14 Redefining Recognition: OER Contributions in Librarian Promotion and Tenure

Sharon Clapp and Angela K. Walker

Case study writers:

  • Sharon Clapp, Associate Librarian, Digital Resources, CCSU
  • Angela K. Walker, Associate Librarian, Reference & Instruction, ECSU


  • Central Connecticut State University (CCSU): Master’s colleges & universities (larger programs) primarily four-year “balanced arts & sciences/professions, some graduate coexistence.”[1] Enrollment in fall 2020: 10,652
  • Eastern Connecticut State University (ECSU): Master’s colleges & universities (small programs) primarily four-year “arts & sciences plus professions, some graduate coexistence.”[2] Enrollment in fall 2020: 4,644

Type of intervention: OER work cited in successful applications for tenure and promotion by faculty librarians.


Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) is a public regional, comprehensive university located in New Britain, Connecticut. Offering four-year undergraduate degrees, graduate master’s-level programs, and two professional doctoral programs (Educational Leadership and Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice),[3] CCSU serves 11,800 students, 9,800 of whom are undergraduates. Approximately 47 percent of CCSU students receive financial aid and over 30 percent are students of color.

Eastern Connecticut State University (ECSU) is a four-year public liberal arts university with an enrollment of 4,082 as of fall 2022. The university has some graduate instructional programs, but 3,275 are full-time undergraduate students. Financial aid is awarded to 76 percent of all students and 28 percent are students of color.[4]

Both institutions are part of the Connecticut State College & University (CSCU) system.

Sharon Clapp holds the faculty position of digital resources librarian at CCSU’s Elihu Burritt Library. Her responsibilities include administration of the integrated library system’s discovery tool, website content management systems, online repositories, and some digital collections. Familiarity with intellectual property issues and open-source software development spurred the author’s advocacy for OERs. She received tenure and promotion to associate librarian in 2018. She participates at both university and statewide levels in OER advocacy efforts and is Creative Commons certified.

Angela Walker began her faculty position as reference and instruction librarian at ECSU’s J. Eugene Smith Library in 2016. In the interest of greater equity in higher education, she regularly promotes the use of OERs and organizes workshops about open licenses and how to find and use OER in the classroom. In her self-assigned role as “OER librarian,” she is well-known across campus as the person to contact. She is Creative Commons certified and participates in the CSCU OER Council to communicate and advance the use of OERs.

The Review, Promotion, and Tenure Process

Both teaching faculty and nonteaching professionals of several types (librarians, coaches, counselors) hold faculty status within the CSCU system. The Connecticut State University American Association of University Professors (CSU-AAUP) contract governs the renewal, promotion, and tenure process at each of the Connecticut State Universities (Central, Eastern, Southern, and Western).[5] Each university and each department offer more specific guidelines for evaluation.

For academic faculty, the four evaluation criteria in order of importance are the following: load credit activity (teaching), creative activity (research, presentations, publications, and other discipline-appropriate creative work), productive service, and professional activity. For AAUP librarians, these evaluation criteria are defined and weighted somewhat differently. The most important factor for faculty librarians is load credit activity; however, this is defined as professional effectiveness in providing library services. The next most important criteria evaluated is professional activity, then productive service to the department and university, with creative activity (e.g., conference presentations, research and publication of articles, books, or chapters) weighted least.

The process for promotion and tenure (P&T) involves an evaluation in several steps. The library’s faculty evaluation committee makes recommendations to the library director who then offers their own evaluation. The aggregated materials and recommendations are then sent to the campus-wide P&T committee who will provide a final recommendation to the provost. This process is parallel to that of the teaching faculty wherein a departmental evaluation committee will submit recommendations to their dean, who then adds their own evaluation and moves the dossier forward to the university P&T committee for a final recommendation to the provost.

OER at the CSUs

CCSU faculty members’ efforts to adopt and use OERs have taken place in an ad hoc, decentralized fashion. Upon arrival at CCSU, the digital resources librarian began to gather data on faculty members working with OERs, gained grants to coordinate learning community groups for teaching faculty interested in OER, worked with the Student Government Association to create the OER Pioneer of the Year award, and presented about OER to faculty and other librarians.

The digital resources librarian played a role in the conversion of a formerly all rights reserved edition of a CCSU faculty-authored book, Today’s Business Communications, to a CC-licensed work. Once the proprietary publisher’s rights contractually reverted to the authors, she helped them to ensure that their revised digital copy met accessibility guidelines and reduced potential intellectual property concerns (e.g., book jacket artwork.) She made sure that it was then cataloged and curated in the library’s digital repository. She also helped the author and new coauthors publish a second revision of this work a couple of years later.

With the addition of two new faculty librarians who were also Creative Commons certified, the library formed a new OER leadership team shortly before the pandemic. This team created an OERs research guide and began publishing a once-per-semester OER newsletter. They were participants in the creation of a fair use and copyright guide put together for faculty members across the CSCU system. They have presented on how to find, evaluate, adapt, and create OER at multiple faculty development events and members regularly present on OER at regional conferences for faculty, librarians, and administrators. Team members also assist individual faculty in the discovery, evaluation, adaptation, and publication of OERs.

While changes at CCSU, along with the pandemic and recovery efforts, have created headwinds for coordinated local efforts to further the OER mission in recent years, the university did make the expansion of OER work a part of its latest strategic plan. As part of Goal 1—“Enhancing academic excellent and preparing graduates to thrive in a changing economy: Promote a student-centered environment to ensure success,” the university will “[i]mprove student access and performance by expanding open educational resources, focusing on information literacy and promoting sound digital practices” (p. 7).[6]

At ECSU, one of the priority areas defined in the university’s strategic plan is to identify ways to make Eastern more affordable: “A process will be developed to collect and use data regarding cost-saving measures for students (for example, tracking the use of open educational resources in courses, course textbooks on reserve).”[7]

The coauthor served on a subcommittee of the Academic Affairs Committee at ECSU with the purpose of investigating a course designation for OER, such as NoLo. This attempt failed when teaching faculty expressed concerns that those courses not labeled NoLo would lose enrollment. Tracking OER usage and student savings, which is now required by the state, is a tedious and time-consuming process, but hopefully, this method will be replaced by internal course tagging in the future.

Out of 18 academic departments, at least 10 departments at Eastern use OER. Math and sociology are the most prolific users, using OER in the broadest range of courses, from introductory to more advanced levels. The coauthor has listed these faculty as the Eastern OER Network on the LibGuide to promote cross-campus conversations and support.

The newest step toward affordability has been made by the Art and Art History Department, which replaced expensive art history textbooks with OER and library resources. The OER Contribution Matrix is posted there as well to provide guidance on how to include OER in a P&T portfolio.

In 2021, ECSU was selected to participate in an Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) project to accelerate the development and adoption of OERs as a strategy for improving educational quality and equity and supporting student success. A three-year grant provides support for Eastern to develop teaching guides, sample course syllabi, and sample assignments that enhance integrative learning using OER and open pedagogy. A political science professor is the grant’s project manager with the goal to increase faculty buy-in to use OER.

Both ECSU and CCSU are key participants in the CSCU OER Council and the GoOpenCT statewide OER repository project. At the CSCU system level, there is strong support for OER usage at CSCU campuses and leadership by its constituent librarians through the OpenCSCU research guide website.


Citing OER Work in Successful Librarian Applications for Promotion & Tenure

Both authors earned tenure and promotion before the publication of the DOERS3 OER Contributions Matrix. They both used their work with OER as a part of their P&T dossiers, although their approaches differed slightly based on their roles and the guidelines in their respective libraries and universities.

For the digital resources librarian at CCSU, much of her OER work was cited in the “Load Credit Activity” portion of her portfolio. The creation of a digital collection for OER in the library’s discovery system, organization of a book display on the library’s first floor for OpenStax textbooks, as well as the creation and maintenance of research guides on the topics of OERs, open access, and copyright were examples of librarian load credit activity. She also included consultations with faculty to support their discovery, evaluation, adaptation, and publication of OER.

Productive Service and Professional Activity were other sections where the digital resources librarian included OER work. Service included collaborating with CCSU’s Student Government Association to create their student-selected “Pioneers in OER” award and representing the university on the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities OER Advisory Council. Professional Activity included OER-related professional development opportunities, such as the Creative Commons certification program, workshops, and conferences.

The reference and instruction librarian at Eastern specifically mentioned her OER work in her letter of application for tenure and promotion. Since it is her role to provide access to information, she invests a large part of her work in improving the accessibility of information through the library website and discovery system. She argues that the rising cost of textbooks negatively affects accessibility and that OERs support affordability for all.

In the P&T portfolio, the author included her OER work under the second and third evaluation categories for librarians, Professional Activity and Service. Eastern’s faculty are provided with subheadings for each category as guidelines on what should be included as one’s accomplishments. The librarian’s portfolio subheadings are specific to their work.

For Professional Activity, OER appears as a service on CSCU-wide committees, as well as professional conferences, seminars, or workshops. The Creative Commons Certificate for Librarians, including related creative projects (infographics, Creative Commons library guide, a Copyright Law 101 tutorial, etc.), is also a good match for this category. The librarian continues to promote these resources for asynchronous learning with other OER promotional activities and uses the material for workshops on OER and open licensing.

OER is mapped to the Service category as work on library, senate, and other university and CSCU system committees. Another service point is contributing to student organizations and activities through communication and networking with student leaders. These are the obvious given headings that fit some of the OER work being done, but there is so much more.

To include OER work that did not fit the previous categories or subheadings, the librarian at Eastern created an additional subheading. This contains more OER work that was all self-initiated by the librarian to promote awareness and the use of OERs on campus. It is followed by a summary of all OER-related activities—promotion via book displays, email, offerings of new OER titles, research guides, serving on committees and communicating grant opportunities and new policy development, as well as sending out surveys to faculty about their OER use.

Based on these experiences, the authors drafted an adaptation of the DOERS3 matrix with two primary modifications. The first was to add the fourth criteria, which is used for evaluation per the CSU-AAUP contract—Professional Activity. For many other organizations that do not use this category, the authors believe that these items would usually fall into the Service category.

The more relevant items to this case study, however, would be the ones used for the evaluation of faculty librarians. Currently, the authors are running these suggestions past their respective faculty evaluation committees while also seeking feedback from a sibling institution’s librarian who is familiar with OER and the P&T process. The authors hope to further refine the matrix and ultimately gain endorsement to provide the matrix as an addendum to their departmental guidelines for evaluation.

The librarian at Eastern also contacted the teaching faculty member who regularly organizes P&T workshops for tenure-track faculty to advise them on their portfolio. This faculty member is willing to suggest that OER work is a valuable contribution in the P&T context.

As for the library evaluation process, the goal is to add OER as a standing subheading. But this is a process that needs to go through the Personnel Policies Committee at Eastern before it would go to the senate for a vote—something for the future. Therefore, a mapping of OER work to the existing outline of the evaluation categories is our priority. The adapted DOERS3 matrix is the right tool to accomplish this and encourage more faculty to use OER and integrate this work into their portfolios.


Getting an adaptation of the DOERS3 matrix tested, finalized, and adopted at either of the university’s campus-wide P&T committees or their respective library faculty evaluation committees is a work in process. The coauthors are seeking feedback from sibling institutions about their adaptation of the matrix. They plan to collect anonymized samples of successful evidence for OER work from librarians’ portfolios. This would allow for a test mapping of the artifacts to the adapted matrix, with further modification of the matrix, as needed, until evidence for faculty librarians’ OER work aligns with the matrix. Once the matrix is locally adapted to the agreement of the librarians, both the product and the process of adaptation can serve as models for other committees struggling to evaluate OER work for tenure and promotion.

Here is a link to the draft of the CSU-adapted OER Contributions Matrix.


  • Adapt the DOERS3 matrix to fit your local context (e.g., faculty union-system contracts, departmental guidelines, university, and/or system goals).
  • Build a centralized database of high-quality OER work examples with their assigned matrix categories. These examples can be used to test the local adaptation of the matrix, ensuring alignment between categories and examples of OER work. The database can then be used to demonstrate how candidates can communicate OER work to their evaluation committees for renewal, promotion, and tenure.

  1. Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, "Central Connecticut State University."
  2. Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, "Eastern Connecticut State University."
  3. "About Central," Central Connecticut State University. Accessed February 10, 2023.
  4. "Facts at a Glance." Eastern Connecticut State University.
  5. Here are current and prior CSU-AAUP contracts.
  6. Central Connecticut State University. (2023, July 26). Strategic plan 2030 [PDF]
  7. Eastern Connecticut State University. (n.d.). Strategic plan 2020-2025 [PDF].


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Valuing OER in the Tenure, Promotion, and Reappointment Process Copyright © 2024 by Sharon Clapp and Angela K. Walker is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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