AUSTIN, Texas—The University of Texas Libraries has received generous gifts from two Austin-area foundations that will support innovative efforts toward the transformation and modernization of the libraries at The University of Texas at Austin, including the promotion and distribution of open educational resources for use in the classroom.
The Tocker Foundation has provided $355,000 for a collaborative project between the UT Libraries, the Austin Public Library (APL) and Austin Community College (ACC) designed to promote the adoption, development and distribution of open educational resources (OERs). OERs are teaching, learning and research materials in any medium – digital or otherwise – that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions. Open textbooks are viewed as a more affordable, flexibly updatable alternative to the predominating print textbook standard.
Funds from the gift will subsidize the hiring of a dedicated assistant librarian to develop and execute a plan for broad adoption of open educational resources at the university, as well as for the award of open education grants, education and training on open educational resources and joint promotion of open education with partners Austin Public Library and Austin Community College.
"This is an amazing opportunity to bring together three powerhouse systems: Austin Public Library, the University of Texas Libraries, and Austin Community College Library Services," says Library Director Roosevelt Weeks of Austin Public Library. "Together we can magnify the impact of OERs and continue to be the place that our community looks to for resources and inspiration."
The Tocker Foundation was created in 1964 to implement the philanthropic interests of Phillip and Olive Tocker, and focuses grant distributions in partnership with community libraries to meet the particular needs of the community.
"On behalf of the Tocker Foundation Board of Directors, the Foundation is pleased to award the University of Texas Libraries a five-year grant in support of Open Education Resources," says Tocker Foundation Board Member Edward Smith. "The proposed program aligns with the Foundation's belief that information should be free and accessible by all. This program will help increase awareness and utilization of OERs across the region and the state, providing access to high-quality educational resources to all."
The Lebermann Foundation has contributed $250,000 for the creation of the Lowell H. Lebermann Jr. Endowment to enable the UT Libraries to keep apace of ever-evolving technology, provide funding for modifying spaces and services to the changing natures of learning and pedagogy and help to support, preserve and disseminate unique research and scholarship on the Forty Acres. In addition to bolstering technology, space and resource enhancements, a portion of the Lebermann endowment will be used to support open education initiatives related to those bolstered by the Tocker Foundation's contribution.
"These funds are pivotal," says incoming chair of the UT Libraries' Advisory Council Greg Lipscomb. "They will catapult the UT Libraries into the national leadership of making class materials, including textbooks, affordable and accessible to all. Lowell Lebermann was a public man and he would be pleased to see that the public forum of learning has been widened and democratized."
The Lebermann Foundation of Austin was created by former University of Texas System Regent and Plan II alumnus Lowell H. Lebermann Jr., who was a figure in Austin's philanthropic community from the 1970s. The foundation has made previous contributions to a number of beneficiaries at the university, including the Dell Medical School, the Harry Ransom Center, the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Research Center and Plan II.