Library representatives nationally and internationally gathered recently on the University of Minnesota’s campus for the 2018 Library Publishing Forum. This is an annual conference sponsored by the Library Publishing Coalition (LPC) where colleagues who support publishing initiatives can meet to discuss major challenges and opportunities related to their work their within scholarly communication programs and university presses. This year’s keynote speaker, Catherine Kudlick from San Francisco State University, set the tone for much of the conference and workshop content that followed.
Kudlick is a Professor of History and Director of the Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability, San Francisco State University. She has written numerous articles and books on the history of disability and is extremely active in electronic accessibility initiatives. During her talk Disabilité! Accessibilité! Diversité!: Expanding the Cultural Framework for Library Publishing, Catherine spoke about how accessibility is often applied to products and services as an afterthought, but should really be incorporated into the conception and early design phases of any idea, product, or service. She also pointed out that all accessibility improvements applied to services and products have a positive impact on all of us. For example, sidewalk grades, slopes, and surfaces that improve accessibility to wheelchair users also improve accessibility for any sidewalk user. Kudlick added that this idea is no different for electronic products and services. When we make a website accessible and usable to those who are vision-impaired, we improve searchability, readability, usability, and access for all users.
Accessibility was a common thread throughout the conference. In the New Directions panel later in the day, Amy Buckland from the University of Guelph addressed accessibility from the perspective of those with disabilities, but also from the perspective the cultural, socially, economically, and educationally diverse groups of people that libraries and library collections serve. Buckland challenged librarians to re-think whether their open access collections are truly open from these various lenses. She also underlined Kudrick’s point that libraries need to do more to improve accessibility, and this means incorporating accessibility as a key goal from beginning to end of any project or initiative.
I had the opportunity to attend a post-conference workshop that addressed the topic of producing and supporting academic publications that people can find and easily use. This was the First Library Publishing Curriculum Module on Impact and was sponsored by the Educopia Institute, LPC, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The Impact Workshop provided participants with tools and resources for teaching colleagues at our own institutions about how to effectively improve and measure the impact of our academic publications and other resources. However, the workshop also aligned with the theme of accessibility and ensuring that publications and resources are not only available, but truly open and accessible. It was another important reminder that we need to work harder to broaden and diversify the reach and impact of our collections.
Issues of accessibility, inclusivity, and impact are critical as librarians and others in publishing environments work to build and sustain resources that are truly open to all. The Library Publishing Forum framed these ideas in a way that helped participants reconsider how we build and sustain Dartmouth collections and services. If you are interested in the topics of publishing and accessibility, take a moment to browse the full Library Publishing Forum program. Many of the sessions are available as live streams: https://librarypublishing.org/program/