MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) has been selected as one of the "Best Free Reference Web Sites" for 2012 by a division of the American Library Association (ALA). The award is part of an annual series initiated by the MARS: Emerging Technologies in Reference Section of the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) of the ALA to recognize outstanding reference sites on the World Wide Web.
The MIT OpenCourseWare site is one of 26 other websites to be recognized this year by a committee of member librarians from across the United States. Selection criteria include the quality, depth, usefulness and uniqueness of the content, as well as the ease of accessing the information. MARS noted that OCW content was "amazingly rich" and "a great resource for self-improvement and for college students who would like extra guidance … in parallel courses."
Other notable recipients of this year's award include the Google Art Project, an interactive experience that brings together thousands of works of art from hundreds of museums; the Khan Academy, which offers free educational content for K-12 subjects; the World Databank, the World Bank's statistical database on the economic and financial health of countries; the National Jukebox, which makes available more than 10,000 song recordings dating from 1901-1925 from the Library of Congress; Common Sense Media, which provides ratings and detailed information for parents about the suitability of movies, books and video games for children; the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Vault, an open database of declassified FBI records; and Emory University's Trans Atlantic Slave Trade Database, containing detailed information on 35,000 slaving voyages that occurred between the 16th and 18th centuries.
"We are honored to be recognized by the American Library Association's emerging technologies group," says Cecilia d'Oliveira, MIT OpenCourseWare's executive director. "Universal access to high quality information is a vision that we both share, and this award helps raise awareness about the importance of the open education movement."
The American Library Association established MARS: Emerging Technology in Reference Section in 1978 to track important developments in the use of technology for library reference services. MARS is charged with researching and representing the interests of those concerned with attaining the highest possible quality in planning, developing, managing, teaching or conducting all forms of computer-based reference information services in libraries. They work to explore the impact of new technologies on users, services and collections, and find ways to educate and prepare library personnel for new developments, emerging trends, and best practices in library reference. This was the 14th year of the award; a full index of all websites that have won the award can be found at the American Library Association.