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Student-librarian leadership proves innovative for promoting open educational resources

photo of Graf Kirk, class of 2022
Graf Kirk, Class of 2022 (photo courtesy of Graf Kirk)

Graf Kirk is a lot of things to Boise State University. He is a recent graduate who holds a degree in biology. He is a former vice president of academic affairs of the Associated Students of Boise State University. He is currently applying to medical school. Shannon Smith is the open educational resources (OER) librarian at Albertsons Library where she advocates for open education. Smith works with campus partners to implement OER and open education practices to benefit Boise State students.

Kirk and Smith may not have crossed paths if it weren’t for Boise State’s spirit of innovation. Last fall, Smith was asked to lead the campus-wide task force on Learning Materials Access and Affordability (LMAA). The Office of the Provost convened the group in order to address access, accessibility and affordability of course materials for students.  Although the timeframe was tight, Smith knew it was crucial to involve a student voice.

Smith knows first-hand that a student’s perspective on course materials – and the university system – affects the evolution of open education on campus. With a Boise State student participating on the task force, a critical voice would be part of these campus-level conversations. Smith contacted Student Affairs, who introduced her to the Associated Students of Boise State University (ASBSU) and, in turn, Graf Kirk. The library hired Kirk as a research technician. His primary role in this position was to serve on the Learning Materials Access and Affordability (LMAA) task force, and to be part of the conversation around affordable course materials.

As a leadership duo, the librarian and the student presented to ASBSU. They shared the work of the LMAA task force and the importance of developing both resources and infrastructure to support the adoption of low cost materials and OER. In April, ASBSU was inspired to allocate $15,000 towards Smith’s OER work at the library. This commitment from ASBSU was undoubtedly accelerated by the fact that Graf, a leader in student government, was championing the value of affordable learning in his own education.

Kirk and Smith co-authored More Than a Seat at the Table: Including Students as Peers, an OER & Beyond article about how students and librarians can work together effectively to advocate for affordable learning options. This work aids in diminishing cost barriers to education. It also supports students’ academic success at the university level.

During last spring’s Bronco Giving Day, Kirk raised funds for OER while explaining “One of the things that students get really frustrated by is the high cost of textbooks. Those textbooks may only last for a semester before they expire. I’m here to own my education, not just rent it.”