PROMOTING SERVICES

Libraries offer a wide range of services - both mainstream and specialist. For disabled people libraries can be daunting places and there may be anxiety about accessing services, communicating needs, knowing what is available and how it can be accessed.

The issues

Many users are unaware of the services available or how they could benefit from them so marketing of services is important. Users with disabilities may have chosen not to declare them and in some cases (for example users with dyslexia) may not be aware they have one. For this reason it is important that library services are • marketed widely (not just to known groups) • marketed in a variety of formats - someone with dyslexia or other literacy related difficulties (deafness, ESOL, learning difficulties) may not be best served by textual information alone. • Marketed in a meaningful context - this might include making explicit some of the following: o Resource types and their benefits o Tools and their uses o Services and the ways they can be used.

Standard practices
The following are common practices in most libraries: Inductions and library tours: • For subject based groups - this has widest hit but tends not to focus on the services and technologies available to people with access needs. By it nature this is a one-off generic experience which may leave the learners relatively unenlightened. It may also miss specific groups such as part time learners, post graduate learners, work based learners etc. • For disability based groups - eg for learners with dyslexia. This is much more specific and potentially more helpful but may have patchy success because some disabled learners don’t like to be treated as a special group. It also fails to address the needs of those who have not declared disabilities or would not consider themselves disabled and it may come at the wrong time of the course to be meaningful. • Information on the virtual learning environment (VLE) or website. This can be an effective way of communicating accessibility services so long as o They are clearly signposted

o They are in suitable formats for the intended audience for example a long text description of services for dyslexic students may not demonstrate a good understanding of their needs!

Recommendations

On the basis of the good practices already being developed in library services, JISC TechDis makes the following recommendations: Ensure library services relating to accessibility are clearly identified Library services should ideally be promoted in an inclusive context rather than a disability context - for example • Promote the range of media available - for example books, journals, magazines, audio, video, mutimedia (eg NLN materials), digital collections etc. • Promote the tools available - for example text to speech, mind mapping, scanning/OCR. • Promote specialist services available - for example induction loops/BSL interpreter services, book collecting service or loan extensions where they apply to specific needs. Ensure services are promoted in a wide variety of formats. Using either commercial software or free software and services (see www.techdis.ac.uk/getfreesoftware for advice) it is possible to provide a range of formats (see following) and be explicit about the range of formats available. Information should include both what is available and how to make the most of it - for example: • how users can personalise their needs - for example changing colour, font size etc. Giving learners access to digital files is usually more effective than offering to do large print or alternatively coloured versions. • how to obtain niche alternative formats - when a learner requires braille or DAISY format for a specific purpose, who whould they contact? What are the protocols governing creation of alternative formats - they can be expensive and time consuming to produce so there should be guidance as to what sort of materials are reasonable to provide in this format. It is suggested that the following should be available subject to the size of the library and the technical/marketing support available: • Text and image - posters, leaflets, web pages etc. • Interactive - clickable library maps, virtual tour (by subject or by service). • Audio based - downloadable podcasts on library services available or ex-students talking about how the library servcies helped them maximise their success. A quick and easy way of creating audio resources is to use a text to speech service

(free systems like www.readthewords.com will take existing documents and create downloadable MP3s from them. Video based - video tours, “meet the librarians”, specialist services, learner video clips etc. Where the library serves a wide range of communities try to get a range of ‘learner voices’ - eg silver surfer, apprentice, overseas student, dyslexic learner etc. Specialist video - for example where a full time sign language interpreter is unavailable it is worth creating some signed video clips explaining the library systems in more detail. Where technical filming expertise exists this could be part of the ‘normal’ video tour with an inset box for the signer. In many cases it might be easier and quicker to create a separate one.

Ensure service promotion is ongoing rather than one-off Most marketing of library services takes place at a time of year when there are many other distractions and when the momentum of work has not yet built up. Pragmatically, there are powerful arguments for doing induction differently in order to maximise its usefulness. The following suggestions help maintain the profile of the library and the services on offer. Some disabled learners have poor organisational skills and short term memory issues and they can specifically benefit from the following: • Dissaggregate ‘short, fat’ inductions to ‘long thin’ ones that match key points in subject demands. Most library inductions are untimely in terms of meeting learner needs. Inductions could be entirely online (text, slideshow, audio or video format) so a learner could access the information at any time. Create opportunities to reinforce services available - this might involve a traditional newsheet update or may involve creating a library blog. The latter has the benefit of being searchable. Use SMS (short messaging services) such as JANET Text (http://www.ja.net/services/janet-txt/index.html) to promote services to learners in a timely way. Promote drop in ‘clinics’, refresher tours or drop in sessions. These could be offered live online using conferencing software (eg www.vyew.com offers such a service for free) or could be prerecorded sessions that learners can access at their convenience.

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Ensure senior managers support effective liaison Many learning providers have fragmented services where vital information for supporting learners is not communicated in a timely or effective manner. Data protection and privacy are often cited as

reasons for failing to pass on important information. These are legitimate concerns but sensible application and admissions processes should give learners opportunities to opt in to appropriate sharing of information where the advantages can be clearly demonstrated in terms of additional support. Key areas of liaison include: • • Disability officers/learning support staff working together with librarians to be able to advise learners on alternative formats or appropriate tools and services. Subject staff promoting and validating library services. They can be significant partners in providing timely marketing of services; for example, contributing short audio or video clips promoting key sources of information or significant study tools (such as mindmapping, referencing software or text to speech). Where opportunities exist, consider locating disability services alongside library services to maximise positive liaison opportunities. Where library services have a wide user base in the community it can be difficult to market services. Try promoting via multiple channels - eg posters, website, email newsletter service etc.

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Practical issues The following are good practices in providing accessible marketing: • Ensure online and printed documents follow recommended accessibility practices. See www.techdis.ac.uk/accessibilityessentials on creating accessible documents. The essentials include proper use of heading styles, minimum font size 12 - 14 point, appropriate use of space and captioning of significant images. • Where key information is available only in audio or video formats, ensure a text summary of the information is also available alongside the link to the media. This is obviously not an issue where the audio-video materials is an accessibility ‘value added’ supplementing existing information. • Online information has many advantages. Well structured online documents can be navigated easily using Document Map view in Microsoft ® Word or Bookmark view in Adobe ® Reader. Colours and fonts can be changed, views can be magnified and text automatically reflowed so it fits on the screen. Text can be read out loud using appropriate free or commercial software. Let learners know how they can personalise online information by referring them to www.techdis.ac.uk/accessibilityessentials on reading documents online.