This post was contributed by Dylan DeLoe, Library and Learning Support Assistant, Blue Mountain Community College. It is a followup to an earlier post about the impact of using statewide funding to purchase print copies of open textbooks, aka “OER Petting Zoos.”
The first Open Education Week event I attended was at the Blue Mountain Community College Library, organized by Brittany Young (BMCC’s former library director). At that time, I worked as a student assistant for the library and several other departments on campus.
Like any typical student, I was instantly drawn to the umami aroma wafting from the catering spread. Along with a few people I assumed were faculty (they may have been fellow imposters, just there for the snacks), we cordially bantered over the food and books. Brittany approached me as I finished my small plate and told me about the OER Petting Zoo she had put together. She had told me about the idea of open educational resources (OER), but I had never come face to face with one before. I pulled apart the stacks on the coffee table, rifling through the different subjects: Chemistry, Anatomy, English, it was all there.
Then, I came across a much smaller book with a cartoon of a giraffe on the front wearing a bowtie and glasses, “Animal Rights 101.” The bowtie probably indicated that it was intended for a philosophy course discussing moral arguments, and that kind of content made up the bulk of the book, but I found my interest piqued by its connection to the agriculture class I had just come from: Animal Science 101.
My instructor had just told us to prepare for some tension in next week’s unit, because it would cover the touchy subject of animal rights. I asked Brittany if I could borrow the book over the weekend to prepare and consider my moral stance and extrapolate my arguments from there. I read the whole thing on a Saturday. Come the following week, we covered a good bit of content, especially real-life examples of legal applications of animal rights, welfare and all the parties involved – but the moral considerations that I expected to discuss never came up.
After class, I nervously approached my instructor and offered the bowtie book. I said that it might lead to more personal reflection and invigorate discussion with some different considerations. My instructor didn’t take the book then, but later reached out for the title and assigned it the very next term, which, at the very beginning of a pandemic, was no small feat.
I want to recognize my instructor and Brittany, and the people like them who make these efforts to make student success more accessible. I also want to encourage those who raise awareness about this issue by putting events together like the OER Petting Zoo. I feel honored to be a part of this story and I hope to deliver more stories like it in the future, now that I am working on textbook affordability in that same library today. These events are effective and they do make a difference, often in profound ways. Feel empowered as you move forward with this important work.