Monthly Archives: October 2014

Web Accessibility

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  • Fulton, C. (2011). Web accessibility, libraries, and the law. Information Techoolgy and Libraries, 20(1), 34-43.
  • Gruder, C. S. (2012). Making the right decisions about assistive techology in your library. Library Technology Reports, 48(7), 14-21.

Gruder mentions the college student who relies on the the academic library to provide access to the learning tools she needs to succeed academically. Fulton describes the scenario in which a visually impaired student is unable to adequately complete a quiz worth twenty percent of their grade. Accessibility, referring to support of users with differing accommodation needs, is something the library should especially be concerned with. Given that the library’s purpose is to facilitate information access for all patrons, accessibility of software, hardware and information systems is of utmost concern.

When making choices about what, how much, and when to buy, Gruder suggests not getting carried away over the shiny things. Most people are familiar with voice recognition software, OCR scanners, or text-to-voice options on popular software, such as Adobe. However, there are many other options. Know your users and make sure that whatever tools and technologies are purchased will serve them well and meet their needs. This includes taking learning abilities and prior technological experience into account. This would be especially prudent for public and public access libraries, as their patrons are such a diverse group. Also of importance is know restrictions on licensing for specific programs.

In some cases, libraries or other learning centers may have separate rooms, such as campus disability support centers. Marketing tools and technologies to users is also important. If no one knows the resources are available, they’re unable to take advantage of them. Also, training staff to be able to work with systems, troubleshoot, and otherwise support users.

Fulton mentions steps that can be taken to address basic web accessibility issues, such as proper heading data, alternative image descriptions, and captioning images and audio files. For example, when creating LibGuides at my place of employment, creating an alternative description for images, links, and embedded content is something that we’re mindful of. As Fulton mentions, individuals in  need of accommodations are consumers and patrons too. They deserve to get every as much out of the services they pay for as anyone else.

Human Computer Interaction (HCI)

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  • Gupta, R. (2012). Human comptuer interaction: A modern overview. International Journal of Computer Technology and Applications, 3(5), 1736-1740.
  • Moreno, A. M., Seffah, A., Capilla, R., & Sanchez-Segura, M.-I. (2013). HCI practices for buidling usable software. Computer, 46(4), 100-102.

Human computer interaction heavily plays into the user experience, including system functionality and the ability of system to support and understand user input and feedback. According to Moreno et al, when designing systems, it’s an important part of obtaining a positive outcome. The basic physical component of user interaction involves concrete workings with the computer itself. There is also the manner in which users comprehend and have a working engagement with the system on a higher order of thinking level. User satisfaction is important, because when users are satisfied, they’re more likely to use a product and become loyal consumers. Loyalty drives up sales and guarantees long-term use. Knowing who your system users are and what usability and functionality features they’re looking for will drive how the system is developed going forward. In terms of libraries, satisfied patrons guarantees return users and patrons who refer their peers, thus building the user base. More demand is a good thing, provided the supply meets the demand.

Gupta mentions speech recognition software is an example of systems supporting HCI, which lends to the idea that well-crafted HCI compliant systems could serve the dual purpose of accessibility. Customizing systems to user-based interactions allows users to benefit from and interact with systems that specifically designed to handle differences in information access, such as users with impaired vision or hearing. It could also prove beneficial to those with limited physical abilities, by compensating for individuals needs through differentiated screens, touch-based feedback, audiovisual feedback, and text appearance. Gupta mentions that today’s system and design capabilities create the possibility and likelihood of more active systems vs. systems that are passive in nature.

Even for those who are not in need of accessibility accommodations, the idea is that systems will become embedded in the everyday way of life, instead of computers being an “other” part of life. I’m curious, though, what part increased security concerns will play into these future goals. I was just reading an article earlier that basically stated security scares, such as Heartbleed, are not anomalies. They are the new normal and will only get worse in scope. It’s kind of depressing, but necessary to consider, especially in terms of system tools that may span across all areas of life and productivity.

Considering ILS Updates

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  • Yang, S. (2013). From integrated library systems to library management services: TIme for change? Library Hi Tech News, 30(2), 1-8.
  • Asher, A. D., Duke, L. M., & Wilson, S. (2013). Paths of discovery: Comparing the search effectiveness of EBSCO Discovery Services, Summon, Google Scholar, and Conventional Library Resources. College & Research Libraries, 74(5), 464-488.

Integrated Library Systems (ILS) developed in the 1990s were designed to support and foster accessibility to online public access catalogs (OPAC) and allow libraries to manage and update interior catalog records for printed materials, such as books, folios, and journals. Many libraries today are spending a significant portion of their budgets on e-journals and electronic database development, in addition to electronic books. While physical books still make up a large part of the library collection, they are not the only part. Particularly in academic libraries, the tendency is for library collections to be fragmented, meaning patrons may have to use different tools and access platforms to access specific items. Books may be searched in the catalog, while online journals are accessed via a discovery tool and print journals hover in this weird space that is catalog supported, yet difficult to find and differentiate from electronic journals. Given these issues, libraries are moving towards ILS that will bring all of these pieces together and utilize well crafted discovery tools to search for and facilitate access to collections.

When designing or implementing an ILS, it’s important to make sure it will lend itself well to discovery. Currently, in the academic library at which I am employed, we use an OPAC, the Serial Solutions Summon discovery tool, and an alphabetic searchable listing of journal titles, which links to Summon. There is also the option to search specific databases, which may not be readily apparent or included in “all in one” tools such as Summon. We also have a Google Scholar option that is linked to our consortium portal. All of these options may create headaches for students who are not well versed in library research. Most students tend to default to the Summon discovery tool, likely because it is the first one to present itself. It’s visual appearance also mimics the seachability of Google, which students are very familiar with. However, the search interface may not be necessarily designed for each of use, which sometimes results in frustration on the patrons’ end. Serial Solutions has made some good changes to their product in recent years, eliminating some of the headache encountered previous. There is still the propensity for students unfamiliar with the tool to neglect to tweak searches to get desired  results, which is where library courses come into play.

Another important issue is the ability of the system to handle electronic resources. Again, libraries are purchasing and gaining electronic resources at a much higher rate than ten years ago. Many journals have turned to electronic only publications. For books that update fairly quickly or would take up considerable physical space (serials), it is preferable to purchase e-copies. ILS systems would need to support these acquisitions in a streamlined fashion. Also, the ability to display these items should also be part of the demand from vendors. We constantly hear complaints and frustration with trying to access e-books. That would play into the electronic resource management process.

When considering ILS acquisition and implementation, in order to ensure the ILS is suitable for institutional needs, it’s helpful to have the input of all involved. Evaluation of the current system and the changes necessary, input from library faculty and staff, and the opportunity to test drive the ILS before implementing it permanently is advisable.  In this case, I mentioned the ability to support hassle free discovery by researchers in an academic environment and the ability to seamlessly integrate electronic resources along with print resources. A smooth transition is always desired, so doing all you can as an institution to anticipate the needs and address them up front in the ILS will go a long way. Discussion of new ILS options will take into affect both the needs of the researcher/student, but also the needs of the staff (access services, technical services and research & reference). How easy will it be to maintain and implement changes? In information literacy and outreach, are there significant challenges in teaching users how to navigate? Will it require constant updates? How clunky is it to maneuver? What changes need to be made to the ILS to meet the institutions needs? Does the cost outweigh the benefits? These are some of the questions that will need to be addressed.