PSU open-source textbook program earns Karen Hunter Memorial Award



In 2019, Portland State University partnered with OpenStax to provide students with free, peer-reviewed online textbooks. At the time, PSU was one of 10 schools nationwide selected to participate in the OpenStax Institution Partnership Program designed to increase the use of open-licensed online textbooks. 

Now, that work — and the resulting program PDXOpen — has garnered global recognition. Elsevier, a Netherlands-based organization focused in research publishing and information analytics, named PSU the winner of the 3rd Annual Karen Hunter Memorial Award. The Karen Hunter award recognizes collaborations that advance information dissemination using technology. The award comes with $5,000 and support to attend the 2021 Association of College & Research Libraries Virtual Conference, where the award will be formally recognized. 

Elsevier selected Portland State as this year’s winner for PSU Library’s demonstrated commitment to the promotion and publication of open-source textbooks with the goal of saving student’s money and increasing access. Elsevier also pointed to the tremendous impact that PDXOpen is able to provide on student learning and its ability to empower instructors to engage in new pedagogical models to focus on increasing student success and engagement.

Since launching PDXOpen, 31 projects have been supported saving 6,664 students more than $1 million in course material textbooks costs. Those materials have also been downloaded more than 400,000 times in 222 countries. 

"Our open access textbook publishing initiative, PDXOpen provides the essential service of saving students money while increasing the visibility of our University scholars,” said Karen Bjork, head of Digital Initiatives & Scholarly Publishing. “PDXOpen supports another core PSU Library value — student success — and we are able to develop partnerships across campus with faculty, students and others who share these goals."

One student who shared their experience using open source materials in a literature class said they thoroughly benefited from open-access textbooks. 

“Not only did it save my family and me a ton of money for a textbook that would’ve otherwise been as much as $200, but it saved me the stress of having to hunt it down before the start of class,” the student said. “I think the best part of open textbooks is that since you print it out yourself and can access it for free, you are more inclined to make markings in it that make it easier to study later.”

Other students who provided anonymous feedback also pointed to the freedom open-source materials provide in allowing them to take notes as needed on the text itself — and hope that more courses participate in PDXOpen in the future.

Gwen Evans, vice president of Global Library Relations with Elsevier said PDXOpen is an exemplary example of how libraries are experimenting and innovating to find new ways to deliver content, as well as helping faculty facilitate remote instruction.

“The Karen Hunter Memorial Award is one way for us to continue to celebrate and bring visibility to these important library achievements,” Evans said.

The Portland State University library team responsible for the PDXOpen initiative are Bjork; Amy Stanforth, Student Success Librarian; Stephanie Doig, Library Office Manager; and Tammy Klupar, Library Office Coordinator.