Leah Hannaford, Centralia College’s new open education librarian, loves a challenge. Whether it’s serving the poor in Kenya, fighting terrorism, or helping local students and instructors track online resources, she’s up for whatever comes her way.
Prior to coming to Centralia College, Hannaford was deployed as an Army staff sergeant in the Horn of Africa. For several years, she used her natural skills in organization to assist Somali war refugees in Kenya. Working with the United States Agency for International Development during the peak of the war, Hannaford put her organizational talent and Arabic language skills to use designing information products, preparing radio broadcasts, and connecting displaced persons with vital information and humanitarian assistance.
With terrorist groups actively recruiting Somali youth, Hannaford’s work also focused on anti-recruitment efforts designed to steer young men away from terrorist groups and towards youth education and microeconomics. While in Kenya, she caught the eye of a special visitor. The result changed the course of her life.
That visitor was the librarian from the Library of Congress Office at the US Embassy in Nairobi. Noticing Hannaford’s natural gifts, she told her, “You were meant to be a librarian.” The idea intrigued Hannaford, who later spent countless hours studying American Library Association magazines. With the birth of a new dream, Hannaford completed her master’s degree through Florida State University in 2013.
After finishing her military career, Hannaford moved from North Carolina to Centralia to start her first librarian job in October. Sitting in her new office in the Kirk Library, Hannaford smiled and said, “I’m so excited to be a librarian in an actual library!”
What is an open education librarian?
As an open education librarian, Leah Hannaford’s job has surprisingly little to do with traditional paper books.
Rather, Hannaford works closely with Centralia College professors to find or create web-based, educational content that is freely available to the public. For example, when professors need material to support a particular lecture, Hannaford helps them search for free online content they can use in the classroom.
She also assists professors who are interested in making their own research, textbooks or other materials accessible to students via the web. Specifically, Hannaford directs them through the licensing process, helping them adopt a license that allows free public use of online content while still acknowledging the authors.
“I think the biggest challenge is helping faculty members find quality materials, and if none exist, helping them to create their own,” she said.
Saving students money is one clear advantage of using open education resources. However, the value goes beyond obvious financial benefits. This innovative educational model also provides a platform for academic collaboration. Professors can share their final products and the data and methods used to create their final work.
A fairly new concept in America, open education is, according to Hannaford, “more than just open textbooks. It’s about the resources we use and create.”