Interview with Alissa Talley-Pixley, University Library Associate, Graduate Student, and Open Advocate

Alissa Talley-Pixley is a current University Library Associate, working in the Knowledge Navigation Center and the Tech Deck (both awesome services from our Library!) and a graduate student at the School of Information and in the School of Education. She’s worked across the Libraries at U-M and is an open advocate across the university. As an information professional, she teaches folks how to use tools and incorporates perspectives of openness into her training. She’s also a dScribe for the Fall 2011 session of SI-575, volunteering her time and expertise to support the growth of the Open.Michigan collection.

She recently spent some time to tell us a little bit about her and why she supports openness.

What’s your background?

As a student currently obtaining Master’s degrees in Information and Higher Education, my life is surrounded by ideas of information sharing, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Prior to beginning graduate school at the University of Michigan (U of M), I started my professional journey after obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from U of M in 2002.  I worked at the U of M Library and then left Ann Arbor (for a few years) to explore careers outside of academia.  I was employed by the Innocence Project (a non-profit, pro-bono law firm in New York City) and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation (on an education portfolio), before making my way back to the Library where I worked as an administrative assistant to the Director of the Art, Architecture, Engineering and Science Libraries.  I applied to the School of Information, and by extension the School of Education, so that I could work to share information with those who need it – academics (including students) who create knowledge for the betterment of our communities and society, as well as non-profit organizations and community members who can use information to strengthen their missions and empower those with whom they work.  When I learned about Open.Michigan, it seemed their goals aligned very closely with mine.

Why did you decided to become a dScribe?

Open.Michigan’s values and mission strongly resemble the goals I envision for education in the future.  While having the opportunity to attend college or university provides education to those who are there, much of the content that is produced stays within the classroom.  Open.Michigan encourages education and knowledge to be shared with anyone who is interested.  This idea seems more and more important as the cost of higher education rises and the chance to attend college decreases for those who have fewer resources.  The information shared during classes at U of M, by experts in their fields, should not always be shielded from the community because much of the work is relevant to those outside of the academy.  Open.Michigan provides an outlet and way for people to obtain information that could better their own knowledge-base and improve their work.  dScribing SI 575 – the Community Informatics Seminar was a great way for me to participate in this knowledge-sharing.  The topics in this course (including Information and Communications Technologies for Development (ICTD), social media activism, the Digital Public Library of America) are issues which are applicable outside of the institution and could be useful for groups working towards using or improving work in these areas.  It felt important to participate in this movement.

How did you get involved with Open.Michigan?

I first learned about Open.Michigan at an Enriching Scholarship workshop in the spring of 2011.  Enriching Scholarship is an annual week-long event that provides technology training and learning opportunities to the U of M campus.  After learning about Open.Michigan’s work, I thought, “why doesn’t everyone know about this?!”  The topic and goals seem relevant for everyone in the higher educational setting (students, staff, faculty) who produce information as well as those outside of the academy who can benefit from the information that is being shared.  I remember thinking that open educational resources (OER) seemed even more relevant as copyright laws blur and evolve with the creation of so much digital work.  I continued my education of OER by meeting with Emily Puckett Rodgers, Open.Michigan’s Open Education Coordinator, about how as a student I could license by blog or other online work, and then by attending a conference (e-Cornucopia) at Oakland University on the issues of copyright and OER.  Open.Michigan also held a training on copyright at North Quad, in which I participated.  I’ve found that there is always more to learn on this topic and that the variety of events that Open.Michigan hosts is extremely useful in expanding my education on the topic so that I can share this information with others.

Why do you think it is important for libraries to be involved in sharing adaptable resources?

Libraries are in a unique position where it is their goal and mission to share information with anyone who walks in the door (though licensing for borrowing and access to online databases is limited).  Libraries not only house information but produce it.  Librarians conduct workshops on plagiarism, database and catalog searching, technology use and many other topics which could be useful to others at colleges and universities, as well as community members and citizens around the world.  As libraries work to adapt to the changing digital environment, it seems even more important that their work is accessible to those within the academy and outside of it.  Libraries can lead the movement in OER and U of M’s library is doing just this by advocating for open access to materials such as the orphan works and pushing copyright boundaries that are increasingly complicated.  Libraries are extremely important as the field of OER progresses.

What is your favorite part about contributing to the creation of open content?

My favorite part of contributing to the creation of open content is just that – producing material that is available to everyone with an Internet connection.  It’s very humbling to be a part of a movement that is so inclusive and that has been created from the ground up.  Working with Open.Michigan is something about which I’m passionate and I feel grateful to have knowledge of OER so that I can use it to “spread the word” and increase the amount of open content that is available.  Additionally, it’s wonderful to collaborate with such amazing people on these projects, including the Open.Michigan staff and the faculty who are excited to be involved in this work.

What do you hope to see Open.Michigan doing in five years?

It will be amazing to see how the Open.Michigan movement both broadens and narrows its work in the future.  In five years, it would be great to see Open.Michigan as a part of every classroom and department at U of M so that our institution becomes a leader in producing and sharing open content.  Internally, it would be wonderful if Open.Michigan created a system by which dScribing was a part of every course, and externally it would be fantastic to see an outreach plan for various community organizations who could directly benefit from the sharing of specific information.  Because of the great people involved, it seems possible that Open.Michigan can push the boundaries of OER and continue to be a leader in the field.  Kudos to all involved – now and in the future!

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