With only one full-time employee, the Belgian Open Knowledge ship is only a small one to sail. Nonetheless, Pieter-Jan Pauwels has proven to be a worthy captain. The rest of the crew consists of a bunch of student positions, interns, volunteers and of course, the Open Knowledge Belgium board.
Even though Open Knowledge Belgium is such a small team, we’re quite proud of what we’ve achieved the past few months. Let’s start with Diplohack Brussels. In April we co-organised the first Diplohack Brussels in the Council of the European Union, together with the Dutch Presidency of the EU. The 24-hour hackathon focused on creating more transparency within the Brussels Bubble with the Council of the European Union introducing their Council vote Open Dataset.
Then, we got to present a crowdsourcing project we’ve been working on for quite some time. W4P (“We For Progress”) is an crowdsourcing tool that allows you to build your own crowdsourcing platform! This project was funded by CHEST Project, a European consortium of partners working around streamlining funding for small to medium scale social innovation projects.
At the moment open Summer of code 2016 takes place. That’s a four-week programme that allows students to work on open innovation projects. While having a student job for the summer, they learn more about coding and other hard skills, and gain more soft skills such as working in a team and giving pitches. We act as a sort of match maker between companies and students. Organisations come to us with open source projects and meanwhile we recruit students and put the right student on the right project. Only skilled and enthusiastic students who are willing to learn, may enter #oSoc.
According to us, open Summer of code is one of the most important projects for Open Knowledge Belgium. We educate students and companies about open source and open innovation at one hand, and provide students with real-life experience. Experience that can make a difference when you’re looking for your first job. It’s also one of our projects that doesn’t have any governmental funding. It’s our sixth edition so far, but we’re thinking about rebranding it next year. Open Summer of code is no longer only about code: It’s about so much more. Beside front- and back-enders, we need students who are skilled in UI/UX design, business development, marketing and communication. Also, we don’t only deliver pure code, we aim for complete projects. Going from brainstorming and coding to marketing and presenting, you need to be a jack of all trades, not only a king of code. By rebranding, we hope to attract more diverse profiles and spread the open knowledge word among other publics too.
We’re curious what the future will bring. The Belgian government tries to implement more open data and open knowledge, but those are still baby steps. There’s a lot of room for improvement, and thus a lot of room for Open Knowledge Belgium to grow. At the moment, we have five working groups about themes such as mobility and tourism, but we got a few requests for working groups about new themes such as university (college) data and open badges. Yup, the Belgian chapter most certainly has a bright future ahead of it – one where our little raft might turn into a nice ship.
This race must be familiar for many women: she’s overqualified for the promotion, he’s unqualified, and yet it’s still a contest.
— (((Touré))) (@Toure) July 29, 2016
I had lunch with a friend recently and we talked about a guy we both know (let’s call him Joe) who rapidly rose through the ranks at the university where he works. He went from an entry-level position to being a co-director of a unit within a year, and recently became the sole director of that unit. Joe’s co-director was a brilliant woman (let’s call her Jane) who had served faithfully at the university for years and years, was a solid manager, and was well-liked by pretty much everyone. But instead of her, Joe the wunderkind was made Jane’s superior in a unit they previously had supervised together. Joe’s a really nice guy (though not a very direct person), but there was no logical reason why he should have gotten the job over her other than that the Associate VP the whole unit reports to took Joe under his wing from the start. We talked about how often this kind of thing seems to happen, even in libraries, and how, in most cases we could think of, it was men who saw a meteoric career rise.
And in cases where we could think of women who had meteoric career trajectories, it was usually a result of having a powerful male mentor or champion. Look at Sheryl Sandberg. Without Larry Summers, would she have achieved all she did? He set her up in many ways for her later successes. Of course there are great female mentors and champions out there, but it’s unusual to see them giving their proteges anything other than good advice and access to their network. The only mentors in the OLA Mentoring Program that I’m aware of having directly hired their mentees were men and research studies have suggested that male mentors are more likely to provide more concrete support and promotion.
Of course a lot of this is anecdote, but I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard stories like the one I mentioned from women in our profession. And the data backs up the notion that men have an easier time climbing the ladder, even in our female dominated profession. According to Jessica Olin and Michelle Millet’s terrific Lead Pipe article “Gendered Expectations for Leadership in Libraries,” men make up only about 20% of our profession, yet they represent up around 40% of all ARL library directors (which was a significant drop actually!). They also cite a Harvard Business Review blog post which suggested that “manifestations of hubris — often masked as charisma or charm — are commonly mistaken for leadership potential, and that these occur much more frequently in men than in women.” They go on to describe the characteristics of effective leaders and how those characteristics more frequently occur in women than men. It made me wonder: Do we have an archetype of a library leader/manager and are those characteristics more common in men than women? I think we do. And I think, as Jessica and Michelle suggest, we often punish female leaders for not fitting that mold (or complaining that they’re too aggressive if they do).
This got me thinking about this historic (and often disturbing) presidential election. I was a huge Bernie Sanders fan from the beginning because I believe, as he does, that income inequality is at the heart of of so many problems in our society. I rooted for him until the bitter end, when he left the race. I wasn’t even going to watch the Democratic National Convention, as disgusted as I was with politics, but the historic nature of a woman accepting the nomination for President made me change my mind. And I’m glad I did. I learned a lot about Hillary Clinton that I didn’t previously know. I got swept up in the historic victory for women in America. And the more I thought about Hillary and what she’s done over the years, the more I see the universal struggle of women toward leadership positions in her story.
Look at the barriers to women becoming leaders in their chosen fields now. Now look back to the 1970s and 80s, when things were much worse. In the mid-1970s, 89% of all ARL library directors were male (at a time when they had even smaller % representation in our profession). Imagine how much worse it was in politics. Imagine how many more compromises a woman had to make to get to the top than a man did. Hillary Clinton accomplished so much for women, children, and access to healthcare in the 70s and 80s, as a law student, a lawyer, a law professor, and as the first lady of Arkansas. She then faced criticism as First Lady of the United States for her involvement in developing policy for the White House as if she wasn’t sufficiently qualified to do so. So many of the criticisms launched against Hillary Clinton both then and now are gendered (if I hear the term pantsuit one more time I’m going to scream). She was criticized for following her heart over her political ambitions and supporting her husband’s political career. Then she was criticized for not being a meek wife and first lady. Then she was criticized for pursuing her own political ambitions. At one point she was criticized for being too feminist. Now she’s not feminist enough. Her clothes are too expensive. Her clothes are too ugly. Would any of these things be said of a man?
I’m still a big fan of Bernie Sanders, and am grateful that he pushed the Democratic Party a bit more to the left. And, there are many things Hillary Clinton has done and positions she’s taken and flip-flops (gay marriage anyone?) she’s made that I disagree with, but that’s been pretty much true of every presidential candidate I’ve ever supported (including Bernie, with his lack of support for gun control). I don’t feel I can trust her, but I trusted Obama and his support of domestic surveillance and his lack of transparency was a huge slap in the face to so many of us.
I guess what I’m saying is, I’m with her. And I’m grateful for the historic example she has set for women in America. And I hope one day a woman will have the exact same opportunities to become a leader as her male counterparts without having to change or compromise who she is or get help from a man.
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Virtual reality is all the rage these days, with options ranging from complete virtual worlds real or imagined, to new programs that allow users to conduct surgery on digital patients. According to Educause, VR “uses visual, auditory, and sometimes other sensory inputs to create an immersive, computer-generated environment. VR headsets fully cover users’ eyes and often ears, immersing the user in the digital experience” (Please see Educause article #1 below).
It’s one thing to think about the technology itself, which mostly comprises of a gaming quality computer equipped with an operating system of Windows 7 or higher, a minimum of 32 gigabytes of memory, a 5 or 7-core processor, and a high-end graphics card such as Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 as well as an accompanying set of peripherals which offer options from the very cheap and low-tech such as Google Cardboard, to some higher-end headsets such as HTC Vive:
- Google Cardboard already has thousands of apps and games you can explore: https://store.google.com/product/google_cardboard
- Oculus Rift offers headsets and can integrate with a mobile phone: https://www.oculus.com/
- HTC Vive allows for 360 degree development: https://www.htcvive.com/us/
- Sony Playstation VR enhances your gaming experience with software and peripherals: https://www.playstation.com/en-us/explore/playstation-vr/
But it’s harder to imagine how we can work with students and faculty in a pedagogical context in order to create a (virtual) learning environment. Here are some ideas:
- Design: This technology would not only enable the creation of 3D objects and buildings, but would allow artists to jointly design something in a collaborative setting.
- Gaming: Gamers will now be able to touch and explore the world around them in ways never possible before. Don’t just kill a zombie, become one!
- Models: Can’t make it to Egypt to see the pyramids with an archaeology class? Now you can explore them both inside and out in a VR world of your choosing.
- Simulations: As mentioned before, you could simulate anything from open heart surgery to a trip in outer space.
Ok, ok. Some of these applications do require programming knowledge, testing time, and additional software. So what can you do as a first step?
- Start small. Can’t afford an HTC Vive headset? Try Google Cardboard instead which comes with pre-made games and applications as a way to start learning about VR and the opportunities it presents. Use what’s already available before branching out into designing something from scratch.
- Partner with others on campus. Chances are there are faculty and students who are already experimenting with this technology either because they are interested in it on a personal level, or because they would like to integrate it into their curriculum. Even working with one other person is better than trying to figure everything out by yourself.
- Think about how these experiences can enhance learning rather than focusing on the technology itself. In other words, what is it that these tools will enable students to learn that they could not have before or perhaps how might learning differ in this type of environment? Conducting some comparative assessment might yield some interesting results in terms of the quality of learning that occurs in a VR environment versus a “normal” one.
- We are still grappling with digital literacy, metaliteracy, and other similar outcomes to measure learning in a virtual environment, but it would be interesting to develop outcomes for virtual reality as a way to quantify not just how but what type of learning takes place. VR framework anyone?
Here are some additional resources:
- 7 Things to Know about VR Headsets: https://library.educause.edu/resources/2014/12/7-things-you-should-know-about-vr-headsets
- Promise of VR in Higher Education: http://er.educause.edu/articles/2016/3/the-promise-of-virtual-reality-in-higher-education
- Stanford Teaching Commons: https://teachingcommons.stanford.edu/teaching-talk/virtual-reality-and-education
Another Islandora CLAW volunteer sprint has come to a close! A whopping ten sprinters came together to finish up 11 tickets. This sprint's MVPs have to be Kirsta Stapelfeldt and Kim Pham from the University of Toronto Scarborough, who tackled a monumental documentation task to turn Diego Pino's CLAW lesson webinars into written docs, generating 65 pages of notes so far. The work continues, but this was an amazing start!
Big thanks to all of our sprinters:
Nick Ruest (York University)
Jared Whiklo (University of Manitoba)
Diego Pino (Metro.org)
Ben Rosner (Barnard College)
Ed Fugikawa (University of Wyoming)
Don Richards (University of Tennessee Knoxville)
Marcus Barnes (Simon Fraser University)
Kirsta Stapelfeldt (University of Toronto Scarborough)
Kim Pham (University of Toronto Scarborough)
The next Islandora CLAW sprint will take place from August 15 - 26th, led by our Technical Lead, Danny Lamb. You can sign up here to take part.
Learn about how to support client-side consumers of Linked Data and APIs.
Fresh from our summer hiatus, we — Amanda and Michael — talk shop with Steve Thomas, host of the popular podcast Circulating Ideas, about the design, process, and grind of podcasting, metrics, quality, and monetization. Steve’s flagship is the Fresh Air of the library world in style and in quality.
If you like, you can download the MP3 or subscribe to LibUX on Stitcher,iTunes, YouTube Google Play Music, or just plug our feed straight into your podcatcher of choice. Help us out and say something nice. Your sharing and positive reviews are the best marketing we could ask for.
Austin, TX Please join us for a Fedora User Group Meeting on October 7, 2016 in Bern, Switzerland at the University Library of Bern from 10:00AM to 1:00PM. The meeting will be held immediately following the 13th International Conference on Digital Preservation iPres 2016, October 3-6, hosted by The Swiss National Library.
Austin, TX Check out OpenVIVO before, during, and after the 2016 VIVO conference! With OpenVIVO, it's easy to find presentations and other conference materials on the 2016 VIVO Conference page. Speakers and presenters can link slides, flyers, and other documents to OpenVIVO for conference attendees and others in the scholarly ecosystem.
Neylon starts by identifying the three possible models for the sustainability of scholarly infrastructures:
Infrastructures for data, such as repositories, curation systems, aggregators, indexes and standards are public goods. This means that finding sustainable economic models to support them is a challenge. This is due to free-loading, where someone who does not contribute to the support of the infrastructure nonetheless gains the benefit of it. The work of Mancur Olson (1965) suggests there are only three ways to address this for large groups: compulsion (often as some form of taxation) to support the infrastructure; the provision of non-collective (club) goods to those who contribute; or mechanisms that change the effective number of participants in the negotiation. He points out the issues around club goods:
In the case of digital infrastructures a public good (such as an online article or dataset) can be converted to a club good (made excludable) by placing an authentication barrier around it to restrict access to subscribers (as is the case for online subscription journals and databases). Buchannan and those that further developed his 1965 paper on the economics of clubs have probed how club goods and club size relate (Buchannan, 1965). A core finding is that such sustainable clubs have an equilibrium size that depends on congestion in access to good (the extent to which it is purely non-rivalrous) and the value it provides. With digital resources congestion is low, and the club can therefore grow large. This creates a challenge. Digital resources are not natively excludable, a technical barrier has to be put in place. As the group size rises the likelihood of "leakage" (sharing, or piracy if you prefer) increases. Thus resources are expended on strengthening excludability which leads to both economic and political costs as seen in the Open Access debate. Clearly, the waste of resources caused by implementing excludability for scholarly communication is immense. It starts with the many billions of dollars of excess rent extracted by the commercial publishers in the form of profit, but it doesn't stop there. To that must be added the resources these publishers spend on marketing, sales, on maintaining their subscription management and enforcement systems, and on anti-piracy measures. All of which decrease the value to society of the underlying public goods.
But that isn't the end of the waste. Because subscriptions are so expensive, the publishers' customers spend large staff resources negotiating with the publishers to try to reduce them. In many countries entire organizations are devoted to this task. And the waste doesn't end when licenses are agreed. As Barbara Fister points out, the customers then spend resources acting as unpaid police enforcing the terms of the licenses.
Infrastructures, such as repositories for data, articles and code, are very close to the ideal of public goods. Mancur Olson in The Logic of Collective Action (1965) discusses how group size has a profound influence on the provision of public goods, in particular noting that provision is only possible for small groups, or where the public good is a byproduct of the provision of non-public goods that are provided to contributors. Indeed Olson's description of the groups that can and cannot provide public goods maps closely onto scholarly infrastructures. ... The transition from small to large is challenging and "medium" sized infrastructures struggle to survive, moving from grant to grant, and in many cases shifting to a subscription model. The LOCKSS Program has sustained itself since 2007 partly by using the "Red Hat" model of free, open-source software and paid support, and partly by operating the CLOCKSS Archive under contract to a separate non-profit. Publishers pay for their content to be preserved and libraries pay to support this non-profit. Diversity in business models is important, and not something that Neylon discusses. While these models have sustained the LOCKSS Program, they have limited its ability to scale up to address the whole problem space. Alternate approaches have been equally unable to scale.
Neylon observes that:
Subscription and membership models such as those used for online subscription journals and for some data infrastructures have been our traditional model and are an example of the second approach. These models are breaking down as the technology of the web and the agenda for transparency and open access leads to unbundling, the separate of the different services being provided. This tends to mean commercial suppliers focus on club and private good provision and neglect public good provision. Addressing this will require the development of support models more like taxation. However systems of taxation require a shared - and ideally globally shared - sense of the principles of governance and resource distribution. Our experience would suggest that although open access (if it uses Creative Commons licenses) significantly reduces the cost of preserving the scholarly literature, it reduces the motivation to subscribe to its preservation even more. This can be seen in the difficulty current archives have in preserving the output of the "long tail" of smaller publishers. To the extent that the open access model succeeds, breakdown is likely.
Membership models can work in those cases where there are club goods being created which attract members. Training experiences or access to valued meetings are possible examples. In the wider world this parallels the "Patreon" model where members get exclusive access to some materials, access to a person (or more generally expertise), or a say in setting priorities. Much of this mirrors the roles that Scholarly Societies play or at least could play. Usenix is an example of a society that has successfully transitioned from charging for publications to running meetings, whose proceedings are available to attendees beforehand and to all afterwards. An annual membership is, in effect, buried in the meeting price.
Neylon argues that:
the focus on sustainability models prior to seeking a set of agreed governance principles is the wrong approach. Rather we need to understand how to navigate from club-like to public-like goods. We need to define the communities that contribute and identify club-like benefits for those contributors. We need interoperable principles of governance and resourcing to provide public-like goods and we should draw on the political economics of taxation to develop this. One form of governance model exists already. Funding agencies can place conditions on the funds they supply to scholars, and they have increasingly been doing so. The UK government has mandated that all papers submitted for the next REF (Research Excellence Framework) be open access, and this has transformed UK scholars attitude to open access.
The core of the policy is that journal articles and conference proceedings must be available in an open-access form to be eligible for the next REF. In practice, this means that these outputs must be uploaded to an institutional or subject repository. Imagine that the requirement for the succeeding round were to be that the paper, the data and the software were all to be freely available from a repository maintained by the University. Universities routinely tax their scholars for infrastructure, and if maintaining a repository and forcing scholars to deposit their work were a condition of future funding they would be highly motivated to tax for this purpose. As a result of their unhappiness with author processing charges, the Wellcome Trust recently established in cooperation with Faculty of 1000 their own open access publishing platform. Conditioning their research grants on publication of the results via their platform would be feasible and revolutionary.
First we can make a prediction to be tested: All sustainable scholarly infrastructures providing collective (public-like) goods to the research community will be funded on one of the three identified models (taxation, byproduct, oligopoly) or some combination of them. and:
Second, we can look at stable long standing infrastructures (Crossref, Protein Data Bank, NCBI, arXiv, SSRN) and note that in most cases governance arrangements are an accident of history and were not explicitly planned. Crises of financial sustainability (or challenges of expansion) for these organisations are often coupled to or lead to a crisis in governance, and in some cases a breakdown of community trust. Changes are therefore often made to governance in response to a specific crisis.
Where there is governance planning it frequently adopts a "best practice" model which looks for successful examples to draw from. It is not often based on "worse case scenario" planning. We suggest that this is a problem. We can learn as much from failures of sustainability and their relationship to governance arrangements as from successes. The reference to SSRN is interesting given Neylon's earlier post, Canaries in the Elsevier Mine: What to watch for at SSRN, which is about what the history of the governance change at Mendeley when Elsevier purchased it tell us about what to look for at SSRN now that Elsevier has purchased it:
The elements that I have argued were lost after Mendeley was purchased.
- Advocacy: SSRN always occupied a quite different space in its disciplinary fields to that of Mendeley, and has never had a strong policy/advocacy stance. Nonetheless look for shifts in policy or narrative that align with the STM Article Sharing Policy or other policy initiatives driven from within Elsevier. Particularly in the light of recent developments with the Cancer Moonshot in the US look for efforts to use SSRN to show that "these disciplines are different to science/medicine".
- Redirection: This is the big one. SSRN is a working paper repository. That is its central function. In that way it is different to Mendeley where you could always argue that the public access element was a secondary function. Watch very closely for when (not if) links to publisher versions of articles appear. Watch how those are presented and whether there is a move towards removing versions that might (perhaps) relate closely to a publisher version. Ask the question: is the fundamental purpose of this repository changing based on the way it directs the attention of users seeking content?
Last updated August 1, 2016. Created by Peter Murray on August 1, 2016.
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The next DC Area Fedora User Group Meeting will take place on September 22-23 at the USDA National Agriculture Library. This event is free to attend.
Register here: https://goo.gl/forms/Vxek7FUEXx5gTv8h1
Last week, the American Library Association (ALA) was pleased to host a delegation of librarians from Belarus. These visitors are invited to the United States under the auspices of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) of the U.S. Department of State. The delegation included Ms. Oksana Knizhnikova, Minsk Regional Library; Ms. Rafeyeva Maryna, Gomel Regional Universal Library; Ms. Tatsiana Nalobina, Brest Regional Library; and Ms. Natalia Stankevich, Tavlay Central City (Baranovichi) Library.
The discussion was wide ranging. We talked about trends in information technology in U.S. libraries, such as ebooks, networking, and spaces for creating content. Access to digital information from the government was discussed, as was the organization and funding of the library sector of Belarus (so, yes, we learned some stuff too). A particular interest of the guests is the role of ALA in the library community (the comparable association in Belarus was founded only in 1992), including ALA’s advocacy roles and international activities.
The IVLP brings rising leaders to the U.S. on a three week professional program. The objectives for this delegation are:
- To examine the role and function of libraries and information specialists in U.S. society;
- To explore the importance of community-based partnerships and strategies for promoting sustainability in American libraries; and
- To demonstrate the diversity of library services and to explore the impact of new advancements in digital and online technologies on various types of libraries.
The next stop for the delegation is Portland, Oregon.
The ALA representatives in this meeting were Alan S. Inouye, Jessica McGilvray, and Nick Gross. We thoroughly enjoyed the time together and look forward to future meetings with representatives from around the world as we fulfill one of the responsibilities of the Washington Office—to represent ALA and U.S. libraries with international delegations.
Guest Post: written by Joanne Parsont, WE THE ECONOMY, Big Picture Instructional Design,
WE THE ECONOMY is a series of 20 short films that use animation, comedy, music, documentary, and scripted storytelling to demystify a complicated topic while empowering students to take control of their own economic future. Just in time for the new school year, a limited number of these great media resources are being made available free of charge to middle and high school teachers across the country.
The film collection comes with companion classroom materials aligned with Common Core, C3, and subject area standards in ELA, media literacy, civics, social studies, math, science, and more. A limited number of free DVDs and guides are available for qualifying classroom teachers, so visit their website to find more information and enter.
And coming this fall, WE THE VOTERS! Keep an eye out for ALA’s announcement of the next anthology of short films and educational materials, offering a fresh perspective on voting, democracy, elections, and governance ahead of the 2016 elections.
Carousels are a popular website feature because they allow one to fit extra information within the same footprint and provide visual interest on a page. But as you most likely know, there is wide disagreement about whether they should ever be used. Reasons include: they can be annoying, no one spends long enough on a page to ever see beyond the first item, people rarely click on them (even if they read the information) and they add bloat to pages (Michael Schofield has a very compelling set of slides on this topic). But by far the most compelling argument against them is that they are difficult if not impossible to make accessible, and accessibility issues exist for all types of users.
In reality, however, it’s not always possible to avoid carousels or other features that may be less than ideal. We all work within frameworks, both technical and political, and we need to figure out how to create the best case scenario within those frameworks. If you work in a university or college library, you may be constrained by a particular CMS you need to use, a particular set of brand requirements, and historical design choices that may be slower to go away in academia than elsewhere. This post is a description of how I made some small improvements to my library website’s carousel to increase accessibility, but I hope it can serve as a larger discussion of how we can always make small improvements within whatever frameworks we work.
What Makes an Accessible Carousel?
We’ve covered accessibility extensively on ACRL TechConnect before. Cynthia Ng wrote a three part series in 2013 on making your website accessible, and Lauren Magnuson wrote about accessibility testing LibGuides in 2015. I am not an expect by any means on web accessibility, and I encourage you to do additional research about the basics of accessibility. For this specific project I needed to understand what it is specifically about carousels that makes them particular inaccessible, and how to ameliorate that. When I was researching this specific project, I found the following resources the most helpful.
The basic issues with carousels are that they move at their own pace but in a way that may be difficult to predict, and are an inherently visual medium. For people with visual impairments the slideshow images are irrelevant unless they provide useful information, and their presence on the page causes difficulty for screen reading software. For people with motor or cognitive impairments (which covers nearly everyone at some point in their lives) a constantly shifting image may be distracting and even if the content is interesting it may not be possible to click on the image at the rate it is set to move.
You can increase accessibility of carousels by making it obvious and easy for users to stop the slideshow and view images at their own pace, make the role of the slideshow and the controls on the page obvious to screen reading software, to make it possible to control the slideshow without a mouse, and to make it still work without stylesheets. Alternative methods of accessing the content have to be available and useful.
I chose to work on the slideshow as part of a retheming of the library website to bring it up to current university branding standards and to make it responsive. The current slideshow lacked obvious controls or any instructions for screen readers, and was not possible to control without a mouse. My general plan in approaching this was to ensure that there were obvious controls to control the slideshow (and that it would pause quickly without a lot of work), have ARIA roles for screen readers, and be keyboard controllable. I had to work with the additional constraints of making this something that would work in Drupal, be responsive, and that would allow the marketing committee to post their own images without my intervention but would still require alt tags and other crucial items for accessibility.
Because the library’s website uses Drupal, it made sense to look for a solution that was designed to work with Drupal. Many options exist, and everyone has a favorite or a more appropriate choice for a particular situation, so if you are looking for a good Drupal solution you’ll want to do your own research. I ended up choosing a Drupal module called Views Slideshow after looking at several options. It seemed to be customizable enough that I was pretty sure I could make it accessible even though it lacked some of the features out of the box. The important thing to me is that it would make it possible to give the keys to the slideshow operation to someone else. The way our slideshow traditionally worked required writing HTML into the middle of a hardcoded homepage and uploading the image to the server in a separate process. This meant that my department was a roadblock to updating the images, and required careful coordination before vacations or times away to ensure we could get the images changed. We all agreed that if the slideshow was going to stay, this process had to improve.
Why not just remove the slideshow entirely? That’s one option we definitely considered, but one important caveat I set early in the redesign process was to leave the site content and features alone and just update the look and feel of the site. Thus I wanted to leave every current piece of information that was an important part of the homepage as is, though slightly reorganized. I also didn’t want to change the size of the homepage slideshow images, since the PR committee already had a large stock of images they were using and I didn’t want them to have to redesign everything. In general, we are moving to a much more flexible and iterative process for changing website features and content, so nothing is ruled out for the future.
I won’t go into a lot of detail about the technical fixes I made, since this won’t be widely applicable. Views Slideshow uses a very standard Drupal module called Views to create a list of content. While it is a very popular module, I found it challenging to install correctly without a lot of help (I mainly used this site), since the settings are hard to figure out. In setting up the module, you are able to control things like whether alt text is required, the most basic type of accessibility feature, which allows users who cannot see images to understand their content through screen readers or other assistive technologies. Beyond that, you can set some things up in the templates for the modules. First I created a Drupal content type is called Featured Slideshow. It includes fields for title of the slide, image, and the link it should go to. The image has an alt and title field, which can be set automatically using tokens (text templates), or manually by the person entering data. The module uses jQuery Cycle to control which image is available. I then customized the templates (several PHP files) to include ARIA roles and to edit the controls to make them plain English rather than icons (I can think of downsides to this approach for sure, but at least it makes the point of them clear for many people).
ARIA role. This is frequently updated but non-essential page content. Its default ARIA live state is “off”, meaning unless the user is focused on it changes in state won’t be announced. You can change this to “polite” as well, which means a change in state will be announced at the next convenient opportunity. You would never want to use “assertive”, since that would interrupt the user for no reason.
Features I’m still working on are detailed in The Unbearable Inaccessibility of Slideshows, specifically keyboard focus order and improved performance with stylesheets unavailable. However with a few small changes I’ve improved accessibility of a feature on the site–and this technique can be applied to any feature on any site.
Making Small Improvements to Improve Accessibility.
While librarians who get the privilege of working on their own library’s website have the possibilities to guide the design choices, we are not always able to create exactly the ideal situation. Whether you are dealing with a carousel or any other feature that requires some work to improve accessibility, I would suggest the following strategy:
- Review what the basic requirements are for making the feature work with your platform and situation. This means both technically and politically.
- Research the approaches others have taken. You probably won’t be able to use someone else’s technique unless they are in a very similar situation, but you can at least use lessons learned.
- Create a step by step plan to ensure you’re not missing anything, as well as a list of questions to answer as you are working through the development process.
- Test the feature. You can use achecker or WAVE, which has a browser plugin to help you test sites in a local development environment.
- Review errors and fix these. If you can’t fix everything, list the problems and plan for future development, or see if you can pick a new solution.
- Test with actual users.
This may seem overwhelming, but taking it slow and only working on one feature at a time can be a good way to manage the process. And even better, you’ll improve your practices so that the next time you start a project you can do it correctly from the beginning.
One of the great things about being in the Islandora community is the regular opportunities that come up to attend face-to-face events where you can get training, network, and share your experiences with the project. Typically, these events take the form of Islandora Camps, although as of 2015, we also have an every-other-year Islandora Conference that you can attend as well. Our next two events are an Islandora Camp in Kansas City, MO from October 12 - 14, and the second Islandora Conference, held May 15 - 19 in Hamilton Ontario, next year. If you are planning your travel and aren't sure which event is a better fit, here's a look at the differences:Islandora Camp
3 Days - 1 day of general Islandora session, 1 day of hands-on training, 1 day of community and targeted sessions
Staff: 4 experienced Islandora community members, two in the Admin track and 2 in the Developer track.
There are two main reasons why you might choose to attend an Islandora Camp in lieu of the Islandora Conference: proximity and individual attention. Proximity is easy - we move Islandora Camp around the world, trying to ensure that we have one convenient to major Islandora users at least once a year. If Islandora Camp is in your region, it can be a lot easier to attend than the conference. Individual attention is a bit harder to quantify, but the bottom line is that Camps are much smaller than the conference (camps tend to be around 30 - 40 people) and have dedicated instructors who are available during the entire event, so there are a lot of opportunities to focus on what the audience wants to do. The workshops take place in two tracks over an entire day, working directly with Islandora in virtual machines or sandboxes. For beginners to Islandora, this can be a great way to get a sort of "Islandora 101" experience that touches on all of the basics of site building.Islandora Conference
5 days - 1 day pre-conference events, 2 days of sessions, 1 day of workshops, 1 day of hackfest
The Islandoracon is sort of like an Islandora Camp writ large, but there are some key differences. Attendance at the first camp was above 80; we expect to top that handily for the 2017 Conference. You can meet far more Islandora people at the conference, although you might not work as closely with anyone as you would in a Camp where you spend the entire event in the same sessions. The workshops are also shorter and more varied; instead of spending a full day working through Islandora as either a front-end administrator or a developer, Islandoracon features multiple two-hour workshops on more targeted subjects, broken out for beginners, intermediate users, and developers. Since Islandoracon doesn't have the same instructor/staff model as a Camp, there is also more variation in who you can learn from. The pre-conference events (Interest Group meeting, regional group get-togethers, committee meeting, etc - this is our first time having a pre-con day, so we're still working out what it will contain) and hackfest are also unique to Islandoracon.
Both events have a strong social aspects and are a great way to meet your colleagues in the Islandora community. Want a small, tight-knit event with hands-on training and lots of space for individual conversations about how to use Islandora? Come to Camp. Want a big, multi-track event with lots of options for content and the biggest gathering of Islandora users anywhere? Come to Islandoracon.
Still not sure? Drop me an email and I'd be happy to answer questions about the events and help you determine which one will be of more value to you. And hey, you can always attend both :)
Here are some examples of titles that I've looked at recently, along with my non-specialist's reactions:
Title: Bigger than You: Big Data and Obesity
Subtitle: An Inquiry toward Decelerationist AestheticsThe title is really excellent; it gives a flavor of what the book's about and piques my interest because I'm curious what obesity and big data might have to do with each other. The subtitle is a huge turn-off. It screams "you will hate this book unless you already know about decelerationist aesthetics" (and I don't).
(from Punctum Books)
Title: Web Writing
Subtitle: Why and How for Liberal Arts Teaching and LearningThe title is blah and I'm not sure whether the book consists of web writing or is something about how to write for or about the web. The subtitle at least clues me in to the genre, but fails to excite me. It also suggest to me that the people who came up with the name might not be experts in writing coherent, informative and effective titles for the web.
From University of Michigan Press
If I saw the title alone I would probably mistake it for something it's not. An apocalyptic novel, perhaps. And why is it all caps? The subtitle is very cool though, I'd click to see what it means.
From Digital Culture Books
It's important to understand how title metadata gets used in the real world. Because the title and subtitle get transported in different metadata fields, using a subtitle cedes some control over title presentation to the websites that display it. Four example, Unglue.it's data model has a single title field, so if we get both title and subtitle in a metadata feed, we squash them together in the title field. Unless we don't. Because some of our incoming feeds don't include the subtitle. Different websites do different things. Amazon uses the full title but some sites omit the subtitle until you get to the detail page. So you should have a good reason to use a subtitle as opposed to just putting the words from the subtitle in the title field. DOOM: SCARYDARKFAST is a much better title than DOOM. (The DOOM in the book turns out to be the game DOOM, which I would have guessed from the all-caps if I had ever played DOOM.) And you can't depend on sites preserving your capitalization; Amazon presents several versions of DOOM: SCARYDARKFAST
Another thing to think about is the "marketing funnel". This is the idea that in order to make a sale or to have in impact, your product has to pass through a sequence of hurdles, each step yielding a market that's a fraction of the previous steps. So for ebooks, you have to first get them selected into channels, each of which might be a website. Then a fraction of users searching those websites might see your ebook's title (or cover), for example in a search result. Then a fraction of those users might decide to click on the title, to see a detail page, at which point there had better be an abstract or the potential reader becomes a non-reader.
Having reached a detail page, some fraction of potential readers (or purchase agents) will be enticed to buy or download the ebook. Any "friction" in this process is to be avoided. If you're just trying to sell the ebook, you're done. But if you're interested in impact, you're still not done, because even if a potential reader has downloaded the ebook, there's no impact until the ebook gets used. The title and cover continue to be important because the user is often saving the ebook for later use. If the ebook doesn't open to something interesting and useful, a free ebook will often be discarded or put aside.
Bigger than You's strong title should get it the clicks, but the subtitle doesn't help much at any step of the marketing funnel. "Aesthetics" might help it in searches; it's possible that even the book's author has never ever entered "Decelerationist" as a search term. The book's abstract, not the subtitle, needs to do the heavy lifting of driving purchases or downloads.
The first sentence of "Web Writing" suggest to me that a better title might have been:
"Rebooting how we think about the Internet in higher educationBut check back in a couple months. Once we start looking at the data on usage, we might find that what I've written here is completely wrong, and the Web Writing was the best title of them all!
1. The title of this blog post is the creation of Adrian Short, who seems to have left twitter.
DCU has a new, A1-sized V-cradle scanner for digitizing tightly bound books. This post examines the need, research, and choice of scanner we purchased.