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Milne Library Colleagues Launch OASIS 

Photo of Bill Jones and Ben Rawlins

OASIS co-developers and SUNY Geneseo Milne Library colleagues Bill Jones and Ben Rawlins. (SUNY Geneseo photo/Keith Walters '11)

In the growing world of open education resources (OER), SUNY Geneseo’s Milne Library recently developed and launched an innovative new search tool that can access 52 different OER sources that contain more than 150,000 items. OASIS (Openly Available Sources Integrated Search), was co-developed by Ben Rawlins, director of Milne Library, and Bill Jones ’09, '11, digital resources and systems librarian at SUNY Geneseo.

OASIS offers users worldwide the ability to search a range of OER materials including textbooks, courses and corresponding materials, interactive simulations, public domain books, audiobooks, modules, open access books, videos and podcasts on a variety of topics — from anthropology to zoology. OASIS also is the only tool that allows users to limit searches by creative commons licenses or by faculty review. 

“One of the fundamental ideas behind OER is creating better and equal access to course materials for students,” said Rawlins. “The benefit of OASIS is that faculty can now find different types of OER all in one place using this search tool, with nearly all materials being in the public domain or openly licensed. Before, we would have to point faculty to the individual search tools from each source that are all now listed in OASIS.”

OASIS also offers an embeddable search widget. “We created a freely available search widget that institutions and libraries can use and embed on their web pages to enhance the discovery of OER locally,” said Jones. 

Rawlins and Jones will present on OASIS at the 2018 Access Conference in Hamilton, Ontario, Oct. 10 through 12. Conference attendees include librarians, technicians, developers, programmers, and managers focused on leading-edge library technologies.

The title of their presentation, “Navigating through the OER Desert with OASIS,” speaks to the dearth of discovery tools that are both highly selective about the content included and capable of delivering an easy-to-use responsive interface. They will share the process they went through in creating this search tool, including the website framework, source selection, resource integration, and end-user experience, as well as their thoughts on the future direction of OASIS and how institutions can use it. 

“The leadership and innovation provided by Ben Rawlins and Bill Jones reflect the dynamic culture in place at Milne Library and their commitment to meet the growing OER needs of faculty and students far beyond our Geneseo community,” said Provost Stacey Robertson. “Their work reaffirms one of the many reasons why the Association of College & Research Libraries recognized Milne Library as one of the best college libraries in the nation with their 2018 Excellence in Academic Libraries Award."

Since its soft launch in mid-July, OASIS has shown promise in reaching 396 users from 24 states and generating nearly 7,000 page views over close to 800 sessions. 

Consulting regularly with Alexis Clifton, executive director of SUNY OER Services, and Allison Brown, digital publishing services manager for Milne Library, Rawlins and Jones spent two-and-a-half months on the development process. They intend to keep working to improve OASIS and enhance its functionality.

"We believe that OASIS has a bright future,” said Jones. “We’d like to make it more of a social platform where faculty members can create a profile page that allows them to develop collections, or ‘shelves,’ of OER for each course that they teach, and then connect and share their collections with colleagues.”

Working with Rawlins, Jones also envisions adding a self-reporting feature for faculty that can track the growth of OER adoption and to help identify academic fields that are strong in OER — and those in need of OER content.  

Rawlins joined SUNY Geneseo in 2017 and serves on the executive board of the 64-member SUNY Libraries Consortium and the board of the SUNY OER Services Advisory Council. He also is a member of the Advisory Committee of Library Directors for the Rochester Regional Library Council. 

Jones, who in addition to his Geneseo degrees, earned a master’s of library science from the University at Buffalo. He joined Milne Library in 2011 and serves as first vice president of the SUNY Librarians Association. Jones also holds several leadership positions with the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) — a division of the American Library Association (ALA) — including serving on the executive board, and the outreach and promotion committee of the Sharing and Transforming Access to Resources Section (STARS) and as webmaster.

-Anthony Hoppa