In mid-July, Lyrasis released results from a survey of the information profession intended to document the strengths and gaps in ensuring the accessibility of content in digital information environments. Written by Hannah Rosen and Jill Grogg, the report is entitled Lyrasis 2019 Accessibility Survey Report: Understanding the Landscape of Library Accessibility for Online Materials.
The authors outline the scope of their investigation this way, “The survey was intended to cover all aspects of library decision making surrounding digital content. Therefore, the survey was divided into three sections. The first section, Content Acquisition, refers to any digital content available through, but not created by, the library or other cultural heritage institutions – this includes subscription databases or content purchased with perpetual access rights, as well as support for Open Access content made available through the library catalog and discovery service. The second section, Content Creation, refers to any born digital or digitized content created, stored, and made accessible through the library. This includes archival and/or special collections materials, theses and dissertations, monographs and journals, or other library publishing. The final section, Systems, refers to any computer systems/software purchased, created, or downloaded and utilized by the library to present content online. This includes front-facing catalogs, information management systems, institutional repositories, digital asset management systems, etc. This definition is also inclusive of different types of systems, including proprietary and open source systems that are locally owned, or third-party hosted. By focusing on these three areas, LYRASIS hoped to cover the vast majority of academic library decision making surrounding content accessibility.”
205 institutions responded to the survey with key findings from those respondents indicating that:
- Libraries are the most progressive in terms of accessibility when they maintain the most control over their content.
- National policies and community technical guidelines on accessibility hold more prominence than local or institutional mandates.
- Most accessibility training is self-initiated; more infrastructure is needed to train librarians in accessibility mandates and tools.
Unsurprisingly, the survey notes that “Most respondents indicated that content or systems must conform immediately to any policies, yet mechanisms and personnel charged with compliance are distributed internally and externally and are not standardized. Siloes -- internal to a library or archive and external within the larger organization – endure and can inhibit consensus for goals and objectives.” Regardless of whether the content is paywalled or open access, libraries frequently lack the control needed to ensure that accessibility needs are adequately satisfied. The report concludes that libraries are “moving forward without a map” and that there is a need for community collaboration if the situation is to improve.