LLLotW 2022.12

Digital access for all

A nice to-the-point article from CMM about the need for universities to, well, try harder when it comes to making learning experiences and technology accessible to all users:

the big question [about ICT in universities] is: for all the ICT products and services we buy now and in the future are all students and staff able to use them? There are pressing questions about how educational technologies – selected, tested and integrated within the student experience – are chosen and whether a student-centred critical approach is utilised.

The article quotes a figure of 7.44% of students having a disability, which sound like an underestimate to me but it likely is a question of definition and classification (isn't everything?!). This gets to the heart of it, though:

Products should meet the needs of intended audiences across a broad range of human variance including vision, hearing, speech, dexterity, neurological triggers, neurodiversity and cognition. In addition, there are considerations around affordability, connectivity, digital literacy, compliance and privacy.

It's a long list, but that's why you get to call yourself a professional if you're the one making decisions about technology procurement, right? I notice that “used by organisations you consider your peers” is not on the list.

AI, accessibility and digital collections

Speaking of accessibility, here's a really interesting paper Justin Kelly presented at VALA 2022. Kelly received a Digital Fellowship from the State Library of Victoria and used it to develop a system based on cloud machine learning services to significantly enrich the descriptive metadata for SLV's digital image collection. The tool he built is really exciting, but what I really liked about this paper is that Kelly addresses some of both the ethical questions presented by using machine learning for descriptive metadata, and the practical limits of using algorithms trained on commmercial data sets for describing cultural collections. Worth a read (or watch).

Introducing Discovery Systems

One of my favourite librarians in the whole world, Ruth Kitchin-Tillman has generously shared text from a presentation she was invited to give to information studies students about what library discovery systems are and how they work – with a time limit of ten minutes! It's really impressive stuff, gesturing at how complicated this can all get without getting too into the weeds.


Libraries and Learning Links of the Week is published every Thursday by Hugh Rundle. If you like email newsletters you might also like Marginalia, a monthly commentary on things I've read and listened to more broadly.