Tag Archives: user experience

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

Feminism and the Future of Library Discovery

Reviewed By: Liza Alvarez-Perez, Shiiyu Fujisaka, Tor-Elias Johnson, Michael Nicoloff, Adilene Rogers

Link to article: http://journal.code4lib.org/articles/10425

Core Questions and Methods:
In their article “Feminism and the Future of Library Discovery,” Sadler and Bourg (2015) analyze scholarly research and commentary in the field of digital technology with respect to Shaowen Bardzell’s principles of feminist software interaction. Central in the discussion is the technological aspects of library discovery, which the authors define as the means by which “users search, explore, find, and interact with the information resources they need, particularly collections held by a library” and can encompass “search algorithms, library software, and online collections” (Sadler & Bourg, 2015, para. 3). The authors question the valuing of an idealized neutrality or objectivity in the design of digital systems and the corresponding devaluing of emotional and social consequences for users.
Sadler and Bourg (2015) review many of the biases in libraries and their classification systems, and when speaking of pluralism and self-disclosure in search they expose the shortfalls of the use of majority-rule as a definition of neutrality and present us with idea of neutral relevance as an oxymoron. The acute issue of sexism is addressed when speaking of the world of open software and participation in the production of technology, and how the notion of the need to recruit gender minorities and women might serve to reinforce the false narrative that they are not naturally inclined to such fields is a relevant observation. The authors lastly speak of embodiment in library interactions referring to the accessibility and usability of software.

Findings and Conclusions:
While we may think that search engines such as Google give us “neutral” search results, the article explains how the lack of pluralism and self-disclosure only gives us an illusion of neutrality. In order for search software to be neutral, there needs to be a particular concern with pluralism and self-disclosure so that it can yield results with more relevancy and significance. The way that Google has their algorithm now, for example, works by defining relevancy and significance by looking at what pages are linked most often when a certain subject is given. This leads to a functionality in which only the most clicked on pages are those that we see which often leads to catastrophic results. In this “majority rules” type of searching, it can be difficult to find information, especially for women and people of color as they do not make up the majority of users. Sadler and Bourg (2015) stress that libraries must keep these limitations in mind when educating the public about search neutrality and the rigid categorizing systems that are in place.
In discussing the production of library technology, Sadler and Bourg (2015) hypothesize that the environment in which software is created has an effect on the social nature of that software, once released to the wild. They write of “the open source software community [being] a notoriously sexist space,” and that the lack of women in these spaces is explained away by a rationale stating that women are “techno-phobic” while men are “techno-eager” (Sadler & Bourg, 2015, para. 16). Women, it is said, “are not naturally interested in technology and must be persuaded to participate” (Sadler & Bourg, 2015, para. 18). The authors level criticism at this narrative, the most obvious of which is the fact that there are multiple factors working against females wishing to work in tech. Hostility toward and harassment of women in the open-source coding environment is a primary factor pushing women away from software development, because it is a pursuit around which they have experienced trauma, not something they are incapable or fearful of doing. Consequently, there is a profound waste of talent from many technically skilled people who could make innovative contributions in the development of library software, but are denied the chance to do so for lack of fair compensation and a safe working environment.
Sadler and Bourg’s (2015) discussion of advocacy and embodiment in library interactions makes for provocative reading, even as it remains rather speculative at times. The notion of designing both physical libraries and digital information access systems for the range of human ability and physicality is firmly embedded in the discourse on library diversity. Sadler and Bourg advocate strongly for taking a user-centered approach in defining improvements and implementing them well, and extend this discussion of embodiment further to uncover other implicit biases embedded in library practice, particularly with regards to digitization. They cite an interview with the innovative historian Natalie Zemon Davis in which Davis discusses “the specific emotional connection she feels when touching physical artifacts, like books” (Sadler & Bourg, 2015, para. 22). Sadler and Bourg speculate that in the rush to digitize materials, librarians may eliminate the possibility of a medium-specific emotional response. Such a response is often deemed ancillary and unimportant to the process of engaging with a book or other object, but the authors point out that such an assumption reveals an implicit bias towards “thinking” and against “feeling.” This dichotomy proves to be artificial; Sadler and Bourg point out that we make choices as much with our emotional responses as with “rationality,” noting that “studies of people who have been truly divorced of their emotions on a neurological level…[show that they] become unable to make even simple decisions” (2015, para. 24). We can see, then, the ways that a classic feminist critique applies fully to HCI’s potential downplaying or elimination of emotional responses from the field of intellectual consideration, which in turn may foreclose discovery and production of certain forms of embodied knowledge as well as possibly mute the urge for advocacy that such embodied knowledge may provoke.

Unanswered Questions
Sadler and Bourg’s (2015) points about embodied knowledge and advocacy are well taken, and they are correct to raise concerns about the change in scholarship and knowledge production that might occur with digitization. That said, the concerns they raise would have benefited from a longer and more concrete discussion of how embodiment might be compensated for in the physical-to-digital transition. Their critique also falters due to implicit assumptions regarding the disembodying nature of digital media. The subjective emotional associations that Davis (the only direct source cited in their discussion) has with physical books cannot be universalized, and with a lack of cited evidence on the supposedly embodiment-alienating nature of digital materials, it is unclear whether digital materials can provoke embodied emotional responses just as easily as print materials. It does not appear that Sadler and Bourg would directly deny this given their goal maintaining space for emotional responses in digital archives, but the latter goal lies in tension with the argument expressed in the discussion of the interview with Davis. As a result, we left with a very incomplete picture of what, if anything, might be lost in the transition to digital formats and how to compensate for such a loss if it occurs.
Other questions arising from the paper are the ongoing search for solutions to the problems of inequity addressed by the authors. After highlighting the glaring flaws in library scholarship on the topic of search algorithms and subject categorization, they fall short of providing satisfactory options of recognizing biases and applying adequate feminist principles. Unfortunately, they only offer the dismissive and unrealistic idea of librarians and users serving to data mine information as the only option to combating commercial bias. Further research about the manipulation of supposed majority-rule results with the use of tactics such as Google bombs and those who control the majority would help to clarify just where and why search bias is created. And while the authors provide a clear delineation of social pressures preventing women from equitable participation in software development, future research about how poverty and disability can also impede other groups in the participation of technology creation would be of pertinent interest to the argument of bias in the technology production ecology. Finally, the conclusions that libraries and librarians can further support feminist research and agenda by not being neutral is a vague and conflicting suggestion with little direction for a more inclusive and optimal library of the future with less bias.

Final Thoughts
In applying feminist theory to the design, production, implementation, and use of digital systems in the library environment, Sadler and Bourg (2015) overturn the notion of digital neutrality and illuminate the emotionally and socially relevant nature of technology. Despite potentially dubious claims on the emotional risks of digitization, and a failure to propose improvements to the problems of bias in search algorithms and gender inequality in software development, the authors make a significant contribution in library scholarship by providing a model for feminist analysis of new technological developments. While the article may ultimately raise more questions than it answers, the questions themselves are important for continual evaluation of modern library practices.

Reference List
Sadler, B., & Bourg, C. (2015). Feminism and the future of library discovery. Code{4}lib, 28. Retrieved from http://journal.code4lib.org/articles/10425

User Experience is a Social Justice Issue

User Experience is a Social Justice Issue

by Sumana Harihareswara

Empathy and the User Experience

Monica Diego

Kristi Hansen

Dana Kim

Stephanie Miko

Grace Song

Sumana Harihareswara defines customer service as a basic human right; the author’s aim is to change practices to focus on the needs of the user. Sometimes, as the author points out, technology gets in the way of good customer service. One such example is the “19 Steps of Hell” described at the New York public library. A user must complete 19 steps to use an e-book. Consider a user who is not fluent in English or a disabled user, these extra steps create a barrier and barriers stop the flow of information. It can also be seen in the Keurig coffee system: the Keurig’s benefits and detriments are weighed by the users, and it works for some people, but not all. It is important to be able to step back and look at services from the viewpoint of the user, and take into account the diverse needs of the library. The author discusses empathy and the need for librarians to think in terms of human relationships instead of hard and fast rules.

Being hospitable is accepting feedback (the negative as well as the positive), and turning that feedback into usable data. It is important to “see from many different user’s points of view, even when it’s uncomfortable or shows us that we’ve failed” (Harihareswara, 2015, p. 4). Working together and learning to communicate effectively is a practical solution to better customer support. Libraries and technology go hand in hand, and according to Harihareswara empathy is listening and responding.

In a public library setting it is crucial to focus on the providing of services, and as Harihareswara states, the building of capillaries instead of arteries, or building personal relationships and leaving the technology building to those who can better control it. Leaving the arteries to others, and creating a better user experience using disciplined empathy, the public library can provide welcoming hospitality coupled with the cutting-edge technology users crave.

After the author, Sumana Harihareswara, stated many examples of proven issues in lack of usability in banking, e-books, and others, she concluded that there was a simple lack of empathy on the developer’s side of programming (Harihareswara, 2015). It is obvious that poor usability leads to lack of use, which causes a barrier in information access, which is a complete disregard for open access. Allowing obstacles like bad usability to plague the information world, ultimately narrows awareness.

The author concludes that simple actions of empathy for the users and keeping an open mind to possible improvements, can destroy unneeded barriers to information access. Creating a connection between developers and users through communication, allows developers to modify any needed programing to allow for better usability. This can be done by organizing a diverse group of control members who can trouble shoot issues during development phases (Harihareswara, 2015). The author also asks to omit any notions of dominant point of views. As a programmer and creating a product, it’s easy to assume a product is perfect because it is your creation in a professional environment, but will your audience and users understand the product in its entirety. Being empathetic to these users and open to feedback can greatly increase the usability and use of your product, which is in the end the entire purpose to a creation.

This issue can be labeled as “bad customer service.” A simple definition of customer service states it is “the act of taking care of a customer’s needs by providing and delivering professional, helpful, and high quality service and assistance before, during, and after the customer’s requirements are met.” Our author states that customers need to be treated “as a first class responsibility and a source of important data” (p. 3). Designing with a code of “disciplined empathy” will ensure all user needs are meet, the product is at its best, and all possible information is available for all to access and use.

The term “social justice” refers to making sure no one is left behind in issues of civil rights, opportunities, or just clearing out the judgments people make against each other that separate them in society. Social justice aims to erase barriers, so everyone in our society is able to enjoy the same high quality of life without prejudice. Harihareswara has stumbled on a hidden prejudice in our Internet society: one that is against the computer illiterate. People may joke that they’re “bad” at computers or that they need their kids show them how to use their smartphone. The more we step away from paper and face-to-face interaction, the bigger the divide between the tech savvy and the computer illiterate. This is something people may be embarrassed about and try to mask it with jokes, but it is no laughing matter.

When Harihareswara mentions the “19 Steps of Hell” to borrow an e-book from the library, that is something relatively inconsequential in an individual’s life. But as we saw last year with the roll out of Obamacare, bad user design and interface, combined with people who may be elderly, disabled, or lack proper Internet access, creates a cascading operational failure.

Customer service and the IT department will gripe about the problem being “between the keyboard and the chair”, meaning it is not the system’s error but the user’s. But many of these same designers refuse to view their creation as difficult for the layperson to use. Many times programmers are focusing on speed, precision, and economy of language. What one programmer may see as needless words – an inelegant dumbing down of the expedient user system being designed – may be necessary explanations for those who are less confident in their computing skills. Isn’t it possible that while we librarians work to help the public with their computer skills, we should also be teaching our programmers and designers to be creative, compassionate, and just?

In conclusion, this article addresses much more than the issue of improving customer service. Most public service domains, companies and businesses know that customer service should always be great and impressive for its customers. Harihareswara explores the questions of how and why. The purpose of this article is to lead to more meaningful conversations on how to incorporate diversity in the workplace and how doing so will lead to better products and services. Simply put, the more diverse identities a library has in its staff, the more comfortable patrons will feel using the services. For example, if the designers of library software, websites and/or services are made from the point of view of people who may not have as much education or may not be completely fluent in English, then perhaps more people (especially those who are marginalized) will be able to use it without getting frustrated or feeling inadequate. The author’s discussion of hospitality and disciplined empathy are core to her argument that with more effective communication and through more listening and observing, services will be more all-inclusive. The aspect of including more people, especially those who are of minority groups or do not have as much opportunity in work or in the general society, will be helpful in the long run with lasting positive changes. It does not start with the product or service itself, it starts with the willingness to understand different people.


Harihareswara, H. (2015). User Experience is a Social Justice Issue. Code{4}lib Journal, 1-5.