Is There an OER in Your Future?

In a 2013 survey, 65% of students polled from universities and colleges across the U.S. stated that they had foregone buying a course textbook due to high cost. Ninety-four percent of these students admitted they made this decision despite concerns that not purchasing the material would hurt their grade in the course.

While there is no single answer to the high cost of textbooks, open educational resources or OERs are being incorporated into curricula at many colleges and universities. OERs are instructional materials freely available on the internet. Types of OERs include textbooks, content modules, simulations, image galleries, software, and more.

Many OERs are customizable, enabling an instructor to tailor a resource to their own course needs. Because many OERs are available for reuse through a Creative Commons license, the hurdles of restrictive licensing or costly permissions are removed.

OER collections are available through the following links:

Let the library help you with locating, using, or even creating OERs. Our institutional repository, Digital Commons @ Michigan Tech is a perfect platform for the OERs you create and want to share. And, when you would like assistance with interpreting the range of Creative Commons licenses, request a personal consultation with a librarian.

In addition, the library provides subscription access to many ebooks including titles published by Springer, IOP and ASM. Many Springer ebooks are also available as low-cost print versions that can be downloaded from the Springer ebooks site. Email for more information.

Library Instruction Offerings

Teaching faculty, instructors, and graduate student assistants often notice that their students have difficulty finding quality information or pertinent literature for projects. If you have ever lamented a project or paper citing information from Wikipedia or, the library can help! The library’s education team offers a variety of information literacy support options that can be modified and customized to suit the needs of individual instructors and courses.

Basic librarian involvement:

  • Librarian-created tutorials on various research skills and topics are linked in Canvas, with or without attendant quizzes.
  • A customized, course-specific research guide is created by a librarian, linked in Canvas, and promoted in class by the professor.
  • Research/Reference Help information is linked in Canvas and/or promoted in class by the professor.

Moderate librarian involvement:

  • Any or all of the above, plus:
  • Students visit the library for a course-integrated instruction session, ideally tied to a specific assignment.
  • Librarians select supplemental course materials such as articles, book chapters, or videos in order to extend students’ learning on course topics.

Intensive librarian involvement:

  • Any or all of the above, plus:
  • In addition to a course-integrated instruction session, a meaningful assignment can be created for students to complete either before or after the session.
  • A second instruction session may be added if necessary or desired.
  • A professor provides the librarian with student work products to assess in order to determine whether information literacy instruction should be modified.
  • Schedule a consultation with an instruction librarian to go over course materials and determine whether additional assignments or activities could incorporate additional information literacy elements.
  • If desired, the faculty member and librarian can explore the possibility of a course-embedded librarian.

Email to find out more about all of the options above or to discuss additional ideas for librarian involvement in your courses!

Journals: Next Steps

The 2016 journal subscriptions were selected to acquire as many titles as possible from the lists of essential journals most departments submitted. The ways by which e-journals are made available by publishers varies widely, which means we have access to some titles that do not appear on the faculty lists because they are included in a package. The library identified some titles that were not on faculty lists but were used over a three-year period at rates which warranted selection. In addition to usage, which took the relative size of the discipline on this campus, other considerations included: cost per use and borrowing requests.

The next steps require the involvement of faculty; this group will craft parameters to guide decision-making, so that the collection of journals are linked even more directly to the university’s research. Each department and institute now has a library liaison and this group will be asked to consider supporting the Senate ad-hoc committee’s recommendations (April 2015) for a smaller, representative group of liaisons (the Senate has not acted on this committee’s recommendations) and a mechanism for communicating with the faculty and students. Some of the considerations include:

  • Making choices among an annual subscription and borrowing or purchasing articles.
  • How to incorporate the needs of doctoral students?
  • What should be considered “low use” particularly when it disproportionately affects one discipline?
  • Devising a rational method for a 7% reduction
  • Whether or not a formula for allocations to disciplines or departments makes sense for our university
  • How to address new or emerging research areas in a timely manner?
  • How to address the impact of new programs (with new faculty)?

Decisions for the 2017 subscription year need to be made by July 31, 2016. We hope that you will contact your library liaison or the with your ideas or suggestions about your needs.

Journals: Where We Are

You may have noticed improvements in access to the journals needed for your research and, to a lesser degree, for teaching. These improvements aimed for increased access to those journals identified by faculty as essential to their research needs within the limits of the library’s budget.

The library budget for all collections is $2,700,000, as it was in 2008. With a 30% inflationary increase during this period and increased prices of journals in all fields, our purchasing power has been significantly reduced. We can expect a 7% increase for 2017, barring currency exchange rate impacts. For 2016, the library spent $2,620,000 on journals and database-type resources.

To acquire all journals requested by those departments that participated in the “essentials” list process, a gap of $1.2 million remains. This gap is composed of the cost to re-enroll in the Elsevier Science Direct package we had until 2015; several hundred thousand dollars for biomedical and health sciences titles for which we lack funding or another research area that can be rationally reduced; high cost business titles; and high cost titles in many disciplines published by Taylor and Francis or Springer, for which it is difficult to determine warrant (e.g., requested by only one person with no Interlibrary Loan evidence). Some cancelations were made: titles with low or modest use that did not appear on the faculty list of essential journals and were never requested through Interlibrary Loan.

On a positive note, licenses for Sage titles, including a newly acquired Mechanical Engineering package, enabled us to acquire access to all requested Sage titles. A new license with Wiley was negotiated to increase access to all Wiley journals from several hundred. All titles published by Nature are now accessible, instead of only four.

The full master list of journal subscriptions is available. See the JCR & NSF tab for 2016 decisions or the master tab for a list of titles by publisher or platform.

The most reliable way of ascertaining whether we subscribe to a journal is by searching our eJournals A-Z list or clicking on HuskyFetch links from your database of choice or Google Scholar. ­­

Interlibrary Loan remains an effective way to both obtain articles (within 11 hours, daily) and provide important evidence that will contribute to decision-making for 2017. Faculty are also encouraged to use our daily 4-hour rush service, accessible within ILLiad, for urgent needs. As always, the library urges faculty to tell us about specific titles that are essential to their current and likely future research.

When faculty believe a title to be unavailable, please contact us through our “Ask Us” service or

Third Anniversary of White House Open Access Directive

February 22nd marked the third anniversary of the White House Directive for expanding public access to the results of federally funded research. The Directive, issued by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), requires federal agencies with more than $100M in research and development expenditures to make published results of federally funded research available to the public within one year of publication. The directive also specifies that investigators must better manage the digital data that results from their research.

In order to meet these data management requirements, many public agencies have developed new guidelines for researchers. Data Management Plans (DMPs), in particular, help investigators organize their data throughout the lifecycle of a project and are required by many funding agencies as part of the proposal.

FASTR, the bipartisan Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act, was introduced in Congress on March 18, 2015 in an effort to mandate agency and publisher participation in these new public access policies. In order to pass out of committee, FASTR was amended to reflect a 12 month embargo period and to include a provision for a petition process to shorten or lengthen embargoes. On March 8, 2016,  FASTR was placed on the legislative calendar and is now free to either be considered by the full Senate as a stand-alone bill, or be attached to another bill that might be moving for a vote. For the latest news on FASTR and other open access initiatives, visit the SPARC website.

Check out the library’s Data Management guide for more information about how to manage, store, and share your research data. The library also offers one-on-one consultations with a librarian on a variety of topics, including data management and data preservation.

Journal Archive or Database?

The differences among a collection of journals, such as JSTOR or Project Muse, and typical databases, such as Web of Science or Philosopher’s Index, are subtle but can have a profound effect on the quality of your search results.

Journal archives such as JSTOR (which stands for “journal storage”) are not comprehensive or subject-specific: they contain only those journals that wish to be included. The back issues of journals collected and stored can only be searched to find subjects by keywords occurring in the full text, which means sifting through results lists that may not be very relevant to your needs. Individual journals can be browsed by date but are not otherwise indexed. Most journals in JSTOR also have a “moving wall” of access, which means that the most recent 3-5 years of articles are not available. If your research depends on up-to-date information, JSTOR is not likely to contain it.

Databases such as Web of Science (which also includes the social sciences and arts and humanities literatures), Scopus, and many more, are often updated weekly or even daily and will contain the most up-to-date references. To enable greater precision in searching, they are indexed by many document features such as subject/topic, citing or cited items, author affiliation as well as author-supplied keywords. All of these features can be both searched within and sorted by, helping the researcher find more relevant items and fewer irrelevant ones.

Ultimately, awareness of the features of each type of searching tool can help you choose the best sources for your information research. Our Databases A-Z list can be sorted by subject area – check here to see our recommended databases for each subject!

Impact Factors of Open Access Journals

Journal Impact Factor is a metric used to measure the relative importance of a journal within its field. A journal’s impact factor is the average number of citations received per article published in that journal during the preceding two years. Impact factors are calculated annually for journals indexed in Journal Citation Reports, the definitive source for this data.

The value and viability of open access (OA) journals is a highly debated topic and despite growth in this area, there are still lingering doubts about the quality of OA journals overall. Journal Citation Reports has included open access journals since 2002, and their impact factors are also reported. Vetting OA journals using Journal Citation Reports can be  a useful method for identifying respected OA publications.

What do you think about using impact factor to judge a journal’s quality? Stay tuned for a discussion of an alternative metric, Eigenfactor Scores, in our next issue.

We compiled a list of OA journals from Journal Citation Reports based on their impact factors. These OA titles have impact factors placing them in the top 250 of over 12,000 titles.

Top Ten OA Journals with source

Articles Published by Michigan Tech Authors by Discipline, 2000-2015

Web of Science is a major database that faculty have long used to find both publications and their citations in the sciences, arts and humanities and social sciences. A newer competitor is Scopus from which this chart is derived. While there is overlap, Scopus can provide additional publications and uses a different algorithm for identifying citing articles. Let us know if you want to learn more about Scopus.