The DTES RAP provides access to research and research-related materials relevant to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside through an easy-to-use public interface.

Photo credit: Paul Joseph, UBC Brand and Marketing.

Community members living in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) have been the focal point of countless scholarly research studies and surveys over the years. Up until recently, this research has remained largely out of reach to participants and community organizations, locked away in journals and other databases that require paid subscriptions to access. Community members have said they would benefit from access to that data for evaluating program and service effectiveness, for example, or for grant writing.

The recently launched Downtown Eastside Research Access Portal (DTES RAP), a project led by the UBC Learning Exchange in partnership with UBC Library’s Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, is designed to change that.

The DTES RAP provides access to research and research-related materials relevant to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside through an easy-to-use public interface. The portal was developed in consultation with DTES residents and community organizations through focus groups and user experience testing, and in collaboration with a number of university units.  

“I’ve noticed how people’s eyes light up when I talk about this project – it resonates with so many different people at the university and in the community,” says Angela Towle, Academic Director of the UBC Learning Exchange.

For members of the UBC community, the DTES RAP serves a variety of purposes. As an instructional tool that uses open-access resources, the DTES RAP can be used by librarians in reference work and supporting class assignments. Researchers will find the portal useful in amplifying the reach and impact of their work and, with support from the DTES RAP team, in meeting open access requirements. The portal can also help minimize demands on community time from researchers undertaking new research projects within the DTES by providing a reliable, primary information source. For students interested in learning more about the DTES community, the portal is an excellent first stop to enable proactive learning.


The DTES RAP website homepage.


The DTES RAP makes innovative use of UBC’s open access digital repository, cIRcle, in the back-end and relies on cIRcle’s infrastructure and services for content processing and reuse permissions. Currently, 50% of the total items in the DTES RAP comes from cIRcle. Through the UBC Co-op program, each term a student librarian is hired to scour cIRcle for relevant content and tag it to appear in the DTES RAP. Student librarians also contact authors who have copyright to relevant materials and offer to work with them to add those materials to cIRcle. However, the DTES RAP also curates relevant external materials and provides links to those items in their originally published locations. These records can include descriptions of items that cannot be archived in cIRcle because of copyright issues whereby full text is not available.

“We want these items to come up in our DTES RAP search results so that people know the materials exist,” explains Aleha McCauley, project lead for the DTES RAP and Community Engagement Librarian at UBC Library’s Irving K. Barber Learning Centre. The DTES RAP describes these kinds of items as “Restricted Use” but also offers help in accessing those items via a button that appears next to inaccessible items. “We also include forms of public scholarship such as clear language summaries, in an effort to respond to community feedback that there was a need for alternate forms of research aside from the traditional article,” says McCauley.

“This project takes a nuanced approach to open access that recognizes that providing public links to academic articles is not enough,” says Towle. “We are exploring different ways to address these barriers including help materials, different genres and formats, workshops, outreach and a researcher directory.”

To support access, the Learning Exchange and UBC Library hired Nick Ubels to pilot a unique new role in the Learning Exchange. Ubels offers one-on-one support, along with workshops and demonstrations of the DTES RAP in action to bridge that gap.

“As we continue in this work, we’re constantly learning more about how best to meet community information needs,” says Ubels.

The DTES RAP was created as part of the Making Research Accessible Initiative (MRAi), a sustained collaboration that kicked off in 2015 between the UBC Learning Exchange and UBC Library’s Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, and has been guided by a steering committee that includes the UBC Office of Community Engagement, the UBC Knowledge Exchange Unit, the UBC School of Library, Archival, and Information Studies (iSchool), Simon Fraser University Library, and the Vancouver Public Library.

Visit the DTES RAP to start exploring, and subscribe to the newsletter for updates about this project and ways to participate in its development.

For more information about workshops, demonstrations or one-on-one user support for DTES RAP, contact Nick Ubels (

It was October 2019 and the first round of Open Educational Resources Fund grants hadn’t yet been awarded, but Erin Fields, Open Education and Scholarly Communications Librarian, and her student team were ready to get started with Open Education Resource (OER) publishing.

“[That project] was a really great test case for us to figure out what kind of support a faculty member would need to go from some Word documents with content to an actual published text,” recalls Erin Fields, Open Education and Scholarly Communications Librarian.

Erin Fields, Open Education and Scholarly Communications Librarian at UBC Library.

Creating an open text is no simple task, but for some faculty and instructors, it’s the best solution when the resources they need for their courses don’t exist.

“We just could not find [a text] that really fit the objectives or the spirit of my course. So, rather than giving students a stack of references to sift through, I decided to develop my own textbook,” says Dr. Chelsea Himsworth, Assistant Professor at the UBC School of Population and Public Health and lead author of  The Mission, the Message, and the Medium: Science and Risk Communication in a Complex World. “When I saw how much the students loved the textbook I was hooked! So I went back to the library so I could get the training and mentorship I needed to expand and improve the textbook on an ongoing basis. The library also opened my eyes to the world of OER. This led me to a successful grant application to improve my text and prep it for public offering.”

Amanda Grey, Open Education Student Librarian at UBC Library.

Fields’ student team helps faculty and instructors through the entire phased process, helping with copyright standards, Creative Commons licensing, metadata, and more using PressBooks as their online publishing platform, with access provided by BCcampus.

Since then, the library has created a catalogue of open texts from UBC, ranging in subject matter from chemistry to French language studies. Working alongside Fields, Open Education Student Librarian Amanda Grey has played a large role in the success of the open textbook initiative and handles much of the daily support for the library’s PressBooks projects.

“Erin and Amanda are amazing professionals. They were always accessible via Zoom and email,” says Dr. Somayeh Kamranian, Sessional Instructor in the UBC Department of French, Hispanic and Italian Studies and lead author of Let’s Read French Books. “They were present, in all the aspects of creation of this textbook.”

With most UBC classes now online, the demand for Open Educational Resources has only increased, along with an appetite for collaborative projects. Laboratory Manual for Introduction to Physical, First British Columbia Edition involved faculty and subject matter experts from UBC Vancouver, UBC Okanagan, Simon Fraser University, Capilano University, for use in first year physical geography courses.

“It was a fantastic example of what you can do across institutions when you work together,” says Fields, adding that it also illustrated how open education can support instructors engaged in remote learning.

For those considering the plunge into Open Education Resource (OER) publishing, UBC Library has plenty of resources available including The Open Textbook Publishing Guide, as well as two upcoming webinars that introduce participants to the open text publishing process. Faculty and instructors interested in booking a consultation can contact Erin Fields ( for more information.

This project is part of UBC Library’s strategic direction to inspire with innovative spaces and services.

Learn more about our Strategic Framework.

RSVP for events and learn more about what Open Access, Open Education and Open Research mean for researchers, students and faculty.

Join Langara, Kwantlen, BCIT, SFU, and UBC for an exciting half-day celebration of Open Access Week (Oct 21-27, 2019). This year’s theme from SPARC is Open for Whom? Equity in Open Knowledge. Our keynote speaker, Jessie Loyer, will explore this question alongside participants through the lens of decolonization. The conversation will continue with local panelists engaged in open knowledge work.

Light refreshments will be served courtesy of our partner BCcampus. All are welcome.

Date: Tuesday, October 22 2019
Time: 12:30pm-1pm (check-in); 1pm-4pm (program)
Place: Kwantlen Polytechnic University, 8771 Lansdowne Road, Richmond BC; Wilson School of Design, room 4900
Cost: Free! Registration requested.

Summary of Jessie’s talk
Sometimes when folks are in the midst of a monumental, feel-good shift, they fail to realize who has been excluded from that space. Librarians and scholars have been advocating the ideals of open access for many years and have seen the exciting changes the movement creates for public knowledge. Yet we rarely think about whose voices are absent and the structures of power that limit this project. Together, we’ll query our positionality in these spaces, and consider how the politics of refusal and an ethic of care might intersect to complicate the open access movement, potentially creating futurities of reciprocity. If rethought as a tool of resurgence, open access can support justice.

About Jessie
Jessie is Cree-Métis and a member of Michel First Nation. She is a liaison librarian at Mount Royal University in Calgary, a guest on Treaty 7 and Blackfoot territory. Her research looks at Indigenous perspectives on information literacy, supporting language revitalization, and creating ongoing research relationships using a nêhiyaw minâ otipêmisiw concept of kinship.

We respectfully acknowledge that our host, KPU, takes its name from the Kwantlen First Nation and is located on the unceded traditional and ancestral lands of the Kwantlen, Musqueam, Katzie, Semiahmoo, Tsawwassen, Qayqayt and Kwikwetlem peoples.

UBC Library is proud to support International Open Access Week through an exciting series of events happening during the week of October 22-28. Please refer to the Library’s Open Access Week page for information about individual events and how to register.

ScholComm@UBC looks forward to seeing you there!



In celebration of open access and its global impact for over a decade, UBC and SFU will be participating in the 2018 International Open Access Week event during October 22-28, 2018.


Throughout UBC’s 2018 Open Access Week event, scholars will showcase and discuss their innovative research, teaching and learning skills and experiences while inspiring others to learn more and get involved with the global open access movement. These events will highlight the various opportunities and pathways enabling open scholarship for researchers at UBC and beyond.


Similar to past UBC Open Access Week events, this year will include free lectures, workshops, a panel discussion with a Q&A session, seminars, and symposia for students, faculty, staff, and the general public. Topical and timely issues will include the following ones to list just a few:


  • new challenges faced by practitioners and stakeholders
  • developing a scholarly/publishing profile
  • applying Creative Commons licenses to your work
  • navigating the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy (NSERC, SSHRC and CIHR)
  • discovering Open Educational Resources (OER)


Visit Open UBC to register and attend these free events


Learn more about Open Access at UBC





This year’s International Open Access Week 2018 theme is “Designing Equitable Foundations for Open Knowledge” as announced by the 2018 Open Access Week Advisory Committee


Key highlights will focus on thought-provoking questions about challenges raised as the open access movement and scholarly research system draw closer despite changes in technology, education, funding, governments, publishing and such affecting many stakeholders around the world. This annual event is of keen interest to scholars, libraries, private and public research institutions, and anyone desiring to improve and advance a more equitable open scholarly research system.


Examples of anticipated questions surrounding the “Designing Equitable Foundations for Open Knowledge” theme for 2018 are as follows:


How do we ensure sustainability models used for open access are not exclusionary?

What are inequities that open systems can recreate or reinforce?

Whose voices are prioritized? Who is excluded?

How does what counts as scholarship perpetuate bias?

What are areas where openness might not be appropriate?


Stay tuned for more news about Open Access Week 2018 and upcoming Open UBC events!





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