In the last few months, a number of accessibility specialist job postings have been forwarded my way by colleagues. Reviewing these postings was quite interesting as they highlighted a number of important competencies which were repeated from one job advertisement to another. Reflecting on my own experience as someone who has worked in this field at Scholars Portal, Ontario Council of University Libraries, I thought that a blog post dedicated to the topic of what it takes to be an “Accessibility Librarian” would help research librarians develop a better sense of where libraries are headed in the establishment of accessibility librarian positions.
Evaluating digital resources can mean looking at usage statistics and licenses, assessing the value of package deals in relation to how frequently library users access this content. However, libraries are beginning to add one more important criteria to this evaluation process—accessibility. This can mean looking at platforms and evaluating discoverability of content as well as the accessibility of the PDFs—can a screen reader navigate to a desired title and successfully read the downloaded file? These evaluations can be conducted with the use of open-source screen-reader simulator tools such as FANGS or HTML CodeSniffer, among others, which don’t require advanced technical knowledge to use. While some research libraries in the United States and Canada have started to evaluate their own resources by employing in-house expertise or hiring external contractors, many are turning to new tools to aid in their procurement decisions.
The 2015 Library Publishing Forum took place in Portland, Oregon, in late March, nestling itself comfortably following the ACRL conference. Program topics explored themes such as the evolving role of libraries as “publishers” and what that role really entails. What can library publishers do that we cannot get from huge publishing houses or university presses?
The debate about terminology defined at least one of the sessions, inspiring heated participation among the audience. During the break-out discussions led in another session by library colleagues from Stockholm University, questions of peer review procedures were tied to the increasing interest in publishing open access monographs. While some schools cited challenges in motivating authors to contribute large-scale works to open access collections, many positive opportunities were identified for libraries to address—areas where publishers have historically struggled.
So what exactly are these areas of opportunity for libraries to participate in open access publishing? And what can libraries do differently from other publishers?