A Shared Belief in Publishing Openly

OER philosophy open textbook projects

Rebus Community is in many ways a perfect bridge between publishing, education, academia, and knowledge exchange—a collective effort that makes a tangible difference in people’s lives. As Publishing Liaison, my role is to provide support and guidance to those working on open textbook projects. The specifics vary from team to team, but the through line is a strong sense of belief, both in the book and in each person’s commitment to contributing whatever they can.

In any collaborative textbook project, there are ups and downs, a need to reassess content and timelines, and a balance between OER work and one’s other responsibilities. But feeling that sense of belief in the project is what motivates teams and helps them get over the humps along the way. Even as the excitement about a textbook may grow and fade (often in relation to the amount of work ahead), there are always moments of resurgence as the team makes progress and gets closer to the ‘finished’ or ‘final’ resource.

To date, I’ve worked with nearly 35 project teams, covering various subjects, regions, languages, and academic levels. In so doing, I’ve come to note that community building is inseparable from the publishing process that Rebus espouses. Regardless of how large or small the teams are, there is a wonderful forming of connections as members get to know each other. What is gratifying is that there is also a great willingness to learn about the publishing process.

Mission-Driven Publishing

Academically, I am trained in English Literature and Publishing, and I sincerely believe in Rebus’ mission to make knowledge and critical thinking more widely accessible through public resources. Accessibility extends beyond affordability; it is a concept that includes formats, availability in multiple languages, and even voice or tone.

Just as I learn from my colleagues everyday, I try to bring an awareness about the impact of our work beyond North America, including its accessibility and use in other languages and contexts.

In a broader sense, this also aligns with my conception of publishing as a service and not an industry.

Since I began at Rebus, guiding people through the publishing process has grown from giving them specific, logistical support into a more holistic approach. I now think of my work as creating a set of tools that people can use to train and teach themselves these processes. This includes efforts (with Zoe Wake Hyde and David Szanto) to create documentation in the form of a written guide and video series.

Return on Emotional Investment

What has been surprising to me is the immense amount of emotional labour involved in publishing openly. As the liaison between project teams and our platform and tools, I often find myself in a nurturing role. This means keeping participants committed to their resources, being available at a moment’s notice to answer questions or provide encouragement, helping people navigate their teams’ tensions, needs, and egos, and many other unforeseen kinds of support.

The energy output for this kind of labour is repaid with a big upside, however. Seeing books released and used by educators and students worldwide, hearing them praise the overall quality, watching resources be adapted and remixed—all of this feeds back into my own belief in what we do. It is the best kind of reward. By providing the tools and space that allow people to facilitate and support one another, my work at Rebus has allowed me to put my belief in educational accessibility into practice.

As we continue building our platform, I am eager for the day when we support bigger projects, ones from all around the world, and in many other languages. Rebus is an empowering organization, both for me and everyone else who wants to change how academia operates and knowledge is exchanged. I sense that the other members of the Rebus Community share this belief, and it inspires me to keep going. I can’t help but feel very excited at the prospect of our collective future!

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