  Further analysis is needed to breakdown these findings: as not all librarians are teachers, did those who do not teach either interpret “teaching” more broadly, or perhaps give less importance to licensing within this context, as it is not important for what they do as a librarian?  Moreover, how important do those who have not seen the CC license before (16.9%, n=37) think open licensing is within this context?

Does OER Save Students and Institutions Money? 

Interestingly, although there are a growing number of studies which show that use of OER (such as open textbooks) have financial benefits for students, over 50% of librarians told us that they didn’t know whether their students saved money by using OER (50.9%, n=83). Moreover, in contrast to this, over 50% of respondents believe their institution benefits financially from using OER (53.1%, n=85). I will return to analyse the results of these questions in more detail, and compare them with OERRH data on educator perceptions of savings for students and institutions in Part II of this blog post.

Part II’s analysis will be published in Spring 2014 (there are, for example, further questions on the impact of OER on one’s role as librarian and on institutional policy/practice and a range of “open text” questions relating to policy/practice at respondents’ institutions and what respondents think openness means to report on).  The survey’s findings will also be the focus of our presentation at OER14 in April. In addition, Nancy will also be presenting some of the findings at this month’s Co-PILOT event in Glasgow. Please join us for these events … or look out for the follow-up post!

4 thoughts on “Survey Results: Librarians and OER (Part I)

  1. Pingback: Librarians and Open Educational Resources: Survey Results | Eleni's First Steps

  2. Pingback: CoPILOT and OER Research Hub: A year of reflection and activities | Eleni's First Steps

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