The future is already here – it is just unevenly distributed William Ford Gibson a Science fiction writer Today there are 161 million blind and partially sighted people in the world and this number is growing. In most countries we are an ageing population and this figure is expected to double over the next ten years. Extend this to print disabled and you have an even greater number of people who cannot read a conventional book, magazine or website as they are either unable to see the print, hold the item or access the website. It has been reported to us from library members who are blind, have low vision or other print disabilities that the lack of access to information is the biggest barrier to fully participating in work, recreation and life. Less than 5% of published material, i.e. books, and less than 20% of websites are accessible to these people. But how do libraries for the print disabled ensure that their clients can access the information of their choice? To ensure that this can be achieved, and realising that no one organisation can achieve this on their own, the IFLA section Libraries Serving Persons with Print Disabilities and the DAISY Consortium have joined to develop the Global Library project. This project endeavours to identify how content can be shared, collected and accessed by library clients. This presentation provides and overview to the project and the paper available online at the IFLA website outlines the Global Library project as sponsored by these two organisations.
In the analogue world the primary way for a person with a print disability to access library material in alternative formats was to register with a specialized library service in their country that would select items of interest and deliver them to the person’s home. Access to material held in other libraries in other countries was by interlibrary loan, a process that could take months. This service model is still in place in the digital world, but there are new possibilities too. Many libraries serving people with print disabilities have invested in digitizing their collections and building systems that allow patrons to select their own reading material and access it instantly online. Despite this great leap forward, the range of library material in alternative formats that is available to people with print disabilities is still limited for the most part to the holdings of the specialized library service in their country. Also by each institution working independently the 5% figure of accessible material will continue to remain static until shared collection development is implemented. The need to overcome this limitation, however, is growing. To overcome this limitation we need to understand the reasons behind it. There are three major reasons: there is no easy way for people to find out what library material is available in alternative formats in other countries; there are legal restrictions related to copyright; and there is the digital divide that separates the “haves” from the “have not’s” in terms of social and technological infrastructure and skills development. A Global Library is a concept that all support however in reality the definition of what a Global Library can and should do may be quite varied. It was important that a key definition and stated expectations of the Global Library were made clear from the beginning of the project.
A Steering Committee has been set up with representatives from both DAISY consortium and IFLA section LPD (libraries serving person with print disabilities) this committee has defined the Global Library for people with print disabilities as being: A network of online collections of digital objects, Collaboratively created/collected according to internationally accepted principles for collection development, Made available digitally in a coherent, accessible and sustainable manner, Supported by services to allow authorised users worldwide to retrieve and exploit global resources, and All subject to copyright. The Global Library is not: Distribution of physical objects. It will be up to the recipient (whether that is the “home” library of the client or the client) to convert digital objects to the physical alternate format of choice. A centralised repository of anything. Centralized governance and funding. Driven by the concept of a bookshop model. However, the bookshop concept should not be dismissed. Members can of course continue to offer their commercial models.
The first task of the steering committee was to set up four working groups. These working groups have representatives from a number of countries. The first team is the business model team This team will evaluate a number of business model options for the Global Library and provide a rationale for the recommended approach. This group will consider a consortium model, a transactional model and others in how we can ensure that we are able to share resources equitably. Work has begun with this group and an analysis of current models around the world has been completed. The recommended approach to date is based on a governing model on a consortium basis. This group has been asked to further develop funding models on how the global library will be sustainable, understanding that until final costs are known this may cause the funding model to be varied.
The second working group is the Partnership development team This team will consider current partnerships that could be leveraged; it will consider the ‘players’ and prioritizes those who could further the aims of the Global Library; developing a case statement for each potential strategic partner. However determing which partners should be approached will depend on the final specification of what is required which will be developed by the next two teams. Potential partners to name a few could be Google, OCLC, Microsoft, Bookshare and others.
The third working group is the Shared collection development team. This team focuses on library to library issues. This team will identify the collection development and file sharing challenges. They have been tasked to develop desired models for Content Purchasing and sharing as well as Content Creation. For example, when Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Book 2) by J.K. Rowling was published the English speaking print disability library organisations around the world produced 5 separate national braille master files and 8 separate national Daisy audio master files. The unnecessary use of financial and production resources for this duplication would have enabled the new production of a further 4 braille titles and a further 7 Daisy audio titles for sharing around the world. If each knew what each other was doing then duplication could be avoided.And the 5% figure could have been increased.
The fourth working group is the Discovery and access team : end user issues This team identifies current end user discovery and access challenges, the desired capabilities and options to get from where we are currently to where we want to be. This will involve how an end user can find, locate and retrieve their information of choice. In simple terms how do authorised library members find the title and then download it, print it (in braille) or play it. Is it the creation of a union catalogue? while this is a solution it only solves half the issue of a person being able to find out what title has been created in an alternative format. It does not enable them to get the title there and then. Federated searching does solve the immediate supply of the digital title. However are our global library members equipped with z39.50 or other standards on their library management systems. Also what other options are available that could be used. Therefore it was decided that last two working groups needed to find out some basis information from members of the IFLA LPD section before further decisions could be made.
To assist with the development of the Global Library working groups a survey was commissioned with Rightscom from the UK. It surveyed 35 organisations providing library services for print-disabled people in a number of countries, to determine if the vision for the proposed Global Library for print-disabled people meets the requirements of the libraries and their patrons, and to elicit specific information about the preparedness of the libraries to participate. 25 organisations responded to the survey. The key points were Identify support for the vision of the Global Library Rate importance of the key attributes of the Global Library Feedback on proposed high level requirements Information on current collections, systems and standards used The survey is quite large and I have only selected a very small number of responses to illustrate the overall support for the project. The full survey will be shortly available on the IFLA LPD webpages.
The questions in the first part of survey were concerned with getting respondents’ reactions to the vision for the Global Library which was incorporated into the survey together with views on the proposed high-level requirements. The first substantive question, asking for a general reaction to the vision, elicited a generally positive response, with 88% endorsing it.
Provide an easy way for people to discover library material in alternative formats 68% saw this as extremely important
Provide an easy way for people to get library material in alternative formats 68% saw this as important. Responses to both these questions clearly show that the organisations believe that better information about available formats and the acquisition and use of material in appropriate formats by users is critical. Over 90% of respondents rated these issues as extremely or very important.
Provide an easy way for participating libraries to know what other print disability libraries are producing Ninety-two percent of respondents rated knowledge about alternative format production by other institutions as extremely or very important. Overall the survey responses indicate a very positive reaction to the vision proposed for the Global Library, with an endorsement of most of the key benefits and high-level requirements. Some evidence for which features should be prioritised can be derived from the results. However, there is also evidence that the vision is not fully understood and needs to be clarified, which is unsurprising at this stage. There are also important gaps in information and knowledge on aspects which are of great importance, especially federated search and authentication. A key issue raised by a number of respondents concerns language, both in relation to the proposed multi-lingual interface, and in terms of how the Library will benefit different language groups, both those who live in countries whose majority language is not spoken widely in the rest of the world, and those that speak minority languages within other countries. This will affect the priorities of the project, the benefits conferred and the perception of who and what the Global Library is for. Copyright and relationships with publishers are also issues of concern to respondents, and related to that, the question of whether end-users should be able to find all the available materials, or only those which the user is eligible to access.
Current deliverables are that a specification is being developed that will outline the vision and requirements of what is to be achieved for both libraries and the end user. This specification will be presented to potential partners to ascertain their interest in participating in the project or by them developing a solution. Then identify libraries who could participate in a pilot project. Agree to cataloguing standards for Digital Rights Management information. Finalise the governance model. Further communiqués and information to be sent to all members of the LPD ensuring they are aware and support the Global library vision and specification.
Global Library Virtual library for the world community of print disabled persons Julie Rae Project Leader