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New open tools and a new service network for the print disabled

April 29, 2013
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There are more than a million print disabled Canadians, many of whom simply do not have equity of access to libraries and library collections that the rest of us enjoy. Too many of our collections and services are not reaching them.

Today, digital delivery and distributed networks offer new possibilities for library service to the print disabled. eBooks and audio files can be stored online, downloaded and converted into different accessible formats. In collaboration with interested service partners and producers, organizations and individuals can contribute and share content online, making it accessible and available in a user’s home or via a network of up to 2500 public libraries across Canada.

A National Network

Because equal access has been denied for so long, a grassroots, opt-in, economical network is developing to better serve the print disabled. It is called the National Network for Equitable Library Service (NNELS).

With support from the Provincial-Territorial Public Library Council, the BC Libraries Cooperative is developing community-owned network infrastructure for NNELS, and has collaborated with the Commonwealth Braille and Talking Book Cooperative (CBTBC) to deploy the Canadian Accessible Library Service (CALS) prototype. Powered by open, interoperable tools and hosted by CBTBC, CALS is being used actively by Canadian participants, and the feedback thus far has been very positive.

CALS leverages the resource-sharing potential of the Internet, featuring a repository that libraries can use to add, manage and exchange content. An accessible website allows users to search and retrieve CALS content independently or with assistance. CALS collections are accessible online or physically, through the NNELS community network. For reviews of the prototype system, or for more information on how CALS and NNELS will work, please visit: nationalnetwork.ca.

Crowd Sourcing, by Libraries

We are better together! A current popular reading collection of eBooks, audio resources and other electronic materials for the print disabled is available now through CALS. In later rounds of development, CALS will dynamically query open content resources for libraries, and will include commercially available content by subscription. By pooling our collective resources, the NNELS partners project the collection will grow rapidly and sustainably, along with the user base, in time for the official launch in the Fall of 2013 and beyond.

NNELS is inherently a sharing network. Think crowd sourcing, by libraries. Please consider sharing your collection of eBooks and alternative format materials for inclusion in the collection.

What you need to know about contributing to, and participating in, NNELS

  • Your materials will remain accessible to you and will be shared throughout the NNELS community via CALS.
  • Libraries can submit MARC data now for sharing appraisal.
  • A distributed service-partner network is emerging with production centres, equipment and expertise; conversion of hard-copy books and other materials to digital delivery audio and braille-ready files is envisioned as a service.
  • Eligible materials will conform with section 32(1) of the Canadian Copyright Act, which permits non-profit agencies to make copies for persons with a perceptual disability, where those materials are not commercially available.

CALS participants

Print disabled participants are actively using the CALS prototype. With their feedback, and with the support of our partners, we will refine CALS to best interface with the Canadian library system, and to best serve the Canadian print disabled. Our current participants are blind or severely vision-impaired. In the near term, we will be welcoming additional participants who are:

  • seniors with low vision,
  • dyslexic or learning disabled persons, and
  • persons with physical disabilities that make reading difficult (Multiple Sclerosis, etc.).

The NNELS network will be up and running in Fall 2013!

Become part of the conversation. Please contact us for more detailed information. Updates will be made regularly to: nationalnetwork.ca.