Library Research Scholar Creates OA Advocacy Toolkit

By Jon Jeffryes
Head of Professional Programs

Why aren't students more engaged with Open Access?

Erin McIntosh used that question as the basis of her research as a Summer 2019 Library Research Scholar. McIntosh was intrigued by students’ overall lack of involvement in OA-related conversations on campus. As Vice President of Student Senate’s Educational Affairs Committee, McIntosh explored open access solutions to lower overall student costs at Grand Valley State University.

“Many students didn’t really know about it, and I wanted to know why considering that Open Access and OER (Open Educational Resources) directly impact them and the money they spend,” McIntosh said.

As a Library Research Scholar, McIntosh had the opportunity to engage deeply with her research focus. The Library Research Scholar Program is a competitive program that allows undergraduate Grand Valley Students to get an in-depth introduction to information literacy skills and library resources as well as create and complete a funded research project “that supports other students’ use of the library and contributes to the library’s mission.” The Library Research Scholar Program is a partnership between the University Libraries and the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship.

Grand Valley State University Libraries’ Scholarly Communications Outreach Coordinator, Matt Ruen, and Head of Professional Programs, Jon Jeffryes, served as McIntosh’s faculty mentors and subject area experts. The University Libraries has actively championed Open Access for many years and Ruen provides leadership on Open Access topics. Jeffryes brought experience in communications and marketing to support McIntosh’s goals around developing her strategic communication skills.

Open Access is important because it allows for information, articles, books, and multimedia to  be freely available online at no charge and with limited copyright and licensing restrictions. It is important because it reduces student fees and makes more information available to more people more easily.

Ruen immediately saw the benefit to building student awareness around Open Access from a student perspective. “Learning requires access to information, and Open Access and OER mean more access to more information, with fewer costs,” said Ruen. “OER allow students to pay for groceries, new shoes, or more tuition, instead of $200 textbooks or $100 access codes.”

Looking broadly at the Open Access conversation, McIntosh realized that students have an important and underutilized role in advocating for Open Access. McIntosh wanted to create a tool to support student advocacy.  

“I learned that while a lot of good work has been done within university communities to advocate for Open Access, we still have a long way to go,” she observed.

In partnership with her library mentors, McIntosh drew on her Public Policy coursework and experience in student government. She used the summer of library research to deepen her classroom knowledge and integrate those skills into real world applications by creating a new advocacy document for students to learn more themselves and to foster conversations with other stakeholders. McIntosh created talking points specifically aimed at other students, using her own perspective as an undergraduate student, to use language and approaches that would resonate with her peers. The talking points in the document are intended to serve as a toolkit for students to use when addressing specific audiences: other students, professors, or librarians. The talking points promote the benefits of open access and open educational resources, textbooks, and other course materials that can be used in a class without additional costs to students.

McIntosh’s research allowed her to learn about open access and get real world experience in advocacy work, and it also provided insights to her mentors that informed their work.

“Erin noticed many articles with academic librarians writing for other academic librarians, and hardly any work written for an audience of students or even other academic disciplines. I hadn’t noticed this before-- researchers just writing for their own discipline is a common pattern--but it’s a problem if the goal of writing is to educate people and change behavior outside one single field."

-Matt Ruen

Erin McIntosh having a conversation with Matt Ruen

This insight can inform future advocacy work within the profession ensuring that initiatives and research extend more broadly to all interested researchers. 

The Library Research Scholar Program creates a space for deeper learning and provides practical professional experience. “This program has inspired me a lot and I made some really great friendships with my mentors and other members of University Libraries. I learned that while research is hard, and sometimes grueling, when you’re done with your project, you can’t help but be so excited about it.” McIntosh said. “I was telling anyone who would listen about my page count, my presentation, and what I researched.”

McIntosh’s project, Open Access for All, is available online – Open Access, of course! – in ScholarWorks@GVSU.


Interested in Open Access? Learn more at Open Access Week.

Page last modified October 27, 2022