Tag Archives: accessibility

NNELS: A New Model for Accessible Library Service

Reviewed By: Jennifer Bousquet ,Sonia Botello, Robyn Brown

Link to article: https://jps.library.utoronto.ca/index.php/ijidi/article/view/32194

SP 19: INFO 275
Open Access Research Assignment
Jennifer Bousquet
Sonia Botello
Robyn Brown


The thrust of the 2018 article “NNELS: A New Model for Accessible Library Service in Canada” by author Kim Johnson, is that the visually-impaired public are chronically underserved in Canadian libraries. Johnson offers an overview that that describes a shortage in readily available material for individuals who have impairments that prevent them from reading traditionally printed materials. Johnson asks the question: “How can a public library provide a rich and diverse collection that meets the needs of its entire local community, including those with print disabilities, when so little of the published material is accessible?” (Johnson, 2018, p. 114). Johnson suggests that a new solution is being created by the The National Network for Equitable Library Service (NNELS). NNELS is a digital library with a mission to change traditional print materials to more accessible formats. Johnson makes the point that it is less costly and more efficient to create accessible materials to begin with, rather than after publication of traditional printed matter.
The Canadian National Institute for the Blind was historically the primary resource for Canadians who needed these types of resources, and the library system in Canada has relied on the Institute to provide them as a default mechanism. NNELS is meant to empower all partner libraries to create and distribute materials themselves for print-disabled patrons without having to refer them to the Institute. The new formats of materials include synthetic voice and live narration recordings.

Johnson cites “Looking Back, Rethinking Historical Perspectives and Reflecting upon Emerging Trends,” as a thoughtful piece that examines how disability has been viewed in Canada as a medical problem, then transitioned to being seen as special needs/service model and the experience of being treated as “other,” and currently towards a movement with disability advocates fighting for equal access.

Core research question
Although Johnson doesn’t pose explicit research questions, there is a challenging tone to the article itself. Clearly Johnson feels that the print-disabled community in Canada has long been disenfranchised due to a lack of materials available to them in the public library system, and that something like NNELS is long overdue. Johnson sees the NNELS as the new frontier in building a more robust catalog for print-disabled patrons. With an “Accessible format collection and service, NNELS represents a professional practice that not only responds to the users’ needs but also builds on inclusivity and empowerment.” (Johnson, 2018, p. 115).

The researchers did an in-depth examination of NNELS in order to determine what kind of services it provided to people with print disabilities. The paper also looks at the history of accessible services to build up evidence to support their assessment of NNELS. The author’s examination of NNELS looks at what services are provides, how it provides them, and how these services benefit users. Real-life testimonials from users and examples from different libraries in Canada where the NNELS model is in use are included.
Findings and conclusion

The researchers found that NNELS provides an effective, user-driven service that takes into account the needs of the people it serves. They determined that part of the reason the NNELS is so effective is because it treats the users as customers who can demand a higher level of service, rather than clients who must take what is offered to them (Johnson, 2018, p. 116). They further this user-driven ethos by encouraging libraries to provide direct services to patrons (i.e. on-the-spot transfer of material to discs) (Johnson, 2018, p. 118). This empowers the libraries and validates the patron by not making them go through another agency to obtain the material, which would mean jumping through more bureaucratic hoops. Additionally, NNELS calls for a participatory model that allows community members to become involved by making recordings of popular materials (Johnson, 2018, p. 118).
Johnson concludes that NNELS will actually prove to be most effective when it paradoxically no longer needs to exist. The services that it provides should be included in libraries’ collections from the beginning, rather than users having to request them via a special service. Additionally, the material should originate as accessible material and not have to be reformatted (Johnson, 2018, p. 119).

What American libraries can learn from this research
To provide better services for the print disability community in America, American libraries can follow the example of Canada’s National Network for Equitable Library Service (NNELS). Assistive technologies are not always useful for patrons, because most of the time the book they want is only available in print (Johnson, 2018, p. 114). This becomes a problem for library users with print disabilities. Yet, in Canada, the NNELS and Canadian libraries unite and develop accessible versions of printed material for print-disabled patrons. Once the newly formatted book is created, the material becomes part of the NNELS collection and is available for other print-disabled patrons (p. 117). American libraries can learn from and follow the footsteps of the NNELS to create various formats of books for the community.

One method the American libraries can do that the NNELS does is to develop audio versions using an on-demand model. Although audio books continue to be made, not all titles are available. The NNELS, however, has people from the organization and staff from libraries record books. If a book is being requested immediately, the NNELS will use synthetic audio to create the book quickly. Another method American libraries can take in is to create electronic versions of printed books, or they can make changes to e-text to make the text more user-friendly (Johnson, 2018, p. 117). Other ways the NNELS helps the print-disabled community are developing the books into PDF, DAISY, EPUB, electronic Braille, and other formats that best help the patron (National Network for Equitable Library Service, n.d.). American libraries could consider applying the formatting methods to other printed material as well. This includes material such as “medical information, instructional booklets, provincial library legislation,” and other informational material requested (Johnson, 2018, p. 117).

While the NNELS has an emphasis on using CD recordings as a delivery method for print-disabled patrons, American libraries may be able to apply their practices while possibly updating the technologies used. Canadian libraries seem to have an expanded awareness of this user segment that American libraries would benefit from, and consequently improve upon on our own options for providing more reading material for visually-impaired patrons. Some ways include adding voice-activated prompts to locate material in the catalog and using synthetic voice for e-books.

Johnson, K. (2018). NNELS: A new model for accessible library service. The International
Journal of Information, Diversity, & Inclusion, 2(3), 114-120.

National Network for Equitable Library Service. (n.d.). Library Staff Homepage. Retrieved from

Accessibility and Inclusion Issues in Library Acquisitions: A Guideline to Evaluating and Marketing the Accessibility of Library E-Resources

Reviewed By: Jeana Clampitt, Javier Morales, Jennifer Nguyen

Link to article: http://publish.lib.umd.edu/IJIDI/article/view/314

In this article, Kerry Falloon (2016) examines how academic libraries can ensure that their digital collections comply with federal regulations while meeting the needs of all users. She suggests a specific workflow that includes evaluation and marketing of digital materials. Falloon begins the article with a review of applicable regulations, including legal cases that have arisen when universities have failed to comply. Falloon then points to several existing guides which aim to assist librarians with making purchasing decisions. She discusses existing technologies, including specific products, and the benefit for all users of providing adaptable materials and technology. Then she presents a workflow model and discusses how it has been implemented at the City University of New York (CUNY), and specifically the College of Staten Island (CSI) Library. Finally, she discusses marketing, including the importance of signage and the use of LibGuides as a method of promotion.

Falloon states, “The purpose of this study is to educate acquisition librarians attempting to integrate best practices in evaluating the accessibility of acquired products and services into current workflows” (p. 2). In addition, the study aims to “provide a workflow model on how to ensure that a digital resource is evaluated and marketed for accessibility compliance” (p. 14).

These goals can be reframed as the following research questions:
RQ1: How can acquisitions librarians ensure that digital collections comply with accessibility regulations and are practical for all users?
RQ2: What are best practices for evaluating and marketing digital materials?
RQ3: What workflow model do librarians at the CSI Library use to ensure these goals are met?

Falloon evaluates electronic resources in regards to the implementation of new workflows. She states that “traditional workflows need to be broken down and redesigned into new workflows, with patron services as its goal” (p. 6). According to Falloon, doing so will allow libraries to be better able to keep the accessibility and universal design needs of patrons with disabilities at the forefront in all electronic resource decision-making processes.

To help with the facilitation of these new workflows, the CUNY-CSI Library used the Techniques for Electronic Resource Management (TERMS) as a model to help in the evaluation of product and service accessibility. If properly adopted by library staff, TERMS would help create new workflows that would better allow them to evaluate whether electronic resources are “accessible, adaptable, supportive, and can be used by patrons of all abilities.” (p. 6).

In the course of this wider study of the accessibility needs of patrons, the CUNY-CSI Library has made a concerted effort to prioritize new policies and procedures. Several resources are highlighted, including the ALA’s “Purchasing of Accessible Electronic Resources Resolution” policy and the ASCLA’s “Think Accessible Before You Buy” toolkit. These guides along with other resources can help librarians create more accessible content. They can then apply those skills to better evaluate the accessibility of other resources. The author also makes a point to note that accessibility isn’t limited to online resources. For example, library acquisitions staff often also handle the purchasing of hardware and software. This can include specialized equipment, such as screens that magnify text, large-print keyboards, or assistive programs that enable patrons to interact with electronic resources.

Falloon makes several recommendations, such as Zoom Text, a screen reader that serves several purposes. It can enlarge or enhance text and images on the screen, or even read aloud. Other recommendations include Kurzweil 3000, Dragon NaturallySpeaking, and even built-in accessibility features found in Microsoft Office Suites. She argues that though several of these options would certainly require a significant investment on the part of the library, it would ultimately be worthwhile, if it better allows the library to assist a wider array of patrons.

Falloon finds that though about 75% of resources acquired by the CUNY-CSI Library are electronic, they are not necessarily accessible. Acquisition and electronic resource librarians are not always mindful that new materials must adhere to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Assistive Technology Act of 1998, or the Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA). “Acquisition and electronic resource librarians need to acquire knowledge of disability law compliance as it relates to product evaluations, purchasing decisions, marketing, and reviews” (p. 14). The article was written to enlighten said librarians of these issues and provide inclusive and accessible TERM steps, signage, and many electronic programs to check whether materials are accessible to those with disabilities.

Falloon provides an excellent overview of the current situation regarding accessibility of digital collections as well as suggestions for implementing a workflow that emphasizes evaluation and marketing of such materials. Suggestions for future studies include how other academic libraries are approaching the topic, as well as advancements in other types of tech tools.

There have been several advances in technology since this article was published, including the rising popularity of intelligent virtual assistants. These have the potential to increase accessibility for users with disabilities. One further question is whether they are being designed to meet accessibility regulations. Companies including Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft have incorporated accessibility settings into these products. They are similar to the settings Falloon discusses for the Windows desktop environment. Other new technologies that are starting to see adoption in libraries are virtual reality (e.g. Google Expeditions) and augmented reality (e.g. librARi). While Falloon focuses on resources for users, there have also been advancements in library management software and repositories (e.g. LIBERO, Alexandria, and ePrints). It remains to be seen which of these different types of technologies will become mainstream and how libraries will work to make them accessible to users and staff.

As technology continues to evolve, accessibility regulations will likely need to be revised to include new formats. Falloon writes that librarians need to be aware of these changes, but does not discuss how to best keep staff aware of updates. One solution would be to assign one or more staff members to track these changes. This could be done by periodically reviewing the ADA website (https://www.ada.gov/), subscribing to email updates from the United States Department of Justice (https://www.justice.gov/news), or following the DoJ (@TheJusticeDept) and organizations such as the Southeast ADA Center (@adasoutheast) on social media.

Falloon, K. A. (2016). Accessibility and inclusion issues in library acquisitions: A guideline to evaluating and marketing the accessibility of library e-resources. The International Journal of Information, Diversity, and Inclusion, 1, 1-16. Retrieved from http://publish.lib.umd.edu/IJIDI