When talking with new or early career librarians, I have often advised them to “find their passion.” I’ve encouraged them to explore all the different facets that comprise academic librarianship and try to identify what inspires and motivates them as something that they may be passionate about and really embrace in their work. Ron Joslin found his passion late in his career, but once he found it, he embraced it, ran with it, and became an inspiration to others involved in similar work.
In January of 2015, I attended a workshop at ALA midwinter about open textbooks. When I returned to work and shared information on the two-day workshop, Ron became very interested in pursuing this as a topic with the faculty. I had been coordinating scholarly communication involvement with the library staff for more than a decade, but for whatever reason, at this point in time, Ron became engaged and excited by possibilities. We organized and held a discussion session that spring with faculty and invited speakers Tim Taylor (Economics) and David Ernst from the University of Minnesota Open Textbook Network, to talk about the benefits of open textbooks. The following spring, Ron and I travelled to San Antonio together for a SPARC Conference (Scholarly Publishing and Research Coalition), “Meeting on Openness in Research and Education (MORE)”, March 7-8, 2016. In addition to memorable travel with Ron by car ( we had to travel from Austin, Texas as we couldn’t fly into San Antonio) we had an inspiring conference that motivated Ron to become even more focused on the concept of open textbooks.
Ron obtained his library science degree in 2000. Although he had worked at Macalester since 1984, he really hit his stride as a librarian after becoming a member of the reference and instruction group of librarians in 2014. After focusing on his newfound passion in 2015, in four short years he organized workshops for faculty, held training sessions on using H5P to create interactive textbooks, and acquired funding through two separate grants, the Mansergh-Stuessy Fund for College Innovation and the NEH for his work on open textbooks. He was able to travel to Austria in the summer of 2018 with a group of faculty to work on the interactive German language modules that formed Grenzenlos Deutsch, an open access resource.
Ron also became engaged in an international education course to work on an open textbook for global education. As part of this course, it required holding class conversations with collaborators in Nepal, usually at midnight. Ron, not a night person, was diligent in attending these late night weekly meetings. This is just one example of how his passion fueled his ability to handle sometimes challenging work assignments.
Ron became an active participant in the Open Textbook Network and attended the summer annual meetings making connections with others equally passionate about open textbooks and OER. Ron published a book chapter on the work he was doing, presented at two national webinars, and was involved in working on another publication at the time of his illness. You may view the slides of one his presentations, “Infusing ‘Open’ in an Undergraduate Global Education Course.” You will find his contribution to The Evolution of Affordable Content Efforts in the Higher Education Environment: Programs, Case Studies, and Examples edited by Kristi Jensen and Shane Nackerud. Chapter 9 entitled, Creating an OER Toolkit.
Throughout his 34 plus years at Macalester, Ron received recognition for his work in several areas: excellence in service from CLIC and recognition in 2017 for his work in starting our LibTech Conference. Ron was always someone who downplayed any recognition. However, I know he absolutely lit up when talking about open education resources and loved talking about how his work evolved on our campus to meet the specific needs of our faculty. I’m sharing all this because for someone who found his passion late in life, even if it was only for a short period of time, the amount of impact he had in those few years is immeasurable. For those who didn’t have a chance to hear Ron talk about his experiences there are some recordings available, including the recording of his speaking about the global education course.
Ron will be missed for his passion, enthusiasm, his good humor (and his willingness to always do more. Going the extra mile was just something he did naturally. He was an inspiring colleague, a friend, and a gentle person who was loved by staff in the library and by the students he supervised during different
parts of his career. I’m happy that he will continue to exist as an inspiration both in the words in this Pressbook, but also in the presentations and book chapter to which he contributed his time and expertise.
Contributed by Terri Fishel