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Meet Your Library Staff

Jessica Norman, OER Librarian

In this edition of Meet Your Library Staff, we are featuring Jessica Norman, our OER (Open Educational Resources) Librarian and Library Liaison for the School of Construction and the School of Manufacturing and Automation.

Are you a native Calgarian? If not, how did you choose to live here in Calgary?

I am actually from the United States.  I grew up, attended college, and worked at a junior college in Indiana.  Then I met my now-husband through a shared love of games, and he convinced me I should move to Calgary!  I moved in 2012 when I was hired at the Reg Erhardt Library, so I’ve been in Canada exactly 3 days longer than I’ve worked at SAIT.

Do you have any hobbies?

Like a lot of people, I have started/restarted several hobbies this past year.  I’ve always been interested in needle crafts and can cross-stitch, needlepoint, and quilt.  This year I’ve taught myself to crochet and have produced many hats!

Do you have a favourite book or author?

I have a love for young adult fantasy books – there are so many wonderful titles that were published before Harry Potter!  If you want epic tales of good and bad, amazing adventures, and heroes who aren’t too perfect, check out books by Tamara Pierce, Robin McKinley, Susan Cooper, Lloyd Alexander, and Garth Nix.

If you could enroll in any SAIT program, what would it be?

I would love to take courses in the School of Construction, as well as Welding or Electrical programs.  I’ve tried out blacksmithing, electrical, welding, and plumbing projects in the past and I’d love to know more about these topics. 

How long have you worked at SAIT Library and what did you do before?

I have been working in academic libraries for over 18 years and received my Master of Library Science (MLS) in 2003. My first library position was as an instructional librarian for Ivy Tech Libraries in Indianapolis, Indiana.  During my years there, I also held positions as the Coordinator of Library Instruction, Assistant Director of Libraries, and Director of the multi-campus library system.  I started at the Reg Erhardt Library in 2012 as the Coordinator of Library Instruction and have also worked as the eLearning Librarian and now the OER Librarian.  Throughout my career, I’ve focused on information literacy, library instruction, and online learning. 

Describe what your best workday at SAIT looks like?

My best workday is focused on the success of my patrons – the students and faculty I support.  That could involve teaching a class to Construction or Manufacturing students so they can access advanced resources, helping an instructor use an ebook in their course, and answering a tricky reference question (example:  How many wheels/wheel cases on suitcases are damaged each year according to the airlines industries in Canada and the United States?).  I admit that as a librarian, I get a thrill from tracking down obscure facts!

What are OERs exactly?

OER stands for Open Educational Resources, which are teaching and learning materials that are created with the intention of being freely available to users anywhere.  They can be many different types of formats (print, pictures & diagrams, audio files, video files, simulations, code) and are covered by open licenses that allow sharing, re-mixing, and modifying the content. You can learn more about OER at the Reg Erhardt Library OER guide.

Why are OERs important to students and faculty at SAIT?

Students feel the impact of OER in many ways, from finances to accessibility.  The most obvious benefit is that it eliminates the cost of textbooks.  Research also shows that students are more successful in class when they have access to these digital, open licensed books from the first day of class.  At SAIT, we see another benefit of OER in the ability to customize the content so it can reflect the diversity of our learners as well as meet their accessibility needs.

SAIT faculty tell me that OERs are a great way to add flexibility and current content to a course.  They already create supplemental materials, but OER makes it easy to share and reuse those materials.  Finally, faculty are excited by anything that improves their students’ experiences.

What other partnerships within the SAIT campus organizations or external audiences do you work with on OER initiatives?

It’s an exciting time to work in OER as so many provincial, national, and international organizations are developing new materials.  SAIT is currently a partner in the Open Education Alberta publishing consortia managed by University of Alberta.  This partnership allows SAIT to use Pressbooks, an ebook publishing platform for open licensed books.  We also participate in the Alberta OER Community of Practice, as well as the Canadian OER Community of Practice.  Internationally, I have represented SAIT via presentations for organizations such as BCcampus, CCCOER, and Rebus Foundation to talk about adopting one of the first institutional OER policies in North America.   Our latest news is that one of our first OER textbooks, Business Communications for Success, has been adopted by Colorado Mountain College in Breckenridge, CO. It’s neat to see SAIT’s name referenced across North America!

Do you have any advice for people interested in creating their own OER?

First, the process is very flexible – you have a range of options in terms of the size, complexity, technology, and topics for your project.  Everything from a one-page PDF to a video series can be OER. 

Second, you don’t have to do it alone – my role is to support, advise, and help manage larger projects/teams. I can also connect you to supports that are available on campus.  If you’d like to learn more, attend one of the OER workshops that are scheduled this semester.

Last, OER is rapidly evolving – if you’d like to keep up with the latest news and activities both at SAIT and in the community at large, please email me to be added to the monthly OER newsletter.

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