Learn About OER!

Learning Rocks!

Would you like help finding free, openly-licensed, flexible, and up-to-date educational materials? Would you like to learn about ways to positively impact students by lowering textbook costs and increasing the relevancy of learning materials? Have you heard the phrase “OER” and not fully understood what it meant?

Starting this January, the Strauss Health Sciences Library will be offering a bimonthly OER class that will cover the basics of what OER is, why it matters, and how where to look for it. We hope that you can join us!

Classes will be offered from 12:00-1:00 on:

Thursday, January 9th

Thursday, March 12th

Thursday, May 14th

Click on a date in order to register – we hope to see you there!

This was written by Ellie, you can contact AskUs with questions.

Reflections on MCMLA

In October 2019, Sam Kennefick and Ellie Svoboda, graduate assistants at the Strauss Health Sciences Library, were afforded the opportunity to attend the Midcontinental Medical Librarian Association’s (MCMLA) Annual Meeting in Omaha thanks to the generous LIS Student Professional Development Subaward from the NNLM. This award allowed us to travel to Omaha and participate in the three day conference as well as preconference professional development sessions. We greatly appreciated the opportunity to learn and network within the MCMLA community and would like to share our greatest takeaways.

The day before the Annual Meeting began, two professional development sessions were hosted at the Creighton University Health Science Library. In the morning, we attended “Cool Creative Communications: Dazzling Data Visualization”. During this class we learned how to create an informative and visually appealing data visualization using Tableau. This class offered many opportunities for hands on learning. We both left the class excited to apply our newfound knowledge of Tableau to projects we are working on at our home institution. 

The second session of the day was, “Data Management for Librarians: What Health Sciences Librarians Need to Know”. This session provided a crash course in data management 101. The importance of creating and following a data management plan was covered as well as practical tips for helping patrons at our home libraries create a successful data management plan. This session inspired us to share the importance of supporting data management practices with our colleagues once we returned home from the conference. 

The annual meeting itself kicked off with an inspiring keynote address by Kelly Gering, the founder of the conflict resolution firm, Shared Story. She broadened our understanding of the role of medical librarians by focusing on the importance of relationship building and learning to listen to understand. She shared the following quote by Margaret Wheatley, “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our judgements about each other that do”. Beginning the conference with Kelly’s message of sharing our stories set a tone of embracing vulnerability for the duration of the conference.

Over the course of the conference we were able to listen to eleven different presentations and it was inspiring to see the variety of topics that were covered. In addition to providing tangible and applicable strategies for medical librarians, they also reinforced the larger role that libraries and librarians can take in their communities. One particularly resonant presentation was “Breaking the Silence: Hosting Awareness Events on Campus During Crisis” from the librarians at the University of Utah which documented the role that the Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library played in bringing awareness to the problem of violence against women on their campus. Their powerful presentation addressed the national scale of this issue while also making it incredibly personal by sharing the stories of University of Utah students who had lost their lives to violence. The presentation was sobering while also signaling to us librarians in training that we can use our position to help the greater good. 

The meeting wrapped up with a fascinating talk by Jorge Zuniga about his creation of affordable 3D printed prosthetics for children. His story of innovation and passion for creating an option for children who cannot afford the costs of a traditional prosthesis reminded us all that choosing to be creative and think about how our work serves others can produce incredible results.

In addition to the structured learning opportunities at MCMLA, there were many opportunities to informally learn from the expertise of veteran medical librarians attending the conference. One conversation really stands out from the rest. We had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Nancy Woelfl over lunch one day and learned so much listening to her tell tales of her long and enjoyable career. Now retired, Nancy is still an active member of MCMLA. She was director of the McGoogan Library at UNMC for 26 years and before that spent time working for NASA in Ohio. Nancy’s passion for medical librarianship is contagious! She encouraged us to become active in the MCMLA community and made us feel instantly welcomed into the network of medical librarians present at the conference.

The MCMLA Annual Meeting also provided an opportunity to feel a sense of community with other medical librarians. In addition to meeting veteran librarians we also got to meet early and mid-career librarians who were full of encouragement and enthusiasm for the profession. Both of us are switching from careers in K-12 education to librarianship and hearing from librarians who love their jobs was heartening and provided a bolster of confidence that we have made a good decision. 

 The MCMLA business meeting was the final item on the agenda and it was empowering to observe this process. The decisions that were made during the meeting were thoughtful and meaningful. Witnessing this self-governance and the earnest and principled attitudes of everyone involved made us hopeful for the future. We are already a part of MCMLA and can make our voices heard and in a few years, we could participate in the executive committee. 

We left Omaha feeling inspired and grateful to have learned from and connected with the librarians from the Midcontinental Chapter of the Medical Library Association. 

Pedestrian bridge in sunshine.
Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge

This was written by Ellie and Sam, you can contact AskUs with questions.

Public Domain Day 2020

When discussing OER, we often devote a lot of time to Creative Commons licenses which are excellent tools for bestowing creative works with the 5R’s (Reuse, Remix, Revise, Retain, & Redistribute). However, in addition to Creative Commons, there is an even older designation that grants the privileges of the 5R’s with absolutely zero limits.

It is the public domain!

Public domain transfers all of the copyrights that were originally granted to an author (reproduction of the work, public performances of the work, translation of the work, adaptation of the work, etc…) to the public, in other words, works in the public domain are no longer copyrighted. Therefore anything in the public domain is perfectly poised to be utilized as an OER.

Due to the Sony Bono Copyright Extension Act of 1998, the United States public domain was frozen for a twenty year period. January 1st , 2019 was the first year that a large swath of creative works entered the public domain, specifically works from 1923 including Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening” and Cecile B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments. These works and anything else published before 1923 can be freely posted to the internet for public use and interpretation.

Which brings us to…Public Domain Day 2020!

On January 1st, 2020, works published in 1924 will finally enter the public domain, including:

File:The Box-Car Children-1924.jpg

The Box-Car Children Book 1

Desire Under the Elms

It Had to Be You*

The Land that Time Forgot

The Navigator

A Passage to India

Peter Pan

Poirot Investigates

Rhapsody in Blue*

Tarzan and the Ant Man

File:Tarzan the Ape Man (1932) Trailer - Johnny Weissmuller.jpg

So this New Year’s Day, in addition to watching the Rose Bowl and eating black-eyed peas, you can enjoy the newly increased wealth of creative works that now belong to you, the public. You could film an adaptation of The Box-Car Children and score it with Rhapsody in Blue and have Poirot make an appearance. You could publicly recite a passage from A Passage to India. You get to decide because you have the power, the power of the public domain.

Piano, Music Score, Music Sheet, Keyboard, Piano Keys
Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

*Note – for musical works it is only the composition that is entering the public domain, not recordings.

Works Cited

Douglas, N. (2019). These 1924 Copyrighted Works Enter the Public Domain in 2020. Retrieved from https://lifehacker.com/these-1924-copyrighted-works-enter-the-public-domain-in-1839612665

Stanford University Libraries. (2019). Welcome to the Public Domain. Retrieved from https://fairuse.stanford.edu/overview/public-domain/welcome/

This was written by Ellie, you can contact AskUs with questions.

OER at Anschutz

OER stands for Open Educational Resources which are materials that aid in teaching (textbooks, lesson plans, slide decks, images, modules, activities, etc…) that are free (or very low cost) and allow users (both students and educators) to make changes without asking permission. 

Starting to search for OER can be a daunting task, particularly in the field of health sciences. It can be overwhelming determining where to start and what to look for. At the Strauss Health Sciences Library, we have created a resource guide that is curated specifically for health sciences related OER and we hope it will get you started.

Open Educational Resources (OER) at CU Anschutz

The resource guide opens with a home page that answers the question, “What is OER?” Next is a page called “Why OER?” that provides background information about the benefits of OER.

The meat of the guide is the “Finding OER” section that is broken down into the following sections:

  • General Health Sciences
  • Dentistry
  • Life Sciences
  • Medicine
  • Nursing
  • Pharmacy
  • Public Health
  • Images
  • Data Management
  • Search Engines and Databases
  • Open Software

Each discipline-specific page features OERs that can be used in that discipline. For example, the textbook Trauma in Dentistry is featured on the Dentistry page, while Health Case Studies can be found on both the Nursing page and on the Medicine page.

On the “Search Engines and Databases” page you can find a variety of tools to help you find OER. OER Comons is a great place to start because its collection holds tens of thousands of OER learning materials that can easily be searched. The Open Access Biomedical Image Search Engine is another useful tool and a great place to look for health sciences related images that are openly licensed.

We invite you to visit the Open Educational Resources at CU Anschutz resource guide. Poke through some of the resources and databases, and, most importantly, let us know when you find any health sciences OER that we should add to the guide!

This was written by Ellie, you can contact AskUs with questions.

What is OER?


 A buzzy term that’s in the air of academia; wafting through conferences and popping up in job descriptions – but what is it?

OER stands for Open Educational Resources which are materials that aid in teaching (textbooks, lesson plans, slide decks, images, modules, activities, etc…) that are free (or very low cost) and allow users (both students and educators) to make changes without asking permission. The OER community uses the “5R’s” to determine if something is OER.

  • Reuse
  • Remix
  • Revise
  • Retain
  • Redistribute

If someone is able to freely access a resource and they are allowed to change aspects of that resource, combine it with another resource, keep that it forever, and redistribute it with changes, then that resource is an OER.

5R’s. By Kiersten Merke/Auraria Library. CCO Public Domain


The benefits of using OER are many, including lowering costs to students, empowering educators to adapt materials to meet the needs of their classes, and creating a community of collaboration. As the costs of higher education continue to rise, assigning an affordable/free OER textbook is a direct way that faculty can lower the cost of attendance for students. In a 2017 study, 85% of students either delayed or skipped purchasing course materials and 91% of them cited cost as the reason for their decision. With OER, the course materials are freely available from the beginning of the course, thereby obliterating any need to waffle about whether or not the course materials are necessary. Additionally, the text can be far more vital to the course because the faculty can tailor it exactly to the needs of their course. No more skipping chapters or clarifying an outdated section. A win-win for everyone.


OER is made possible by Creative Commons licenses which grant the user many rights with very few caveats. They range in permissiveness from CC BY which only requires the user to give attribution to CC BY NC ND which prevents the user from making derivatives or from sharing anything commercially. These licenses are covered in a Copyright and Fair Use class that the Strauss Health Sciences library offers on a monthly basis. Come check it out!

OER is an exciting and emerging field that continues to break new ground. Check back every month for a new post about OER!

This was written by Ellie, you can contact AskUs with questions.