As we prepare for the upcoming launch of ProQuest Ebook Central, we’re highlighting a few of the libraries that helped shape the platform by sharing insight into topics and trends that are relevant to libraries and their users throughout our development stages.
This week we’re interviewing Kathleen Folger, Electronic Resources Officer at University of Michigan Library. As a part of its mission to support, enhance, and collaborate in the instructional, research, and service activities of the academic community, the Library focuses on ensuring print and digital information is accessible to all users. Read on to learn how and stay tuned for additional profiles of libraries that helped shape the new ProQuest Ebook Central platform.
ProQuest (PQ): What is your library doing to meet the needs of patrons with disabilities?
Kathleen M. Folger (KMF): The University of Michigan Library is engaged in an ongoing effort to improve both the onsite and online experience for our patrons with disabilities.
For users planning to visit in-person, we have developed web pages for each library location which provides information about handicapped-permit parking; accessible building entrances; wheelchair-accessible computers, study spaces and restrooms; and who to contact to get assistance retrieving library materials and accessing services. In addition, the University’s James Edward Knox Center Adaptive Technology Computing Site, which is located in the Shapiro Library, offers specialized hardware and software to meet the computing and information technology needs of users with disabilities.
For patrons who have established eligibility with the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities the Library offers:
- Free document delivery delivered electronically or to a departmental mailbox
- Access to in-copyright materials in HathiTrust that the library holds in print
More information about our public-facing services and resources is available on the Library’s Services for Patrons with Disabilities website.
We’re also working behind the scenes to improve the online experience of patrons with disabilities. Several years ago we embarked upon a web accessibility initiative to enable library developers and project managers to create usable and accessible interfaces for all users. We recently created a new accessibility specialist position in the library to help us better achieve our accessibility goals.
PQ: What aspect of the new ProQuest Ebook Central is most relevant to your library's efforts to target AA conformance to the WCAG?
KMF: The Library’s goal for our own online resources is to conform with WCAG 2.0 Level AA. But, we recognize many of our patrons may use our resources only as a starting point for access to the licensed resources we provide to campus. To ensure access for all our patrons, regardless of disability, we expect the providers of those resources to meet the same standard we’ve set for our own resources.
From our participation in the Ebook Central beta, we know that ProQuest is also setting the high goal of AA conformance for the features and functions of Ebook Central, and that they’re not just relying on their own assessment, but working with a third party consultancy to perform an audit to the AA standard. We’ve also tried out the new Chapter Download PDF with real, selectable text, that enable patrons to read content offline using their screen reader, and we’re looking forward to that being available to our patrons.
PQ: What more can ProQuest do to help you with this goal?
KMF: First and foremost, providers like ProQuest must make sure that accessibility is incorporated into all their products and platforms from the beginning, not added in as an afterthought.
Then, since many libraries don’t have the time and/or expertise to evaluate the resources they are licensing for accessibility, it would be helpful to both identify the level of compliance and provide documentation to support the claim. It looks like ProQuest is already doing this.
Ultimately, I think the library community would benefit from establishing independent audit requirements for accessibility, as Project COUNTER has done with usage statistics. That way, it’s not just the provider asserting conformance with an accessibility standard, there’s independent verification.
Interested in learning more about Ebook Central? Contact us.