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Posted on Jul 1, 2016

New funding for open educational resources improves access to course materials

New funding for open educational resources improves access to course materials

In October Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill 798, the College Textbook Affordability Act of 2015, which establishes a $3 million grant fund to be awarded to CSU and community college campuses that demonstrate their commitment to increasing adoption of high-quality, no-cost and low-cost course materials.

Since then at least 17 CSU libraries have collaborated with staff across their campuses to apply for grant funding, which would allow them to more widely adopt affordable learning solutions (ALS) and open educational resources (OER). Each campus may apply for up to $50,000 to fund faculty professional development and technology support.

Faculty adoption of affordable learning solutions

AB 798 aims to reduce costs of course materials for students by providing OER adaptation and adoption support for faculty. For many faculty, time is “one of the most challenging things” about shifting toward OER, according to King Library Sr. Assistant Librarian Ann Agee.

Brian Beatty, Associate Professor of Instructional Technologies and Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs Operations at San Francisco State adds that “Designing classes and incorporating new instructional materials often requires a lot of major work, additional work that faculty may not have planned for.”

In response to these concerns, both Agee and Beatty hope that grants from AB 798 will make it easier for faculty to make the switch over to more accessible course materials.

“We’re developing a 2-3 hour faculty workshop to help link faculty to OER resources,” Beatty said.

On an institutional level, Agee believes that a tenure process that acknowledges faculty contributions to using or creating affordable course materials could also facilitate faculty willingness to adopt. “The tenure process doesn’t recognize or reward creating open resources,” Agee said. “If the incentive were there, then I think more faculty would make the shift to OER.”

New grants’ potential benefits to more programs

At San Jose State, Agee has noticed that health science, library science, and computer science departments have been the biggest adopters of ALS. For the time being, San Jose is focused on adopting resources for “high-enrollment GE courses,” but other disciplines such as meteorology are also interested in adopting more accessible resources.

At San Francisco State, Beatty has seen interest from the economics, statistics, and English departments. San Francisco State has given all faculty members the opportunity to switch over to ALS, even for courses with small enrollments, according to Beatty. Their grassroots approach capitalizes on faculty enthusiasm for promoting the benefits of ALS. “These early adopters are like case studies for other faculty,” Beatty said. “We rely on these faculty to help tell their story to their colleagues.”

Cultural impacts of AB 798

Beyond the faculty professional development opportunities AB 798 offers, many ALS specialists hope that this legislation will bring about a shift in institutional culture. “We want faculty to think of the cost of instruction from the very beginning so that we can change the culture and attitude toward OER,” Beatty said.

Agee echoed Beatty by adding, “We want to make OER adoption more mainstream and not just a library thing.”

According to Nicole Bohn, Director, Disability Programs and Resource Center at San Francisco State, AB 798 is “helping faculty think in new ways…Anecdotally we’re finding people learning more about accessibility.”

Supporting and expanding future ALS efforts

Looking forward, Beatty hopes this legislation will have far-reaching impacts on student experiences beyond the class sections funded by the first round of grants. “We want to reach as many courses as we can,” Beatty said.

Bohn believes the CSU’s commitment to accessibility will continue to be at the forefront of designing educational content. “My biggest hope is that we continue to be ambassadors in designing accessible courses for everyone,” Bohn said.

For more information about AB 798, participating faculty and courses, and helpful e-textbook reviews, visit http://www.cool4ed.org/.

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Posted on May 27, 2016

Vanguard Libraries create CSU-wide Alma sandbox

Vanguard Libraries create CSU-wide Alma sandbox

For the past few months, staff at San Jose State’s King Library, CSU Northridge’s Oviatt Library and Fresno State’s Madden Library have been working collaboratively as “vanguard” campuses to create and share test instances of Ex Libris Alma. The CSU Chancellor’s Office is leading all 23 California State University libraries in implementing Alma as a shared Unified Library Management System (ULMS) platform. Testing the platform on a smaller batch of data is an important stepping-stone towards achieving that goal.

“This is really the first chance to migrate data onto this new platform,” said Madden Library systems analyst María Peña. “By vanguard campuses going first, it gives our sister institutions a peek at what their data will look like in Alma. This will help the CSU libraries streamline the migration process as we make the transition to a unified management system.”

Advantages of a vanguard approach

The three vanguard campuses had the unique opportunity to test the process of migrating to the Alma platform before all 23 campuses migrate permanently in spring 2017. The vanguard libraries are serving as a model for other campuses, troubleshooting problems, and strengthening the CSU’s working relationship with Ex Libris.

“The reason why the vanguard approach is so helpful is that sister institutions get to watch us make mistakes that they can avoid, making them feel more comfortable about the entire migration process,” said Madden Library IT staff member Renaldo Gjoshe.

“The great thing is you get a sense of what to expect from the migration experience,” Peña added. “You know you’re going to have a chance to do it again, evaluate the data and clean things up.”

Because issues within the platform will be ironed out beforehand, the vanguard approach has also made it possible for all 23 CSU libraries to migrate onto this new system at the same time. Previous migrations this size have been rolled out in waves, a more costly and complicated process.

“Historically, we were not able to migrate all 23 campuses to a new model the way we can with Ex Libris,” said King Library associate dean Rae Ann Stahl. “This migration process really changes the way we approach implementation.”

Becoming familiar with Alma

Throughout the process, the vanguard campuses have had the chance to gain a better understanding of Alma and how to work with the software and the Ex Libris team.

“Ex Libris has been very responsive to all of our inquiries which helped us address the problems we encountered very quickly and effectively,” Gjoshe said. “To me, Ex Libris is constantly innovating and constantly building to make Alma better. I hope their level of responsiveness continues as other campuses begin to implement the platform.”

Team effort between campuses

According to the vanguard campuses, this project has strengthened cross-campus working relationships. With the promise of even more collaboration through a unified library management system, teamwork is an important component of the ULMS migration process.

“When we decided to go with Ex Libris, a lot of people came together both on our campus and system-wide to make this migration work out successfully,” Peña said. “That’s what really made it possible — the team effort.”

Setting the standard

The process of migrating 23 campuses’ data all at once will be a massive undertaking, but the vanguards’ hard work proactively solving problems before the full migration occurs should make the process smoother for all involved.

“Hopefully, this will benefit a lot of other campuses and future library systems will learn from our model,” Stahl said.

The CSU system may be blazing a trail for other university libraries with its unified migration model.

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Posted on Apr 26, 2016

Fresno State pioneers collaborative project to digitize aerial photos

Fresno State pioneers collaborative project to digitize aerial photos

Staff at Fresno State’s Madden Library recently partnered with Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s Kennedy Library for a pilot aerial imagery digitization project to strengthen maps and aerial imagery collections, discoverability, and access across CSU campuses.

“In general, maps and aerial photographs are not easily discoverable by potential users and can require extensive assistance from library personnel to identify and access,” said Fresno’s project members Carol Doyle and David Drexler, and Patrick Newell, who was recently named Dean of CSU Chico’s Meriam Library.

Developing MALT

To address the growing need for accessible aerial images, the group used a wide-format scanner and vacuum wall to photograph delicate images. Project members then digitized thousands of aerial images spanning decades of historic development in the Central Valley. After this initial processing, Fresno State developed the Map and Aerial Locator Tool, or MALT, a map interface able to identify aerial images by year for a given area.

“We had long dreamed of an online, end-user accessible, interactive, map-based locator tool that would facilitate searching for maps and aerial photographs corresponding to a specific user-defined location: one search finding specific location matches across different flights, individual maps or maps series, and collections,” the group added.

Accelerating the process

Cal Poly’s Kennedy Library staff and faculty contributed to MALT’s map-based index by devising novel, time-saving ways to geolocate images in MALT, and the team is currently exploring automated approaches to rapidly geolocate bulk sets of scanned imagery.

Cal Poly’s unique, indexed, and suitable aerial image sets from various years were another reason why the campus was a perfect partner for the project, according to Russ White, Kennedy Library Numeric and Spatial Data Specialist.

“Fresno has the hardware and the expertise to do the scanning, so our role revolved around providing the content and methodology for streamlining this project,” White said.

Expanding the project

By combining digitization capacity, new content, and best practices, Fresno and Cal Poly are motivated to expand this successful pilot to content held in Cal Poly’s Special Collections and Archives, regional local history partners, other CSU libraries, and other organizations with historical images.

“The more collections and collaborators added, the more useful the tools will be.  We have spoken to University of California libraries, public libraries, government agencies, and historical societies about the project and are interested in furthering those conversations,” Fresno State said.

MALT as a model

Ultimately, the team believes this proof-of-concept project can serve as a model for other libraries and agencies to identify, process, and provide access to historical maps and aerial imagery not currently available for web mapping and research.

“Map collections that digitize and share maps online have a large number of overlapping, common needs,” the Fresno State group explained.

Beyond the project

In addition to creating a platform and method for other organizations, this ongoing project aims to develop MALT metadata for eventual inclusion in broader catalogues and searches, such as Open Geoportal.

“I hope to see MALT as something that can eventually be integrated into a larger catalogue or group,” said Jeanine Scaramozzino, Data Services Librarian and a project leader at Cal Poly. “Joining forces and working cooperatively is not always easy to do but I think this is a good example of how CSU campuses can work together.”

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Posted on Sep 14, 2015

Next generation library system project launches October 2015

Next generation library system project launches October 2015

The 23-campus California State University system will launch a two-year migration project on October 5, 2015 with Ex Libris, an industry leader in integrated, next-generation shared library systems.

The CSU system currently uses a variety of library systems to manage their collections, support discovery of digital resources, and provide the back-end services that are needed to acquire resources on behalf of thousands of faculty and nearly 500,000 students.

By June 2017, all 23 campuses will be using a common platform – Ex Libris Alma, together with Ex Libris resource discovery system, Primo. In addition to increased efficiency and equity, this means that students and faculty will have easier access to the materials they need for their research and scholarship.

The Council of Library Deans (COLD) voted in October 2014 to adopt a unified library management system, and worked closely with Gerry Hanley, CSU’s Assistant Vice Chancellor for Academic Technology Services, to develop the RFP and ultimately select Ex Libris.

“This process has been visionary and transformational for COLD,” said Dean of Library and Information Access and COLD Chair Dr. Gale Etschmaier. “The ULMS project and our work together to make this vision a reality will change how the CSU libraries will work together to serve our diverse campuses and students.”

Vanguard Campus Pilots

A team of experienced library systems engineers and project managers at the Chancellor’s Office will support the data and workflow migrations. In addition, campus project leaders and functional experts will guide implementation through two major phases: a “Vanguard Campus” phase in which Fresno, Northridge, and San Jose, three of the larger campuses, will create a test environment to explore capabilities and configurations.

Single Wave Migration in 2017

The second phase of migration will begin in March 2016. Based on consultations with other libraries that have implemented a shared system, the CSU and Ex Libris have agreed to a single wave migration plan in which all campuses will migrate to the Ex Libris platform together in spring 2017. This option means a lengthier training and testing timeline than would have been possible otherwise.

Partners in Development

The system-wide project includes opportunities to develop Alma’s user interface, workflows, accessibility and ADA compliance. Ex Libris will also provide usage data for electronic resources via COUNTER reports in Alma Analytics by the end of 2017.

Project Updates

The Chancellor’s Office is leading the migration project. Brandon Dudley is the ULMS project director who is working in close collaboration with David Walker, the Director of Systemwide Digital Library Services. Project updates and details can be found on the project website: ulms.calstate.edu.

Previous stories about the ULMS project:

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Posted on Jan 30, 2015

Embracing ‘Affordable Learning Solutions’ to promote equity

Embracing ‘Affordable Learning Solutions’ to promote equity

As tuition increases for college students, so does the need to control other costs.

That’s why libraries are making affordable textbook alternatives available to students through the CSU’s Affordable Learning Solutions program. Leslie Kennedy, director of Affordable Learning Solutions, or AL$, works with campuses in the California State University system to create cost-effective options for students.

“What we’re trying to do in the CSU is help faculty discover and hopefully adopt low- or no-cost materials,” Kennedy said. “And from the student perspective, we’re trying to support student success.”

AL$ promotes cost-effective alternatives, such as e-books, book rentals, course reserves from libraries and free open textbooks. The program aims to familiarize faculty with the available options and encourages them to choose resources that save their students money.

High textbook prices can get in the way of student success when students opt not to take certain courses because they can’t buy the text. Or they take courses but don’t buy the textbook.

“Students don’t buy the book, but take the course anyway and will accept a lower grade as a result, and then there are those who don’t even pass,” Kennedy said.

One study by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group found that 65 percent of students have decided not to buy a required book because of the price, and a single book can cost more than $200 depending on the course.

CSU libraries play an important role in saving students money. The Chancellor’s Office offers $20,000 grants to campuses proposing their own AL$ initiatives, and often, the libraries spearhead the effort to offer more affordable materials to students.

“For the most part, the CSU’s libraries have stepped up and taken the lead,” Kennedy said.

A hub for affordability at Pomona

One of the first universities to partner with AL$ was Cal Poly, Pomona. Their Affordable Learning Initiative (ALI) started in summer 2011 and has been growing ever since, said Emma Gibson, head of library public services.

A website about ALI offers resources for faculty and students, and serves as a hub for outreach.

“It gathers together a lot of resources like MERLOT (thousands of free, open textbooks); it links to a lot of the library resources; it links to sources where you can actually go and look for free e-texts,” Gibson said.

The library also provides services on Blackboard, the university’s learning management system where students access library databases based on their major and the courses they’re taking. Faculty can also work with the library to post course-specific resources on Blackboard.

“We’ve provided links to articles from our databases and we can also provide them links to our e-books from our e-book collection,” Gibson said.

But the librarians are perhaps the most important resource in ALI. Pomona’s librarians are encouraged to remind faculty about the program’s different services, and assist instructors in finding suitable course materials.

One such faculty member recently came to Gibson asking for her help in finding an affordable textbook for a new Spanish course. Gibson found several resources in the library’s collection, and even more texts through MERLOT, all of which she sent to him, she said.

Now, she’s waiting to see what book he chooses for his students.

“Contact us and we’ll do the searching for you to try to locate materials, an assortment of materials so that you can make the final decision,” Gibson said.

Bookstore and library collaborate at San Jose State

Started in spring 2012, San Jose State University’s Affordable Learning Solutions program partners the library with the bookstore to save students money. Each semester, the bookstore sends a list of textbooks ordered by faculty to the library, where that list is cross-referenced with all of the e-books in the library’s collection. The library then comes up with a list of more than 150 e-books available to students if they would prefer not to purchase a textbook.

“It’s gotten increasingly popular,” said Ann Agee, one of the coordinators of the program. “Back in spring 2012, we had 1,758 students using them. In fall of 2013, this last year, 5,000 students.”

That can mean as much as $130,000 in savings from e-book alternatives in one semester alone, Agee said.

The library also coordinates the Textbook Alternatives Project, which offers grants to encourage faculty to switch to more affordable options, be they e-books, open textbooks or course packs. Faculty are offered $1,000 to make the switch. Two faculty members have even written their own textbooks through the program, Agee said.

And for faculty who don’t have time to search for a less expensive textbook alternative, the library is doing that work for them, launching a book-matching program that pairs affordable books with many of the largest general education courses, Agee said.

“A lot of this is time,” Agee said. “Our faculty are teaching three to four courses every semester, and it’s not lack of will. It’s just going out there, finding out if it’s any good, you know, and it’s tough for them. So we’re going to do some of the legwork.”

‘Keeping education affordable for everybody’

In the end, the libraries offer up the tools, and it’s the faculty who make use of them, Gibson said.

“It’s the enthusiasm of the faculty who are involved, and the dedication of the faculty to really do whatever they can do to try and ensure that students have a good learning experience,” Gibson said. “When textbooks are too expensive a lot of students would go without. And when they go without the textbook they’re not really getting the full advantages of their education. So I think the faculty try to ensure that as many students as possible can obtain and access the textbooks they need for their course.”

For Agee, the program ensures that a quality education is available to all students, regardless of socioeconomic status.

“It’s equity,” Agee said. “It’s keeping education affordable for everybody, not just people who have money.”

For Kennedy, the AL$ program is about solving problems through options, and each campus involved is figuring out which solutions fit their faculty best.

“We’re not about prescribing what folks need to do, what faculty need to do, what students need to do; we’re about providing a spectrum of choice,” Kennedy said.

 

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Posted on Jan 20, 2015

The Japanese-American Digitization Project: Collaboration to tell a story

The Japanese-American Digitization Project: Collaboration to tell a story

The CSU libraries are places where stories live. Special collections and archives protect manuscripts, photographs, letters , oral histories and other historic documents. These departments house a host of unusual, rare and historical materials for our collective memory.

The California State University Japanese-American Digitization Project unites collections from at least 13 campuses in the CSU to create a picture of what the lives of Japanese-Americans were like during World War II. The collaboration is vast, and has an enormous impact as well, said CSU Dominguez Hills Director of Archives and Special Collections Gregory Williams, who is heading the project.

“We’re dealing with more than just photographs,” Williams said. “We’re dealing with papers and documents and letters and whatnot. And what’s great for our students is they’ll be able to access this material online.”

The project’s spark

The project was born out of conversations with colleagues, Williams said, as archivists realized that they had bits and pieces of an important history that could be brought together to create more holistic story. Inspired by the other archival collaborations of California, another database of historical documents, the archivists began working together on the digitization project.

They received a $40,000 planning grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to begin digitizing the materials and create a road map for the project, which began with a symposium to discuss how the libraries could collaborate on a project of this scale. That was followed by a beta website at Dominguez Hills’, and the uploading of 200 to 300 public items.

Archivists worked across the CSU to track down materials, from oral histories at Fullerton and Sacramento, to yearbooks and newspapers at campuses such as San Diego to corporate documents at Dominguez Hills.

“We came across this huge cache of corporate records from the Dominguez family companies in our Rancho San Pedro collection,” Williams said. “They showed the extra steps of bureaucracy that Japanese-Americans were required to take to work and lease land. They detail the effects of the Alien Land Acts of the early 20th century.”

Next, the cross-campus team will set up a website dedicated to the archive, which Williams hopes to go live by the end of the year. Then, with additional funding, the libraries will begin uploading about 10,000 total items, Williams said. That could take two to three years, once the funding is secured.

Making an impact

Even though it isn’t yet completed, the project has already started to have an impact, Williams said.

“Because we’re such an expanded, stretched-out university – we used to be called the thousand-mile university – researchers had to go all over the place, and didn’t know about certain things,” Williams said.

Now, archivists are working toward uniting the collection online.

Williams sees this project as the first of many collaborations:

“The CSU archives and special collections are ripe for other collaborative projects … It’s just the beginning.”

Photo courtesy of the Japanese-American Digitization Project and the Manzanar Collection at Robert E. Kennedy Library in Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.

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