The role of digitisation in the increasingly accessible academic library by Annuska Donin, University of Portsmouth
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University of Portsmouth
023 9284 3630
What are libraries for?
“Modern university libraries are not just repositories of
books, journals and archived material. They are information
centres that co-ordinate an electronic gateway to a massive
amount of online information.”
McMillan & Weyers
It is our role to make this material accessible to everyone in our
So are we gatekeepers?
Or very well-educated and trained search-engines?
There is no doubt
They want it all
and they want it
“Students at all
holdings…” JISC 2008
Photo of Cardinal Newman's library with the Apologia desk in the foreground
(CC) Fr James Bradley - Flickr
What do we mean by ‘digitisation’?
I am not talking about creating digital libraries.
Refers to the scanning of specific articles and chapters
on an electronic reading list so that they can be
accessed by all students on that particular course of
Maximising our current resources.
Ensuring that all our students can access what they
need in the format they require.
Benefits of an electronic reading list
Allows an open dialogue between academics, students
Gives students and librarians early access to what will
Allows easy ‘one click’ linking to library catalogue and
to digitised resources.
Can be accessed from anywhere.
Academics can monitor what’s being read and what
their students find too boring to read.
Can be embedded within the VLE.
From 2014/15 onwards the university’s responsibility
for providing accessible texts for students with
additional needs will be more stringently enforced.
DSA no longer covers paying for support workers to
digitise pages for students’ screen-readers or
photocopying chapters into a larger format .
Many university libraries already provide a service for
scanning students’ reading. Does yours?
Rapid rise in requests = more work for staff with less
money in the budget.
So how can we achieve more with less?
By utilising reading lists (preferably electronic ones,
and moving away from paper course handbooks).
Digitising articles and chapters on reading lists will
benefit everyone on that course.
Prioritise lists for courses upon which visually
impaired (inc. dyslexic) students are registered.
Try to purchase an eBook for key textbooks upon
reading lists wherever available.
Keep back-ups of scans so we can change their format
to meet students’ needs.
What we do at Portsmouth:
As soon as students apply to come here we get a list of
visually impaired persons and their prospective courses.
We go through the reading lists for every first year module
on these lists and buy eBooks where ever possible.
We ensure that every article possible from a print journal is
digitised, and that every chapter (up to copyright limit) is
When we hear a student is definitely coming then we will
contact the student regarding specific needs and digitise
excluded chapters and articles specifically for them.
This helps to ensure that they receive their reading material
in a timely manner.
Break into groups and briefly discuss the pros and cons of providing
everything a student needs to read for their lectures and/or assignments
on one list with links to every chapter and article. Does your opinion
change whether referring to assignments or class reading?
Does your response differ depending on whether you are looking at a
college or university environment?
Feedback from discussion
It is useful for accessibility
Benefits mature students or
those with caring
responsibilities / jobs
Reduces pressure on library
stock as one book serves more
Possible improved NSS results
Keeps copyright issues under
Helps the transition from FE to
Students don’t learn proper
information literacy skills
Reading lists aren’t always good
Requires academics to engage
Not such a con for FE, where
provision of all materials is more
If don’t provide all materials, just
class, then will learn IL skills when
researching for assignments.
One chapter per book (or 5%, whichever is largest)
One article per journal issue
CLA title search will tell you which items are excluded. These
can then only be scanned if the disability exemption overrides
the exclusion. This has now been broadened to include dyslexia,
and no longer requires a special licence.
The rules have been extended to include material of digital
There are now more relaxed rules for sound recordings, film
US titles are now opt-in, so if not found on title search they’re
excluded. UK items which aren’t found are usually included.
This is illustrative only and does not constitute legal advice.
Use either of above to see which of these items are suitable for
digitisation for a reading list / on the VLE – use ‘Higher education’
(or ‘Further’ if that’s where you work) and ‘scanning’ options.
Post-it notes: Green = Ok to scan (yes)
Pink = Excluded (no)
Blue = Unsure / Need more information
Look out – I have included some tricky ones to catch you out!
Pass your books to the next table. Did you get the same results?