Increasing Accessibility of Audiovisual Materials in the Institutional Repository at FSU by guest blogger Camille Thomas

As recipients of a 2020 PLAN Innovation Grant, Florida State University’s Office of Digital Research and Scholarship sought to increase the level of accessibility in the university’s institutional repository (IR), Diginole, by creating closed-captions and written transcriptions for audiovisual collection materials. This blog post will outline the processes of identifying materials for captioning/transcription, selecting a vendor, and provide general, practical information related to the projects that other institutions can hopefully leverage for their own improvements to their IRs.

Outside the Office of Digital Research and Scholarship, two important collaborators at FSU were Krystal Thomas, Digital Archivist for Special Collections & Archives, and Kimboo York, Assistive Technology Coordinator at the Office of Accessibility Services. Krystal’s overall knowledge of the collections in Diginole were incredibly valuable early in the process and helped hone in our project to the Research Repository side of Diginole. Kimboo also provided a helpful overview of accessibility initiatives and services across campus, insight into federal and University regulations, and connected us with the vendor we ultimately worked with on this project–The Center for Inclusive Design and Innovation (CIDI) at Georgia Tech.

After these consultations, the next phase involved gathering metadata and evaluating eligibility of collection items to be included in this project. The first step of this process fell to Rachel Smart, Repository Specialist, who, searching by content-type in Diginole, pulled a list of the 151 audio and video objects in the repository and organized them into a shared spreadsheet. Next, Rachel, Dave Rodriguez, Resident Media Librarian, and Camille Thomas, Scholarly Communications Librarian, reviewed each item individually to check for spoken dialogue and determine which items would be appropriate for captioning and transcription. In addition to determining what objects were suitable, we also recorded the duration of each object in an effort to estimate costs.

Once we identified the candidate objects to be sent to CIDI, we began the somewhat laborious process of downloading individual audio and video files from Diginole. We managed this work by setting up “sprints” where we dedicated 30-60 minutes to this task as a group. After just a couple of these meetings, all the information was ready to be sent to CIDI.

Working with CIDI

After setting up an institutional account for FSU Libraries, we were sent login credentials to their service portal (see Figure 1) where we would upload audio and video files, track the status of individual submissions, and update or modify requests as needed. Throughout the project, communication with CIDI staff was consistent and cordial, and they were incredibly helpful and timely in resolving any issues and answering questions.

Figure 1: Dashboard view on initial log into CIDI member service portal.

For each AV object we received either a WebVTT caption file, a text file (.docx) containing a transcription and description of the audio material, or both in the case of videos. With many modern online video players, a WebVTT file can be uploaded  along with a video and be toggled on and off. While the underlying Islandora architecture that currently supports Diginole does not have this functionality, FSU’s new IR will be able to support this level of accessibility.

Figure 2: Video still w/ closed captioning from If These Walls Could Talk, a short documentary produced by FSU students.

Next steps and looking ahead

With FSU Libraries working on shifting its IR to a new platform, and one of the many benefits of this is that our new infrastructure will support media playback with captioning via the video.js player. This represents a significant upgrade from our previous system and creates space for even more accessibility features such as audio descriptive tracks and multi-language audio and subtitle content in the future.

With the implementation of a new IR platform, we are excited to explore proactive (as opposed to reactive) approaches to increasing the accessibility of our digital collections. The current COVID crisis has highlighted the importance of these materials to distance education and the necessity of robust remote access in promoting research and the next generation of scholarly outputs. This project represents an important first step in FSU sustaining a more inclusive IR and we hope can provide guidance for organizations interested in doing the same.

Share Ideas & Resources

These are challenging times. I know all libraries are making every effort to continue providing services to their users. I hope we can also look upon this event as an opportunity to demonstrate how valuable libraries are to their communities.

Below are some random ideas that I have gleaned from listserv posts, Facebook, and PLAN Interest Group meetings. I hope this post will assist you in providing some level of service to your users. We encourage you to add your own ideas and resources in the comments.

PLAN website:

Tech-Talk: content available free for students, teachers and patrons for the duration of this crisis. Apply:  Also check out their free webinars and recordings for FL library staff.

Interact with patrons/students

  • Zoom: free accounts (limited to 40 minute sessions). You can use to provide short programs to the public
  • Google Classroom – Three kinds of accounts:
    • School or Education account — Known as G Suite for Education. This type of account would be set up by an accredited school or non-profit (like
    • G Suite account — This is actually a paid level that Google offers. It would be set up by your organization’s administrator so that you can use your own domain (like
    • Personal Google Account — This would be the typical free Google account used with a Gmail address that anyone can set up (like

Chop Chop Cooking Club – Cook with your kids

The Kid Should See This: Smart videos for curious minds of all ages



Free Language Training

  • Transparent Language – Most PLAN public libraries have access to this Recorded Books product.
  • Busuu

Many vendors are offering free access to their products. Please share any that you know are available.

And don’t forget to daily promote your electronic resources!

Disruptive Library Model

Regina recently wrote about the use of the term “community center” versus the term “library.”  Then I read a blog post entitled “Why Your Company Needs a Disruptive Business Model,” which seemed to echo the point that Regina was making.  “The reality of the economic landscape demands that a business must either figure out how to create new markets for its products and services or reshape existing ones to stay relevant.”

Of course this is going to take some work on the part of library staff.  What are the unmet needs in our communities? What is our niche? Who are we not reaching? How can we broaden our customer base? We are going to have to observe trends, especially in technology, and embrace change.

Change is scary.  It can also be risky, especially when resources are limited and we are not sure that something new is going to work. That is the reason that PLAN developed its Innovation Projects. This program allows member libraries to try new ideas and services, without investing their own limited resources. Based on the results of an Innovation Project, libraries can determined if a new program is worth continuing.

Contingent upon Library Cooperative Grant funding, PLAN is accepting applications for the 2019-2020 fiscal year. Now is a great time to start planning what disruptive changes your library is going to make.

Digital Resources

Are you taking full advantage of digital collections to meet your patrons’ information needs?  There are so many resources available to assist patrons and library staff with Genealogy, research, school projects, etc.

Here are just a few:

  • Hidden Treasures is a collection of historical and genealogical documents from PLAN member libraries. It contains items unique to the Florida Panhandle, including newspapers and local history materials.
  • The University of West Florida Historic Trust shares the history of Northwest Florida. Click the “Random Images” button to serendipitously browse the collection.
  • Florida Memory contains the archival collections in the State Library and Archives of Florida. There are even resources for teachers.
  • Publication of Archival, Library, & Museum Materials (PALMM) is a collaborative effort of the public universities and colleges in Florida. It provides access to special collections like the Florida Heritage Collection, the University of Florida Herbarium or the World Map Collection.
  • The Florida Electronic Library is a gateway to digital magazines, journal articles, newspapers, almanacs, encyclopedias and books.
  • In addition to a multitude of digital materials, the Library of Congress website has a special section for teachers.
  • The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) provides access to the materials held within America’s libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural heritage institutions. The site also provides curated collections on topics such as history, literature, and culture, developed by educators — complete with teaching guides.
  • The Sunshine State Digital Network (SSDN) is the Florida Hub for DPLA. Visit their website to learn how your library can be a part of DPLA .

These are just a few of the collections available to library staff and the public.  What’s your favorite digital resource?

Share Your Passion

Library staff members often wear many hats, especially in smaller libraries. But there is usually that one activity (i.e., youth services, genealogy, maker spaces) that sparks their creativity and passion. It’s what they most enjoy doing. It’s the topic that their conversations revolve around when they speak with colleagues at meetings or conferences. At a small library, there may be no one with whom they can brainstorm ideas. They may not be able to attend conferences to get new ideas. Perhaps they continue to do things the way they have always done them because they are not sure an idea will work.

PLAN Interest Groups offer library staff the opportunity to share ideas, ask questions, and learn about new resources. These groups also provide input to PLAN staff on training and projects. Online meetings allow staff to connect with others without leaving their library. Face-to-face meetings at PLAN conferences provide an opportunity to build relationships with staff from other libraries.

Participants in the Interest Groups also share information on PLAN’s Community Forums. Visit the Forums to view resources provided in the Interest Groups and discussions of other topics.

There are currently three PLAN Interest Groups: Marketing & Promotion, STEM, and Youth Services. Check the PLAN website for the next scheduled meeting. We would like to sponsor additional groups. If you would like to assist with an existing group or start a new group, please contact me. It’s not difficult, when people are passionate about what they do. For more information about PLAN Interest Groups, please visit our website.

Super Cool YA Fantasy Novels with Diverse Protagonists and Why Your Library Needs Them with Guest Blogger Sarah Blackburn-Lancaster

Fantasy painting of floating islandBy Sarah Blackburn-Lancaster, Valparaiso Community Library, Circulation Assistant

It’s been two decades since J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series took the world by storm with its school of wizardry, and its popularity doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. New movies are continuing to be released. There’s a play on Broadway. In 2018, big-box retailers are selling newly released dolls. The genre is booming, and we, the library, are the best source for patrons to get their fantasy fix.

There’s a lot going on in the world of libraries today: technology changing at an exponential rate, budgets that have never fully recovered after the recession, and government officials who question our relevance to the communities we serve. With 3-D printers and virtual reality becoming as common on the shelves as copies of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer or Jane Eyre, why on earth would someone write a blog post about fantasy fiction for young adults?

In short: because it’s important.

Okay, so it’s not cancer research. Fantasy novels aren’t going to perform brain surgery or settle Mars, but they can open the mind to new possibilities, creating new neural pathways which can, in turn, open the door to creative problem-solving. Fantasy stimulates the imagination. And isn’t that what leads to colonies on new planets or inventive new treatments for the illnesses that plague humanity?

Another advantage to reading fantasy novels, especially for younger audiences, is that it takes difficult issues that seem insurmountable in reality out of the constraints of this world, making them less daunting. Xenophobia, racism, classism, sexism, and the like, seen through the lens of fantasy, without the political or societal systems that seem to tether them in place, can be called into question. A wizard who seeks to enslave non-magical beings because he views them as lesser is, without question, a villain who must be stopped. Parallels are then drawn in the minds of readers, and young people make connections in their own world. They then begin to ask the question that is the first step to change: Why?

Here’s the catch: it’s difficult to make these connections when the reader can’t relate to the protagonist. If young audiences can’t see themselves as the hero in a fantasy novel, how can they be one in the real world? We’ve all heard the phrase, “If they see it, they can be it.” That’s why toy companies are creating dolls and action figures of a wider variety of ethnicities and representing different career fields. And seeing other groups represented is helpful to young people who belong to the majority as well. They become more empathetic when exposed to the viewpoints of others and that, in turn, leads to more harmonious interactions. It, therefore, makes sense that representation in literature is incredibly important for young readers who belong to both minority and majority groups.

Here is a list of YA fantasy titles with diverse protagonists to add to your library’s collection (in alphabetical order by author’s last name, of course):

And these are just a few of the offerings out there! Do you know of an excellent YA fantasy novel or series with a diverse set of characters? Share in the comments! Happy reading!

Digital Natives?

Danah Boyd in her book, It’s Complicated, discusses the misunderstanding of the term, “digital native.” Young people are adept at using technological devices but don’t understand the basics behind them. Those of us who learned to use a computer and other technology gradually have a much better understanding of how it all works.

For instance the first computer I used was DOS based. While I may have forgotten much of the command line language, I still have an understanding of file structure and basic computer functions. The millenials and those who came after them grew up in a WYSIWYG world of point and click. They seem to know intuitively which button to push (or maybe they are not afraid to try them all), but they don’t understand how it works.

For example, my daughter received a digital camera for Christmas. This device needed a firmware update which required using an SD card and a computer to transfer the required file. I learned that my fifteen-year-old doesn’t know how to copy or move a file on a computer.

As the parent of a high school student, I can testify that the schools assume students know more about technology than they actually do. It not just about the hardware and software. Students also need to learn to navigate the digital world in an informed way: determine validity of information, protect their privacy, communicate effectively using technology, etc. The schools aren’t teaching this and many parents don’t have this knowledge either. Many teachers are too intimated by this topic to cover even a small portion in their existing classes. Media specialists have become an endangered species in the high schools in my county. University libraries teach information literacy to their students.  Public libraries offer classes for adults. What about the teens and tweens?

If your library offers information literacy classes to this age group I would love to hear about your experiences. Do teens come to your library? Does your staff go out to the schools to teach about any of these topics? Librarians have a role to play in educating young people about making the best use of technology. Let’s make sure they are not neglected.

Feeding My Need to Read

Hi, I’m Carol and I’m addicted to reading.  My preferred format is e-books.  I always have several loaded and ready to go on my Kindle.  This habit of mine can get expensive.

I’m also a librarian.  So I know I can get access to e-books from my local library through OverDrive and with Recorded Books through PLAN.  While these collections are growing, they are still relatively small.  To feed my addiction, I have had to find some other low-cost alternatives. Continue reading “Feeding My Need to Read”

Lifelong Learning

Training4“We now accept the fact that learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast of change. And the most pressing task is to teach people how to learn.” –  Peter Drucker

I recently read a Library Journal article “Top Skills for Tomorrow’s Librarians.” It reinforced for me the need for and value of continuing education for all library staff. Continue reading “Lifelong Learning”