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Friday October 26, 2007
I. Context and Purpose of this Meeting
On October 2, 2007, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) announced the Initiative for Equitable Library Access (IELA), a $3 million, three year initiative, designed to improve access to information and to develop a strategy that will support equitable library service for Canadians with print disabilities. The right to information is the cornerstone of this initiative. To launch this initiative, LAC invited stakeholders including individuals with print disabilities, consumer organizations of persons with disabilities and representatives of the library, print publishing and multiple format publishing communities for a "kick-off" consultation. The objectives of this first consultation were articulated as follows:
III. In Attendance
Eleven representatives from stakeholder groups attended this meeting; see Annex A for the complete list of participants and invitees. Unfortunately, several invited stakeholders did not respond or were unable to attend for reasons beyond their control.
IV. About this Report
The purpose of this report is to provide a set of notes on the outputs of this meeting. It is not intended to be an analysis of the meeting, but rather an aide-mémoire to assist those tasked with moving this Initiative forward. Every effort has been made to stay as close as possible to the participants' own words. A draft of this report was circulated to participants to ensure accuracy.
V. Key Messages
Sean Berrigan, Director General of the Strategic Office, LAC
Mr. Berrigan welcomed participants and thanked them for attending. He reminded them that IELA, had been announced by the Honourable Josée Verner on October 2 and indicated that within LAC, the initiative will be part of the Strategic Office. He explained that Treasury Board ministers asked LAC to develop and cost a strategy for implementing nation-wide partnerships, activities and services to meet the long-term library and information access needs of Canadians with print disabilities. He assured attendees that the IELA office is committed to working closely with all stakeholders so this strategy can become a reality.
2. Overview of the Initiative
Mary Frances Laughton, Manager, IELA
Ms. Laughton provided an overview of IELA. She indicated that the official mandate of IELA is "to create the conditions for sustainable and equitable library access for Canadians with print disabilities" and that the initiative has been given $1M a year for the next three years. The key deliverables at the end of the three years will be a go-forward strategy, an internet portal, library service standards and training, and an electronic clearinghouse for multiple format production. Ms. Laughton explained that IELA is not a production initiative and that no IELA funds have been allocated for the purpose of producing materials; however, the work to be done over the next three years should set the stage to create an environment for multiple format production.
To develop the go-forward strategy, Ms. Laughton said IELA will be informed by reports such as "Fulfilling the Promise" and "Opening the Book" as well as by consultations and specific studies to be undertaken. The intent is that at the end of the three year commitment to IELA, LAC will be able to define what the real cost of equitable public library access is in Canada. This will include the costs of producing materials for public libraries and for managing and delivering those materials through public libraries. This should put LAC and stakeholders in a position to request the funds on a permanent basis from the various levels of government.
Ms. Laughton pointed out that one of the early IELA activities will be the development of an Internet Portal which will be developed to the latest accessible web standards through discussions with the various communities who will be using it. The current thinking is that by going to this portal, people will be able to find the results of meetings such as today's gathering, results of studies, links to information on access technologies, library service standards, training information and materials in multiple formats in Canadian libraries.
In consultation with the library community, LAC will develop library service standards, tools and training materials to move towards equitable library access; it will assist with training sessions and technology demonstrations. It will also develop costing templates for the issues involved in delivering equitable library services. In addition, IELA will continue the work already underway on the development of an Electronic Clearinghouse for multiple format production and will be addressing the various copyright issues, both national and international, that impede true access.
Ms. Laughton emphasized that the purpose of today's meeting was to look at the big picture and discuss high level strategic considerations; issues such as copyright, personal access and others will be the subject of future consultation meetings and discussions.
In closing, Ms. Laughton shared her regret that a number of invited stakeholders were unable to send a representative to this meeting or had to decline at the last minute for reasons beyond their control.
Questions of clarification/Comments:
A. The rationale is that in order to get to the information, we need to use a number of keys; we would like the website to be a high level portal that would give easier and quicker access to different types of resources for different types of users be they libraries, consumers, producers etc.
A. Yes, we want to set up an internal LAC steering committee to make sure its catalogues are more accessible and as main stream as possible.
A. The primary and fundamental underpinning of this initiative is public library access and therefore, its focus will be on public library materials. However, in doing so, IELA will have to address issues concerning the print delivery system and academic libraries. Academic libraries will greatly benefit from the clearinghouse and resource sharing through AMICUS. Academic libraries can also contribute some expertise to assist the public library system.
A. We have heard that the print disabled community wants the same access to their public library as everyone else; we are looking at creating an environment where that can happen. In terms of what multiple formats we are considering, we will consider those you tell us to consider; braille, plain text, HTML, BRF, digital audio, large print,…; we want everyone to have similar access across the country.
3. Developing a common vision of equitable library access
In a visioning-type of exercise, participants first shared their ideas (as well as their hopes) in small groups about what equitable library service could be and what it would look like if it were successful. These ideas were then shared in plenary. The following represents the key messages emerging from this session.
Achieving that vision would require:
4. How do we get there?
(Making the collaborative process successful)
Participants were asked for their ideas and suggestions on how LAC, which has been asked to coordinate key activities to develop and cost the implementation of a nation-wide strategy, could engage/consult partners in a meaningful way on the following three activities that will be central to IELA: Library Service Standards and Training, Electronic Clearinghouse, and an Internet Portal. The following represents the key messages emerging from this discussion:
A. Library Service Standards and Training
The kinds of standards that need to be developed include:
B. Internet Portal
Attendees indicated a big challenge on how to consult people on what a portal should look like, what features it should have and how it can be used. To address this challenge, they identified the need for face-to-face consultations and underscored the importance of following-up after the consultations to inform people of the decisions made and "check if we got it right". They suggested that a test portal be designed and tested with stakeholders as part of the consultation process to see how it works and what needs to be improved. They also recommended that we consult with accessibility, end-user experts in its development. In addition they stressed the need for links to be kept up-to-date and organized by categories.
Some participants felt strongly that the portal needs to be positioned clearly as a national initiative, i.e., a government portal associated with libraries and that it provide something that Google isn't already doing.
C. Electronic Clearinghouse
With regard to the Electronic Clearinghouse, participants indicated the following:
In closing, some participants emphasized that standards alone will not be sufficient and that legislation will be required for implementation. The Charter of Rights guarantees that those with disabilities have the same rights as everyone else and that includes access to written materials by those with print disabilities.
Consultations: Who and How?
Participants indicated that the groups that need to be consulted include:
In addition to the suggested stakeholder groups, participants offered the following advice with regard to who should be consulted:
With regard to how to reach these groups, participants suggested attending the regular meetings of different organizations, attending library conferences across the country, and possibly using surveys. They indicated the importance of using an inclusive process to develop an acceptable certification process and suggested tying this certification to the national library symbol.
Principles for Consultation
Attendees identified a number of principles or guidelines for consultation and indicated these apply to all three activities:
VI. Closing remarks - Mary Frances Laughton
In her closing remarks, Ms. Laughton indicated that LAC wants to move forward as fast as possible and is open to different ways of involving stakeholders. She emphasized the need for LAC to understand from the stakeholders -- be they librarians, producers or users -- how much involvement they want in this process and the nature of this involvement. She invited all stakeholders to reflect on this question and get back to her.
A quick evaluation of the meeting revealed the following:
What went well:
Things to think about for next time:
Ms. Laughton thanked everyone for their time, their input and their frankness. She indicated that the notes on this meeting would be shared with all those who attended.
Report prepared by Lise Pigeon & Associates
Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC)
Canadian Association of Disability Service Providers in Postsecondary Education (CADSPPE)
Mary Anne Epp
Canadian Association of Educational Resource Centres for Alternate Formats (CAER)
Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB)
College and Institute Library Services, BC (CILS)
Mary Anne Epp
Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD)
Canadian Library Association (CLA)
Learning Disabilities Association of Canada (LDAC)
Multiple Format Industry Association (MFIA)
National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS)
Provincial Territorial Public Library Council (PTPLC)
Association pour l'avancement des sciences et des techniques de la documentation (ASTED)
Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ)
Canadian Publishers' Council (CPC)
Canadian Urban Libraries Council (CULC)
Council on Access to Information for Print-Disabled Canadians
Le Regroupement des aveugles et amplyopes du Québec (RAAQ)
Learning Disabilities Association of Québec (LDAQ)
Quebec Foundation for the Blind
Library and Archives Canada,
Initiative for Equitable Library Access
Mary Frances Laughton
Lise Pigeon & Associates
Alice Régnier, Notetaker