The MSU Libraries take seriously our responsibility to make resources available to all users, including those with disabilities. We have a wide range of assistive technology, such as video magnifiers and a scanning-and-reading workstation. Our Web Services team has designed the library website with close attention to accessibility issues.
But electronic resources such as ebooks, online journals, and databases, are a critical part of the library collection. These resources are licensed from hundreds of publishers and vendors, and accessed through web interfaces designed by those companies. Not all of those interfaces are well-designed for users with disabilities.
Our answer? MSU is one of the few libraries in the country with an active effort to assess the design quality of online resources from the point of view of visually impaired users. Ranti Junus, our Electronic Resources Interface Librarian, has been working for two years with Katie Kelel, a senior in International Relations who is also blind.
Ranti and Katie focus on how well our licensed resources function with a screen reading program, an assessment that goes far beyond checking to see that image tags include an alternative text. At a presentation for library staff last week, they demonstrated the process of searching an article database, selecting an article and opening it with the screenreader program JAWS®.
The demo included both successes and frustrations. The successes, of course, were searches which could be conducted efficiently, and articles the screenreader could read aloud. The frustrations included interfaces where important commands were hard to locate, and articles the screenreader couldn’t interpret. The most common reason for an unreadable document is that it was converted to PDF before the point when the PDF format began to incorporate a text layer along with the image layer.
Katie was also able to show the critical importance of a relatively simple design element. Screenreading software includes a command to review only the headings on a page, which enables the user to scan more easily. But paragraphs or lists of links presented without headings have to be read through word by word – a real time drain for a busy student.
After testing an interface with Katie, Ranti shares the findings and recommendations with the vendor. “Taking the time to evaluate these sites with a user who has visual impairment,” she says, “means we can give our vendors expert feedback, and contribute to improving the resource for everyone.”
Below: Ranti Junus (standing) and Katie Kelel demonstrate how screenreading programs work.
The MSU Libraries have just published the first volume in our Comic Art Preservation Project, an effort to make classic comics more widely available to libraries, collectors, and fans.
The first CAPP volume is Tim Tyler’s Luck: Daily Strips, July 1937-December 1939. Tim Tyler's Luck was a Golden Age adventure strip created by Lyman Young and distributed by King Features Syndicate from 1928 to 1996. The reprint is authorized by King Features.
“Newspaper comic strips like Tim Tyler were – and are – read daily by millions of people, but they’re virtually lost to historians if not collected into volumes like this,” explains Clifford H. Haka, director of the MSU Libraries. “We’re extremely happy to help preserve this wonderful piece of American popular culture.”
The strip follows young Tim as he faces wild animals, dangerous criminals, and constant excitement as a member of the “Ivory Patrol,” a fictitious law enforcement organization in Africa.
The strips were scanned from original proof sheets in the collections of the Michigan State University Libraries, resulting in a clear, crisp reproduction. The MSU Libraries' Comic Art Collection has more than one million proof sheets from King Features Syndicate, along with more than 200,000 comic books and an extensive collection of books and journals about comic art.
The reprint starts with a lively essay by Reade W. Dornan, a recently retired faculty member from MSU’s Department of English. Dornan examines the pop culture influences of the time – including Westerns, the Rough Riders, and boys’ adventure books – and compares the adventure hero Tim exemplified to the superheroes created a decade later.
“The years of Tim Tyler’s Luck reissued in these volumes showcase Young's career at the top of his game,” says Dornan in the introduction. “By 1937, nine years after the strip started, Young has figured out how to tell a whopping good story.”
Tim Tyler’s Luck is printed on the MSU Libraries’ Espresso Book Machine. It's available through Amazon.com for $18 plus shipping. Visitors to the Main Library can purchase it at the Copy Center on 2 West.
At this month’s Michigan Library Association conference, many of us were impressed with a presentation by futurist Garry Golden. On Friday, Terence O'Neill described Golden's "Cone of Plausibility" concept. Today, cataloger Autumn Faulkner imagines how online education might affect libraries.
So what does the Cone of Plausibility predict for libraries in particular? One exciting possibility is a role in the growing trend toward “lifelong learning,” as futurist Garry Golden put it.
MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are quickly gaining in popularity, for example. But lifelong learning isn’t just about college classes. Think about all the times you’ve consulted a YouTube video, a blog tutorial, or Wikipedia. Maybe you’ve learned CSS on Codecademy, or even earned one of Mozilla’s Open Badges.
We’re all using the internet to become more knowledgeable. The next logical step is sharing our learning activities through social platforms. As Golden pointed out, social networks have become more than just a way to connect—now they’re tools for continued personal growth.
Imagine an educational equivalent of sites like RunKeeper or Goodreads. One day soon, you may see posts like “Autumn wants to learn more about computational linguistics” or “Autumn memorized a Robert Frost poem.”
How do libraries get in on the ground level? Perhaps by recommending certain resources to users based on the learning data they’re willing to share with us, or tailoring collections to fit local education trends. One thing is certain—we need to be ready for all the lifelong learners coming our way!
At this month’s Michigan Library Association conference, many of us were impressed with a presentation by futurist Garry Golden, and we wanted to share some of his ideas with you. Here’s guest blogger Terence O’Neill, entrepreneurship librarian in the Gast Business Library:
A few weeks have passed since MLA, and one topic is still on my mind: Garry Golden’s talk on Futurism.
Golden talked about how he, as a futurist, works with organizations not to predict, but to be better prepared for the range of possibilities. The less surprised you are, the more likely you are to put your organization in a positive position.
But how can you prepare for every possible scenario? Golden suggests creating a Cone of Plausibility. Beginning from the current situation, the Cone represents all of the things that could reasonably happen in the next year, two years, and beyond. What’s the worst that could happen? The best? How can you be prepared for those possibilities?
Of course, it’s likely that something will come along and change everything. Golden’s recommendation is to set up a Signals Team: people who monitor a variety of sources looking for the mentions of trends, technologies, and events that could reshape the landscape. The goal is to find out about some new possibility before it hits Time magazine, because once it has gotten there, your chance to react to it and shape opinion is very limited.
The source of these signals will be vastly different for every organization and industry, but even looking for them can spark the imagination. And following up on a few fizzled fads is worth being better prepared when an industry shifts forever.
On Monday, librarian Autumn Faulkner will discuss one possible future for libraries based on today's trends.
Did you know the MSU Libraries have books in more than 300 languages? And it's not all research material! We also have poetry and popular fiction in many of those languages, from Arabic to Japanese to Ukrainian.
Fiction can be a great way to practice a language you're learning, revive your skills in a language you once studied, or stay connected to your home culture while at MSU.
To help users find popular reading in world languages, librarians Autumn Faulkner and Stephanie Perentesis have created a webpage filled with tips and tools.
"The biggest surprise for users may be that our catalog can search in more than just the Latin alphabet," says Faulkner, a cataloger. "You can cut and paste an author's name in the Cyrillic alphabet, Hebrew and Arabic scripts, and Chinese, Japanese and Korean characters."
Those searches work best for modern authors, because earlier generations of cataloging software could only handle the Latin alphabet - thus, it's an ongoing project to add non-Roman data to older records.
"If you're not finding what you want," adds Perentesis, a public services librarian, "remember that the librarians are always ready to help -- at the Reference Desk or online 24/7!"
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