Mapping Native Land

Fall break is fast approaching and with it will be Thanksgiving! No matter what your traditions are, we all know that this year’s holiday season will look a little bit different. As we move into the Thanksgiving holiday, I wanted to share a mapping project to give thanks and recognize the native lands we live on.

Native Land is an open-source mapping project that shows the indigenous territories across the world. This interactive map allows you to input your address or click and explore to determine what indigenous land you reside on. Not only that but Native Land shares educational information about these nations, their languages, or treaties.  They also include a Teacher’s Guide for various wide age range from children to adults. Users are able to export images of their map, too!

Native Land Map

NativeLand.ca Map Interface

Canadian based and indigenous-led, Native Land Digital aims to educate and bring awareness to the complex histories of the land we inhibit. This platform strives to create conversations about indigenous communities between those with native heritage as well as those without. Native Land Digital values the sacredness of land and they use this platform to honor the history of where we reside. Learn more about their mission and impact on their “Why It Matters” page.

Native Land uses MapBox and WordPress to generate their interactive map. MapBox is an open source mapping platform for custom designed maps. Native Land is available as an App for iOS and Android and they have a texting service, as well. You can find more information about how it works here.

If you’d like to learn more about mapping software, the Scholarly Commons has Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software, consultations, and workshops available. The Scholarly Commons webpage on GIS is a great place to get started.

 The University of Illinois is a land-grant institution and resides on Kickapoo territory. Where do you stand?

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Land Acknowledgement Statement

As a land-grant institution, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has a responsibility to acknowledge the historical context in which it exists. In order to remind ourselves and our community, we will begin this event with the following statement. We are currently on the lands of the Peoria, Kaskaskia, Piankashaw, Wea, Miami, Mascoutin, Odawa, Sauk, Mesquaki, Kickapoo, Potawatomi, Ojibwe, and Chickasaw Nations. It is necessary for us to acknowledge these Native Nations and for us to work with them as we move forward as an institution. Over the next 150 years, we will be a vibrant community inclusive of all our differences, with Native peoples at the core of our efforts.

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Tomorrow! Big Ten Academic Alliance GIS Conference 2020

Save the date! Tomorrow is the Big Ten Academic Alliance (BTAA) GIS Conference 2020. This event is 100% virtual and free of charge to anyone who wants to engage with the community of GIS specialists and researchers from Big Ten institutions.

The conference kicks off tonight with a GIS Day Trivia Night event at 5:30PM CST! There is a Map Gallery that is open to view from now until November 13th, 2020. The gallery features research that incorporates GIS from Big Ten institutions, so be sure to check it out! There will be lighting talks, presentations, social hours, and a keynote address from Dr. Orhun Aydin, Senior Researcher at Esri, so be sure to check out the full schedule of events and register here.

This event is a great way to network and learn more applications of GIS for research. If you are interested in GIS but don’t know where to start, this event is a great place to get inspired. If you are an experienced GIS researcher, this event is an opportunity to meet colleagues and learn from your peers. Overall this is a great event for anyone interested in GIS and the perfect way to start Geography Awareness Week, which goes from November 15th-21st this year!

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Free, Open Source Optical Character Recognition with gImageReader

Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is a powerful tool to transform scanned, static images of text into machine-readable data, making it possible to search, edit, and analyze text. If you’re using OCR, chances are you’re working with either ABBYY FineReader or Adobe Acrobat Pro. However, both ABBYY and Acrobat are propriety software with a steep price tag, and while they are both available in the Scholarly Commons, you may want to perform OCR beyond your time at the University of Illinois.

Thankfully, there’s a free, open source alternative for OCR: Tesseract. By itself, Tesseract only works through the command line, which creates a steep learning curve for those unaccustomed to working with a command-line interface (CLI). Additionally, it is fairly difficult to transform a jpg into a searchable PDF with Tesseract.

Thankfully, there are many free, open source programs that provide Tesseract with a graphical user interface (GUI), which not only makes Tesseract much easier to use, some of them come with layout editors that make it possible to create searchable PDFs. You can see the full list of programs on this page.

The program logo for gImageReader

The program logo for gImageReader

In this post, I will focus on one of these programs, gImageReader, but as you can see on that page, there are many options available on multiple operating systems. I tried all of the Windows-compatible programs and decided that gImageReader was the closest to what I was looking for, a free alternative to ABBYY FineReader that does a pretty good job of letting you correct OCR mistakes and exporting to a searchable PDF.

Installation

gImageReader is available for Windows and Linux. Though they do not include a Mac compatible version in the list of releases, it may be possible to get it to work if you use a package manager for Mac such as Homebrew. I have not tested this though, so I do not make any guarantees about how possible it is to get a working version of gImageReader on Mac.

To install gImageReader on Windows, go to the releases page on Windows. From there, go to the most recent release of the program at the top and click Assets to expand the list of files included with the release. Then select the file that has the .exe extension to download it. You can then run that file to install the program.

Manual

The installation of gImageReader comes with a manual as an HTML file that can be opened by any browser. As of the date of this post, the Fossies software archive is hosting the manual on its website.

Setting OCR Mode

gImageReader has two OCR modes: “Plain Text” and “hOCR, PDF”. Plain Text is the default mode and only recognizes the text itself without any formatting or layout detection. You can export this to a text file or copy and paste it into another program. This may be useful in some cases, but if you want to export a searchable PDF, you will need to use hOCR, PDF mode. hOCR is a standard for formatting OCR text using either XML or HTML and includes layout information, font, OCR result confidence, and other formatting information.

To set the recognition to hOCR, PDF mode, go to the toolbar at the top. It includes a section for “OCR mode” with a dropdown menu. From there, click the dropdown and select hOCR, PDF:

gImageReader Toolbar

This is the toolbar for gImageReader. You can set OCR mode by using the dropdown that is the third option from the right.

Adding Images, Performing Recognition, and Setting Language

If you have images already scanned, you can add them to be recognized by clicking the Add Images button on the left panel, which looks like a folder. You can then select multiple images if you want to create a multipage PDF. You can always add more images later by clicking that folder button again.

On that left panel, you can also click the Acquire tab button, which allows you to get images directly from a scanner, if the computer you’re using has a scanner connected.

Once you have the images you want, click the Recognize button to recognize the text on the page. Please note that if you have multiple images added, you’ll need to click this button for every page.

If you want to perform recognition on a language other than English, click the arrow next to Recognize. You’ll need to have that language installed, but you can install additional languages by clicking “Manage Languages” in the dropdown appears. If the language is already installed, you can go to the first option listed in the dropdown to select a different language.

Viewing the OCR Result

In this example, I will be performing OCR on this letter by Franklin D. Roosevelt:

Raw scanned image of a typewritten letter signed by Franklin Roosevelt

This 1928 letter from Franklin D. Roosevelt to D. H. Mudge Sr. is courtesy of Madison Historical: The Online Encyclopedia and Digital Archive for Madison County Illinois. https://madison-historical.siue.edu/archive/items/show/819

Once you’ve performed OCR, there will be an output panel on the right. There are a series of buttons above the result. Click the button on the far right to view the text result overlaid on top of the image:

The text result of performing OCR on the FDR letter overlaid on the original scan.

Here is the the text overlaid on an image of the original scan. Note how the scan is slightly transparent now to make the text easier to read.

Correcting OCR

The OCR process did a pretty good job with this example, but it there are a handful of errors. You can click on any of the words of text to show them on the right panel. I will click on the “eclnowledgment” at the end of the letter to correct it. It will then jump to that part of the hOCR “tree” on the right:

hOCR tree in gImageReader, which shows the recognition result of each word in a tree-like structure.

The hOCR tree in gImageReader, which also shows OCR result.

Note in this screenshot I have clicked the second button from the right to show the confidence values, where the higher the number, the higher the confidence Tesseract has with the result. In this case, it is 67% sure that eclnowledgement is correct. Since it obviously isn’t correct, we can type new text by double-clicking on the word in this panel and type “acknowledgement.” You can do this for any errors on the page.

Other correction tips:

  1. If there are any regions that are not text that it is still recognizing, you can right click them on the right and delete them.
  2. You can change the recognized font and its size by going to the bottom area labeled “Properties.” Font size is controlled by the x_fsize field, and x_font has a dropdown where you can select a font.
  3. It is also possible to change the area of the blue word box once it is selected, simply by clicking and dragging the edges and corners.
  4. If there is an area of text that was not captured by the recognition, you can also right click in the hOCR “tree” to add text blocks, paragraphs, textlines, and words to the document. This allows you to draw a box on image and then type what the text says.

Exporting to PDF

Once you are done making OCR corrections, you can export to a searchable PDF. To do so, click the Export button above the hOCR “tree,” which is the third button from the left. Then, select export to PDF. It then gives you several options to set the compression and quality of the PDF image, and once you click OK, it should export the PDF.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, there are some limitations to gImageViewer, as can often be the case with free, open source software. Here are some potential problems you may have with this program:

  1. While you can add new areas to recognize with OCR, there is not a way to change the order of these elements inside the hOCR “tree,” which could be an issue if you are trying to make the reading order clear for accessibility reasons. One potential workaround could be to use the Reading Order options on Adobe Acrobat, which you can read about in this libguide.
  2. You cannot show the areas of the document that are in a recognition box unless you click on a word, unlike ABBYY FineReader which shows all recognition areas at once on the original image.
  3. You cannot perform recognition on all pages at once. You have to click the recognition button individually for each page.
  4. Though there are some image correction options to improve OCR, such as brightness, contrast, and rotation, it does not have as many options as ABBYY FineReader.

gImageViewer is not nearly as user friendly or have all of the features that ABBYY FineReader has, so you will probably want to use ABBYY if it is available to you. However, I find gImageViewer a pretty good program that can meet most general OCR needs.

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An interview with Billy Tringali on JAMS and Open Access

This week I had the opportunity to talk to Billy Tringali. If you don’t know Billy he worked in the Scholarly Commons as a graduate assistant from 2016-2018 and now works as a Law Librarian for Outreach at Emory University. Our conversation this week was about a passion project that he started during his time here at Illinois. Billy is the founding editor-in-chief of a brand new open access journal, The Journal of Anime and Manga Studies (JAMS). The first volume of JAMS came out recently so be sure to go take a look!

"JAMS" with orange book icon and a dark gray background

How does JAMS fit into a broader scholarly conversation? What gaps in scholarship are you addressing with this journal?

JAMS is currently the only open-access journal solely dedicated to publishing scholarly articles on anime, manga, cosplay, and their fandoms. While there are other journals which publish works about anime, like the incredible Mechademia, they are not open-access. Anime and manga studies is such a diverse field, and there is a lot out there being published. The goal of the Journal of Anime and Manga Studies is to provide a space for academics, students, and independent researchers examining the field of anime, manga, cosplay, and fandom studies to access high-quality research about these topics and share their research with others.

Tell us about your experience working with the Illinois Open Publishing Network (IOPN). What advice do you have for scholars interested in using this resource?
Working with IOPN has been a dream. Such a qualified, helpful, and truly brilliant staff. If you want to use this resource (and why wouldn’t you?!) come prepared to work! JAMS went through a one-year long notes process before being accepted into IOPN, and they don’t publish low-quality work.
Did you always envision the journal as open access? Why or why not?
There was no point in time in which JAMS wasn’t going to be open-access. While I was attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I had more than 14 million items at my fingertips. It was amazing. So much knowledge just a click away. In my coursework I learned how imperative information access is to scholarship, and I could only imagine how difficult it must be for scholars at smaller universities and outside the academe to find peer-reviewed research on this subject. JAMS aims to be part of that solution by publishing work that can be accessed by anyone, anywhere.
What unique challenges do you encounter as a new open access journal that you were not expecting?
The truly worst (and also funniest, looking back) was the professor who doubled-over in laughter when I told them I was trying to start up an open-access journal about anime and manga. But for every person that scoffed at JAMS, there was another who was so interested and excited to see this project succeed. A wonderful lesson to learn as a young scholar was to persevere!
What are the advantages for scholars who publish their work under a creative commons license?
Publishing under a Creative Commons license allows your work to be seen by everyone. It’s as simple as that. Do you want people to see what you’ve made? Then a Creative Commons license is a great choice!
I know Anime and Manga studies is a small area for academic research in the United States. How has this impacted the peer review process? 
It’s actually not all that small! There are a wide variety of researchers doing work on anime and manga studies, they just all happen to be spread out among a number of fields! We have peer reviewers from a diverse set of backgrounds – from education, to information science, to fandom studies – who are all so passionate about anime and manga studies. Our peer reviewers do an incredible job strengthening the papers submitted to JAMS, and I am incredibly grateful for their willingness to dedicate time to this journal.
What are your hopes for the future of this publication? 
(Combining this the question that was above)
I mention this in my “Welcome from the Editor-in-Chief”, and I think I said it best there:
“I hope the Journal of Anime and Manga Studiescan exist as a space that publishes high-quality scholarship about anime, manga, cosplay, and their fandoms. I hope that JAMS can bring visibility to the deeper meanings, understandings, and cultural significance of anime, manga, cosplay, and their fandoms. I hope that, in making JAMS open-access scholarship about anime and manga can be accessible to everyone, regardless of university affiliation. As Aramata Hiroshi and the Kyoto International Museum of Manga imbued a burning desire in me, I hope that the papers you will read in this journal imbue the same sense in you to do all you can for this fantastic art form.”
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Open with Purpose: Open Access Week 2020

International Open Access Week 2020 is upon us, and the need for equitable access to research has taken on a new sense of urgency. Every year, libraries celebrate Open Access week to bring attention to issues related to scholarly communications. The theme, “Open with Purpose: Taking Action to Build Structural Equity and Inclusion” is intended to get us thinking about the ways our current systems marginalize and exclude.

Banner for Open Access week. Blue background with white text that says "open with purpose: taking action to build structural equity and inclusion"

This year, we celebrate amidst a pandemic that has completely changed how we do things. Usually, immediate access to scholarly research isn’t on many people’s minds. But, research about COVID-19 has made clear the importance of open access to research. This urgency has caused several publishers to open up their content related to COVID-19 and may be accelerating the shift towards open access as the default for scholarly publishing.

Making research about COVID-19 openly available speeds up the research process by allowing more people to access the data they need to find a solution to this crisis. The CDC, UNESCO, and National Institute for Health have all compiled open access information about COVID-19 for research and educational use to assist in this effort.

However, making research available for free is not enough. In her blog post “Opening up the Margins”, April Hathcock writes, “there are so many ways in which open access still reflects the biased systems of the scholarship in which it’s found, even as it can be used to open up scholarship at the margins” (Hathcock, 2016). Open access is still exclusionary if it maintains practices that privilege the publication of white, western, academic voices and centers those perspectives.

open access logo. orange open padlock

It is no secret that COVID-19 disproportionately affects African-Americans. A quick search of “COVID-19 and African-Americans” in Google Scholar reveals tons of studies demonstrating that fact. While the pandemic has made visible the need to address social inequalities that lead to higher vulnerability in black populations, these problems are not new and the solutions cannot be found under a microscope. The people living in these areas are not the ones conducting research, and yet their perspective is invaluable to knowing how the lived experiences of oppression contribute to this tragedy.

Researchers should not treat people as objects of study but as full people whose susceptibility to the disease cannot simply be linked to genetics. To address the pandemic, we must center the experiences of those most vulnerable. With open access advocacy, we must make sure to include voices that aren’t traditionally acknowledged as scholarly and recognize how those experiences inform the research process.

“Open with Purpose” means mindfully and intentionally creating systems that invite people in. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the urgency of this movement, but the social, economic, and political viruses of racism, sexism, classism, etc. had already made this urgency visible to those who are the most marginalized. Open systems need to not only unlock research, but also to question the very structures that keep it closed to certain people in the first place and rebuild them into something better that can more fully address the world’s problems.

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U of I System Weighs in on Sovereign Immunity

In June 2020, the United States Copyright Office put out a request for public input on issues related to states’ liability in cases of copyright infringement. This topic was brought to public attention in March during Alan v. Cooper, where the Supreme Court found it unconstitutional to repeal state’s sovereign immunity in cases of copyright infringement since there was not enough evidence to justify this action. This means that creators whose copyright is violated by the state do not have clear next steps for how to proceed with litigation.

To determine how to move forward, the U.S. Copyright Office was asked to study the extent to which states violate copyright, whether there is a remedy for the creator, and whether the violation is a result of intentional or reckless behavior. The study will inform the decision to repeal this immunity enjoyed by states, which would certainly have consequences for institutions like universities and libraries.

Reading room of the Main Library at the University of Illinois. Large room with tall white ceiling, large windows, light fixtures, and wooden tables and chairs.

“Main Library”. wabisabi2015. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 license. https://flic.kr/p/238q6et

As a state-funded, land-grant institution, the University of Illinois system is a major stakeholder in this conversation. The University system both consumes and creates a huge amount of copyrighted material and has a responsibility for making sure our community is following copyright law. We also need to make sure we have the freedom to use and share copyrighted materials to help foster the scholarly and educational mission of the institution.

So, Sara Benson, Copyright Librarian and interim head of the Scholarly Commons, and Scott Rice, Deputy University Counsel, submitted their own response to the United States Copyright Office on behalf of the University of Illinois system. They are currently awaiting a response, which is due by October 22, 2020. In this document, Sara describes some of the ways she educates our community on issues of copyright in her role at the library to help us all contribute to a culture of copyright awareness. This is because the responsibility for following copyright law primarily falls to individual people to make the right choices.

And, for the most part, we do! Sara and Scott say that the University system only experiences 3-6 copyright infringements a year, and that these infringements are not the result of intentional or reckless behavior. The University of Illinois community makes a good-faith effort not to infringe copyright, and will continue to be diligent in face of potential legislation that might increase our liability for copyright violations.

Maintaining our ability to use copyrighted materials in our teaching and research is a group effort. So what can you do to be a good copyright actor? Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Cite your sources! Including attribution shows a good-faith effort to credit the original creator. While this doesn’t necessarily protect you from claims of infringement, it is helpful for showing that the work wasn’t used maliciously.
  • Learn about Fair Use! Fair Use is a great way to think through whether your use of copyrighted materials is permissible. But, keep in mind that only a lawyer can give you advice on whether your use is a fair use.
  • Ask for help! When in doubt, asking for a second opinion is a good way to avoid copyright infringement. Email Sara Benson at srbenson@illinois.edu with your copyright questions (please note that Sara cannot provide legal counsel).

Check out the library’s Copyright Reference Guide for even more tips on how to be a good copyright-actor!

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Save The Date: 10th Anniversary!

Text: Celebrate a decade with the Scholarly Commons. Background: fireworks and party banner.

This month marks the 10th anniversary of the Scholarly Commons! To celebrate this momentous occasion, the Scholarly Commons is presenting a digital exhibition commemorating our history. This digital exhibition will highlight the projects, partnerships, and people that supported the unit over the past ten years. The exhibition will include:

An Interactive Timeline of the Scholarly Commons History

The Scholarly Commons has celebrated many milestones over the course of the past decade. From creating the Savvy Researcher Workshops to hosting symposiums and competitions to inviting guest scholars to the UIUC campus to share their ideas and projects with our community. The Scholarly Commons has created long-lasting initiatives that enrich the academic life of the UIUC. 

To commemorate some of our biggest achievements, the Scholarly Commons has created a timeline featuring the projects, partnerships, and people who have built the Scholarly Commons through the years. To read these highlights and learn about the future of the Scholarly Commons, you can view the timeline here.

A GIS Mapping Project Highlighting Former Scholarly Commons Graduate Assistants

Graduate Assistants play a valuable role in keeping the Scholarly Commons functional and efficient. They provide consultation services for patrons, develop instructional materials for technologies and tools in the Scholarly Commons, facilitate in-person and virtual workshops, and perform a wide variety of other tasks. By the time they graduate and leave the Scholarly Commons, our hope is that our Graduate Assistants gain new technical skills, form long-lasting relationships, and develop a profound sense of professionalism and responsibility that they will carry with them throughout their careers.

To recognize the achievements of our former GAs, the Scholarly Commons has created an interactive map showcasing where they are now and how their time with the Scholarly Commons impacted their careers. To see the global influence of the Scholarly Commons for yourself, you can view the map here.  

A Talk by Guest Speaker Thomas Padilla

Thomas Padilla in a study space at the University of Nevada Libraries

Thomas Padilla at the University of Nevada Libraries

On Tuesday October 20, 2020 from 3:30-4:30pm, former Scholarly Commons Graduate Assistant and current Interim Head of Knowledge Production at the University of Nevada Las Vegas Libraries Thomas Padilla will lead a discussion around the importance of responsible operations in libraries. 

Drawing on his experience leading development of the research agenda Responsible Operations: Data Science, Machine Learning, and AI in Libraries, Padilla will discuss how cultural heritage practitioners and their partners can improve collection description and discovery, develop machine actionable collections, and create space for members of their organizations to expand skills and deepen cross-functional community partnerships using data science, machine learning, and AI technology. To attend this lecture, use this Zoom Webinar Link

To stay updated on all these events and more, please visit our 10th anniversary webpage on the Scholarly Commons website. Thank you all for celebrating 10 years with us!

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New Register of Copyrights

On September 21, the Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden announced her appointment of  Shira Perlmutter as the next U.S. Register of Copyrights. While the Register of Copyrights (the Register) role may not be the most publicly visible position in the Library of Congress, the Register plays a significant role in influencing and upholding copyright laws.

Picture of Shira Perlmutter speaking at a podium

Shira Perlmutter, Register of Copyrights

To help you gain a better understanding of what the Register of Copyrights does and how they may impact your life as a researcher and/or consumer of public information, we created a list of  important information you should know about the U.S. Copyright Office and the Register of Copyrights.

What is the Register of Copyrights?

The Register of Copyrights is the director of the U.S. Copyright Office, the principal federal agency that administers the U.S. Copyright Act. The Register is responsible for administering the provisions of copyright and related laws set out in Title 17 of the United States Code. The law directs the Register to advise Congress on national and international issues related to copyright laws, provide information and assistance on copyright matters to other federal agencies and the judiciary, conduct studies and programs regarding copyright, and participate in meetings of international intergovernmental organizations and meetings with foreign government officials.

Additionally, the Register is responsible for allocating financial and other resources to ensure that the Copyright Office’s programmatic mission and objectives are met. The Register oversees Copyright Office employee functions such as registration, recordation, statutory licensing, law and policy, public information and education, operations, and modernization program activities.

Who is Shira Perlmutter?

Shira Perlmutter is one of the nation’s most preeminent copyright experts. Prior to her appointment as the 14th U.S. Register of Copyrights, Shira Perlmutter served as the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) Chief Policy Officer and Director for International Affairs.

All together, Perlmutter has more than 20 years of experience working on copyright and other intellectual property issues, in a variety of public and private sector positions. During her tenure at the USPTO, she led the work of the Office of Policy and International Affairs in contributing to domestic and international IP policy development, represented the United States in negotiations at the World Intellectual Property Organization, oversaw the USPTO’s economic research, international education and IP attaché programs, and managed the USPTO’s work with the United States Trade Representative on matters involving IP and trade.

Coming into the position, Perlmutter has also been vocal about her advocacy of fair copyright laws. Prior to her appointment Perlmutter has given public lectures on copyright, stating that Americans desire copyright laws that make sense and that reflect the technologies currently in use. Furthermore, she has expressed desires for laws that keep pace with modern technology.

Implications of Perlmutter’s Appointment

With her new appointment as the Register of Copyrights, she is now in a position to potentially make some of those updates. Assuredly, one of the policy areas in copyright law that demands a new approach is technology.

For example, new technologies like facial recognition and artificial intelligence have been plagued by racial and gender bias, and Internet platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter have amplified hate speech, disinformation, and conspiracy theories. Additionally, as digital streaming continues to establish its dominance in the music industry, it raises the question of how the federal government should modernize copyright laws for music and audio recordings.

Unlike her predecessors, Perlmutter will have to learn to provide guidance on copyright laws and privacy issues while dealing with big tech corporations with trillion dollar market caps and major lobbying influence. Depending on how she wields her influence, Perlmutter’s decisions as the new Register could have long-lasting implications in the fields of copyright, privacy, and intellectual property.

To learn more about the U.S. Copyright Office and Register Perlmutter, visit the Copyright Office’s website.

Resources Consulted:

Keyes, J. (2019, November 14). The Katy Perry Verdict Proves Our Music Copyright Laws Need a Tune Up. Retrieved September 28, 2020, from https://www.ipwatchdog.com/2019/08/29/katy-perry-verdict-proves-music-copyright-laws-need-tune/id=112644/.

U.S. Copyright Office. Leadership and Offices. Retrieved September 28, 2020, from https://www.copyright.gov/about/leadership/.

United States Patent and Trademark Office. (2020, September 21). Shira Perlmutter, USPTO Chief Policy Officer and Director for International Affairs, appointed Register of Copyrights. Retrieved September 28, 2020, from https://www.uspto.gov/about-us/news-updates/shira-perlmutter-uspto-chief-policy-officer-and-director-international.

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Library e-Book Usability

Since the onset of the pandemic in March, e-Books have occupied a position of higher importance in library collections. They allow for the easy circulation of library resources without patrons ever needing to enter the library building thus possibly infecting our staff or vice versa. This shift to e-Books was swift and now the library will even purchase an e-Book before circulating a physical copy. You can read more about the library’s Electronic-First Access Strategy on the Covid-19 Response page. This strategy is potentially saving lives but it is important to acknowledge some of the challenges for users that e-Books present. I have personally struggled with using library e-Books for class work and research and I identify as a pretty advanced library user. For years many users have avoided e-Books in favor of print copies in order to bypass usability problems.

Lets explore some of the most common usability problems for library e-Books. I conducted a brief literature review of recent publications on the usability of e-Books for library users. Below are the top 4 themes that I noticed in the literature:

1.) Every e-Book platform is different

Every single library electronic resource vendor has a different user interface. Some of them are better than others and I am not here to name names. The problem emerges when users are asked to learn new platforms. They will become frustrated quickly by poorly designed interfaces with steep learning curves. It would be easier for our users if vendors standardized their interfaces so users don’t have to continue figuring out how to use a different website every time they check out an e-Book.

2.) Interfaces can be “cluttered”

Often times when you open an e-Book using a vendor’s site the text will be surrounded by different features and tool-bars. Examples of these features include: table of contents, citation tools, note-taking capabilities, arrow navigation buttons, and more. Sometimes these features can provide increased functionality.  However, a lot of the time these tools and pop-ups distract from the text. Additionally, users complain that the cluttered e-Book displays can make it harder to enhance the size of the text for improved readability thus creating an accessibility problem. This problem could be solved if vendors conduct thorough user testing or work alongside librarians to ascertain which features are commonly used by our end-users and remove those features that are simply taking up space.

3.) Difficulties with citations 

Have you ever noticed how some e-Books don’t have page numbers? Or they do but they change when you increase the text size? This was a common complaint among e-Book users who expressed frustration generating accurate citations using e-Books because page numbers were inconsistent. Users did not have this problem when e-Books could be viewed as a PDF because formatting remained consistent. The solution to this is to have standardized page numbers and formatting for e-Books. Additionally, it is important to educate our users that when citing an e-Book they need to specify that in their bibliography because the page numbering will most likely be different from the print version of the same book.

4.) Navigational challenges

In order to gain access to the full text of an e-Book users often have to navigate through many webpages first. They may start at the library catalog, then go to bibliographic record, then choose between several links to access the book through the vendor site, then they are asked to log-in to the vendor site, then they need to navigate to the correct chapter using the navigational toolbar, etc, etc, etc. All of this takes a lot of time, patience, and knowledge. Something could go wrong at any point of the process between finding the book in the catalog and accessing the text. I for one, can never figure out how to log-in to the different vendor sites. For our users who may not be as comfortable navigating in the digital world, this creates a huge barrier to access. I think it’s important for us as librarians and library staff to know the ins and outs accessing our resources. Additionally, we need to keep an open line of communication with vendors and publishers to help them provide our users with the best product possible.

Resources consulted

Alkawaz, M. H., Segar, S. D., & Ali, I. R. (2020). A Research on the Perception and use of Electronic Books Among it Students in Management & Science University. 2020 16th IEEE International Colloquium on Signal Processing & Its Applications (CSPA), Signal Processing & Its Applications (CSPA), 2020 16th IEEE International Colloquium On, 52–56. https://doi-org.proxy2.library.illinois.edu/10.1109/CSPA48992.2020.9068716

Jaffy, M. (2020). Bento-Box User Experience Study at Franklin University. Information Technology & Libraries39(1), 1–20. https://doi-org.proxy2.library.illinois.edu/10.6017/ital.v39i1.11581

Landry Mueller, K., Valdes, Z., Owens, E., & Williamson, C. (2019). Where’s the EASY Button? Uncovering E-Book Usability. Reference & User Services Quarterly59(1), 44–65.

Tracy, D. G. (2018). Format Shift: Information Behavior and User Experience in the Academic E-book Environment. Reference & User Services Quarterly58(1), 40–51. https://doi-org.proxy2.library.illinois.edu/10.5860/rusq.58.1.6839

 

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Creating Accessible Slides for Presentations and Online Posting

Making presentations accessible is important, whether in a classroom, in a meeting, or any situation you find yourself delivering information to an audience. Now, more learning than ever is taking place online where inaccessible content can create unequal learning opportunities.

Do you want to learn what it takes to make an accessible presentation? Read on for information about creating accessible slides for both live and recorded presentations!

Thinking about Universal Design

Universal Design is the idea that things should be created so that the most people possible can make use of them. What might be considered an accommodation for one person may benefit many others. The following tips can be considered ways to improve the learning experience for all participants.

Live and Recorded Presentations

Whether your presentation is happening in-person, live virtually, or asynchronously, there are several steps you can take to make your slides accessible.

1. Use a large font size.

During in-person presentations, participants may have trouble seeing if they are sitting far away or have impaired sight. In the virtual environment, participants may be tuning in on a phone or tablet and a larger font will help them see better on a small screen.

Image reads "this text is way too small" in 12 point font.

Example of text that is too small to read from a distance, phone, or tablet in 12 point font.

Image reads "This text is big enough to read" in size 28 font

Example of text that is big enough to read from a distance in 28 point font.

2. Use sans serif fonts.

Fonts like Calibri, Franklin Gothic Book, Lucida Sans, and Segoe are the most accessible to people with reading comprehension disabilities. Leaving plenty of white space makes your slides both more readable and more visually appealing.

3. Minimize text on slides.

People who can’t see the slides may be missing out on important content, and too much text can distract from what you’re saying. When you do include text, read everything out loud.

Image of a slide with too much text. Slide is completely filled with text.

Example of a slide with too much text.

Image of a slide with the right amout of text, including three main bullet points and a few sub bullets not in complete sentences.

Example of a slide with the right amount of text.

4. Use high contrast colors.

High contrast colors can more easily be seen by someone with a visual impairment (black and white is a reliable option). Always explain your color-codes for people who can’t see them and so all participants are on the same page.

Top half contains dark blue background with white text reading "this is high contrast". Bottom half contains light blue background with white text reading "this is low contrast"

Examples of slide font and background using high and low contrast colors.

5. Summarize all charts and images.

Images and charts should also be explained fully so that all participants understand what you are communicating.

6. Use closed captions.

For recorded presentations, both PowerPoint and Google slides allow you to add closed captions to your video or audio file. For live sessions, consider using subtitles or creating a live transcription. Technology Services offers instructions on how activate subtitles for Zoom meetings.

Posting Slides Online

Virtual presentations should be recorded when possible as our usual participants may be in other time zones, experiencing technology issues, or dealing with a countless list of challenges brought on by the pandemic or life.

Posting your slides online in an accessible format is another way to make that information available.

1. Use built in slide designs.

Slide designs built into PowerPoint and Google Slides are formatted to be read in the correct order by a screen reader. If you need to make adjustments, PowerPoint allows you to check over and adjust the reading order of your slides.

Screenshot of office theme slide designs in MS PowerPoint.

Built-in slide designs in MS PowerPoint.

2. Give all slides a title.

Titles assist people who are reading the document with a screen reader or are taking notes and allow all readers to navigate the document more easily.

3. Add alt-text to all images.

Alternative text allows screen readers to describe images. Use concise, descriptive language that captures the motivation for including the image on the slide.

4. Use meaningful hyperlinks.

Both screen readers and the human eye struggle to read long hyperlinks. Instead, use descriptive hyperlinks that make clear where the link is going to take the reader.

Examples of inaccessible hyperlinks

Examples of inaccessible or non-descriptive hyperlinks.

Example of a descriptive hyperlink

Example of an accessible and descriptive hyperlink.

5. Create a handout and save it as a PDF.

Finally, always include your speaker’s notes when posting slides online as the slides themselves only contain a fraction of what you will be communicating in your presentation.

Example of a slide with speaker's notes saved as a handout

Example of a slide with speaker’s notes saved as a handout.

It is always easier to make your presentation accessible from the start. By keeping these tips in mind, you can make sure your content can be used by the widest audience possible and help create a more inclusive learning environment!

For more information about how to use and apply these features, check out the following resources:

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