Libraries Support STEM Education with Open Access

Marketing and Communications | July 16, 2014

Texas A&M University was established as the state’s first public institution for higher education, which sought to provide a broad segment of the population with practical education that would serve direct relevance to their daily lives. More than 150 years later, members of the Texas A&M University Libraries are championing those initiatives by providing free Open Access scholarly literature to a West Texas school district in an effort to support STEM (Science, Technology, Education, and Mathematics) education reform.

Texas A&M has emerged as a worldwide leader for its ability to provide free Open Access materials on the Internet, via the Libraries, for the benefit of the public—such as the students and teachers at Roscoe Collegiate, an early college/STEM academy in the rural West Texas town of Roscoe, located about an hour west of Abilene.

As a member of the Texas High Performance Schools Consortium, Roscoe Collegiate is developing a multiple measure accountability system for students in grades 3-12, in collaboration with the Libraries, Texas A&M faculty and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service—among other institutions and organizations. Two areas of the multiple measure accountability system will include student developed research presentations and evidence based electronic portfolios, which will rely on accessibility to the Libraries’ Open Access scholarly literature.

“In order to support the ability of the teachers to engage their students in research projects, they [Roscoe Collegiate] needed access to a quality library,” said Dr. Bruce Herbert, director of the Office of Scholarly Communication and professor. “They invited me to be part of their advisory team and help them make this transformation. As I worked with them it became apparent that if somehow we could get Open Access materials into the hands of the teachers and students it would help them conduct their research projects because they have no other source of trusted scholarly information.”

Since online access to most university library holdings is restricted to enrolled students and faculty, Roscoe Collegiate was in need of a solution moving forward. Dr. Herbert and a team from the Libraries worked with a library automation solutions vendor, Ex Libris, to design a portal that bypasses the need for authentication, which allows Roscoe Collegiate users to search through the Libraries’ collection of Open Access materials for a first-of-its-kind collaboration made possible through a new search portal, OakSearch. This portal allows everyone, including the students and teachers at Roscoe ISD, to bypass the need for authentication and to search and download through 6 million scholarly documents.

“What I like about OA [Open Access] is it’s much aligned with the land grant tradition,” Dr. Herbert said. “The Libraries found new tools and programs to support transferring research to society, which removes those barriers that are associated with scholarly publication and commercial publishers.”

The STEM Research Program is developing a research cycle that will be the basis for student led research, data collection and analysis, and a research poster development and presentation, which will culminate with a year-long capstone project in grade 12. The Roscoe Collegiate website describes one of the benefits of the program and purpose of the project as, “The capstone research projects will be able to create additional scholarship opportunities for students seeking financial assistance with the completion of undergraduate and graduate college degrees.”

As one of the first university’s in the nation to place an Open Access mandate in 2009, the Libraries have made all theses, dissertations and records of study at Texas A&M available through the Texas A&M Institutional Repository, OakTrust. Since 2009, the Libraries have digitized an array of scholarly literature that has also been made available in the repository—such as older Ag Extension Bulletins, which is one example of the scholarly material Roscoe Collegiate is benefitting from having access to for science-based projects.

“We’re providing the discovery tools for these kids and we’re getting it in the hands of the teachers and students with training on how to search and [develop] information literacy,” Dr. Herbert said.


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For more information: Contact James Solano, Texas A&M University Libraries; 979.862.2764 or agco2012@library.tamu.edu.