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York College of Pennsylvania, Schmidt Library

OERs: Open Educational Resources

This is a starting place for exploring open educational resources. Open educational resources can provide good alternatives to many expensive textbooks and other teaching materials.

Search for OER

*Be sure to check with a librarian if using library licensed materials to ensure unlimited access is available to your students.

What is an OER?

Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning, and research materials that are either (a) in the public domain or (b) licensed in a manner that provides everyone with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities.

  • Retain – make, own, and control a copy of the resource
  • Reuse – use your original, revised, or remixed copy of the resource publicly
  • Revise – edit, adapt, and modify your copy of the resource
  • Remix – combine your original or revised copy of the resource with other existing material to create something new
  • Redistribute – share copies of your original, revised, or remixed copy of the resource with others

From "Open Education" by Creative Commons

OER Search Strategies

1. Check OpenStax.

Based out of Rice University, OpenStax is one of the most widely used sources of free and open access textbooks. The textbooks here tend to focus more on general subjects and can be particularly useful for general education and introductory courses for disciplines. However, their content can be freely adapted for upper-level courses as well.


  • High quality and easy to browse
  • Print copies can be purchased through the bookstore upon student request

2. Search OER Commons/Merlot

OER Commons is a digital public library of open access materials, including textbooks, syllabi, and so much more.

Merlot was born out of California State University's open access initiatives and includes the evaluation of online teaching materials.


  • Keyword searching
  • Connection to a vast network of open access texts and other course materials.
  • Link directly in Canvas

Keep in mind:

  • Always check for creative commons licenses. Work with a librarian to understand your rights to alter, change, and share these works.
  • Our default search box above will filter for the most flexible creative commons options. 


3. Find Open Access Materials via the Library

Open access materials can be searched using the library's main search. Choose "Open Access via the Library" in the search above to do a keyword search for open access ebooks. Once there, you can further narrow your results by discipline and subject heading.


  • Simple URLs to link resources
  • Discipline and Subject Heading filters

Keep in mind:

  • Many of these OERs are still accessed via library databases. Students may need to be logged into myYCP in order to access.
  • Open access lists are maintained by outside vendors. Speak with a librarian to check if the resource you selected will continue to be available to your students.

4. Find Licensed Library Materials

Licensed library materials are all the books, journals, articles, and other resources the library subscribes to. Although not "open" in the sense that anyone can access or alter them, they are freely available at no cost to students or faculty, and can still significantly reduce textbook costs. To find these resources, choose "Library eBooks (Licensed)" in the search box above.


  • Simple URLs to link resources
  • Discipline and Subject Heading filters
  • Access to the full range of library subscriptions and services

Keep in mind:

  • Requires logging into myYCP in order to access.
  • Some licensed materials have restrictions on the number of users. Contact a librarian to check if the resource you've selected has "unlimited access" to ensure student availability.
  • Licensed materials may be more limited in your ability to alter

5. Use Library Reserves

Physical items owned by faculty or the library may be placed on reserve at the library’s front desk for students to borrow and use more easily.

Electronic materials or partial scans of physical materials may be placed on electronic reserve for students to view online. However, all reserves are subject to copyright and policy limitations.


  • Very flexible in the kinds of materials that can be made available to students
  • Can supplement other OER and no-cost initiatives by placing a department-printed copy on reserve

Keep in mind:

  • Copyrighted materials have restrictions on the type and amount of content that can be placed on electronic reserve.
  • Contact our staff for assistance with requesting placing a reserve for your class.

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