I have never actually attended the Charleston Conference, but this year they broadcast a small number of sessions live over the Internet. I tuned in to watch two of those sessions.
In a pre-conference segment, Judy Ruttenberg from the Association of Research Libraries spoke about legal issues in providing online resource access for print-disabled patrons. I learned that Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, requiring accessible electronic technology, applies to institutions receiving certain federal funding (and Ruttenberg made it sound like it applies to virtually all universities in the U.S.), but it does not apply to the private sector. So while it is illegal for a school/university to require the use of an inaccessible device, it is not illegal for Amazon or B&N (for example) to produce an inaccessible e-reader. As a matter not just of legality but of providing good service, Ruttenberg encouraged compliance with standards, especially WCAG 2.0 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines-I had to look it up). She also suggested that libraries could partner with campus offices for students with disabilities, and with professors, to advocate for technology and service standards and to help make sure content is accessible. Finally, Ruttenberg addressed the challenge of getting e-resource licenses in line with accessibility needs, especially given that content providers are not liable. As with the technology, model license language is a moving target, but she recommended pointing to standards (such as WCAG 2.0), as well as asking for the right to make the content usable. She closed by quoting someone (sorry, I didn’t catch who) asking why we don’t push for indemnification against third-party lawsuits for inaccessibility. In the Q&A, a discussion arose around whether an institution would be within their rights to make content accessible even if the license doesn’t permit it; Kevin Smith (Duke’s Scholarly Communications Officer), who was in the audience, asked which lawsuit you would rather defend-a content provider alleging you didn’t have the right to do that, or a disabled student who couldn’t access course material.
The other session I watched was a presentation of research on the effects of discovery systems on e-journal usage. The researchers (Michael Levine-Clark, U. of Denver; Jason Price, SCELC; John McDonald, U. of Southern California) looked at the usage of journals from 6 major publisher at 24 libraries-6 for each of the four major discover systems (Summon, Primo, EBSCO Discover Service [EDS], and WorldCat Local [WCL]). The presentation went fast and I had a hard time keeping up, but the methodology seemed logical and the results interesting. Results varied of course, especially the effect of the discovery system on the different publishers’ content, but there did appear to be a resulting increase in journal usage, with Primo and Summon affecting usage more than EDS and WCL. The main purpose of the current study was to see if they could detect a difference, which they did. Their next step will be to try to determine what factors are causing the differences.