Did you know you can install Microsoft Office at home for free? As a Duke permanent employee, you have access to a limited number of downloads of the Office package at no charge. The license works for both PC and Mac. You may also use any browser to access the download. Start by navigating to https://outlook.office.com/mail/inbox to access your webmail. Log in with your NetID and password and you should see your inbox. (Side note: you can also go through Duke OIT at https://oit.duke.edu/what-we-do/applications/office-365 and click on the Access Office 365 Email).
Once inside look for the Duke logo and a series of squares (some technicians like to call it the waffle). Click the waffle and then click the “Office 365″ link in the top right.
This should navigate you to a webpage that has an “Install Office” link.
The link will then give you the option to download the Office 365 package. Click Office 365 apps” and the .exe (.pkg file for Mac) will download. Click on the file for installation once it completes.
You will then see a setup wizard which will then install the Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher, Access, Outlook, and OneNote. The first app opened will require a one-time activation which will again require your NetID and password. (Side note: Once an app is activated, all apps are activated. No need to do this for all of the apps). If everything is done correctly, you should now be able to use Microsoft Office on your home machine. The licenses also apply to mobile devices (phones and tablets).
Tip Two: Create PDF files directly from Office Apps
Many people use Adobe Acrobat to convert documents to the .pdf format. The useful format can also be used directly from Office Apps. The pictures used will involve the use of Microsoft Word but the procedure works with all Office Apps.
When your final document is ready for conversion, find the File menu. Click File and Save As.
Choose the “Save As” location but make sure to remember where you put it! (I’ll use the Desktop folder for this demonstration. Make sure to click the “Save as Type” box and then click PDF and then click Save.
No need to do anything else! The document is now a .pdf file. The .pdf cannot be directly edited in Microsoft Word. You must use the Word document to make further edits and convert once you have made those edits.
Last week, it was brought to our attention that Duke Digital Collections recently passed 100,000 individual items found in the Duke Digital Repository! To celebrate, I want to highlight some of the most recent materials digitized and uploaded from our Section A project. In the past, Bitstreams has blogged about what Section A is and what it means, but it’s been a couple of years since that post, and a little refresher couldn’t hurt.
What is Section A?
In 2016, the staff of Rubenstein Research Services proposed a mass digitization project of Section A. This is the umbrella term for 175 boxes of different historic materials that users often request – manuscripts, correspondence, receipts, diaries, drawings, and more. These boxes contain around 3,900 small collections that all had their own workflows. Every box needs consultations from Rubenstein Research Services, review by Library Conservation Department staff, review by Technical Services, metadata updates, and more, all to make sure that the collections could be launched and hosted within the Duke Digital Repository.
In the 2 years since that blog post, so much has happened! The first 2 Section A collections had gone live as a sort of proof-of-concept, and as a way to define what the digitization project would be and what it would look like. We’ve added over 500 more collections from Section A since then. This somehow barely even scratches the surface of the entire project! We’re digitizing the collections in alphabetical order, and even after all the collections that have gone online, we are currently still only on the letter “C”!
Nonetheless, there is already plenty of materials to check out and enjoy. I was a student of history in college, so in this blog post, I want to particularly highlight some of the historic materials from the latter half of the 19th century.
Showing off some of Section A
In 1869, after her work as a nurse in the Civil War, Clara Barton traveled around Europe to Geneva, Switzerland and Corsica, France. Included in the Duke Digital Collections is her diary and calling cards from her time there. These pages detail where she visited and stayed throughout the year. She also wrote about her views on the different European countries, how Americans and Europeans compare, and more. Despite her storied career and her many travels that year, Miss Barton felt that “I have accomplished very little in a year”, and hoped that in 1870, she “may be accounted worthy once more to take my place among the workers of the world, either in my own country or in some other”.
Back in America, around 1900, the Rev. John Malachi Bowden began dictating and documenting his experiences as a Confederate soldier during the Civil War, one of many that a nurse like Miss Barton may have treated. Although Bowden says he was not necessarily a secessionist at the beginning of the Civil War, he joined the 2nd Georgia Regiment in August 1861 after Georgia had seceded. During his time in the regiment, he fought in the Battles of Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, Spotsylvania Court House, and more. In 1864, Union forced captured and held Bowden as a prisoner at Maryland’s Point Lookout Prison, where he describes in great detail what life was like as a POW before his eventual release. He writes that he was “so indignant at being in a Federal prison” that he refused to cut his hair. His hair eventually grew to be shoulder-length, “somewhat like Buffalo Bill’s.”
Speaking of whom, Duke Digital Collections also has some material from Buffalo Bill (William Frederick Cody), courtesy of the Section A initiative. A showman and entertainer who performed in cowboy shows throughout the latter half of the 19th century, Buffalo Bill was enormously popular wherever he went. In this collection, he writes to a Brother Miner about how he invited seventy-five of his “old Brothers” from Bedford, VA to visit him in Roanoke. There is also a brief itinerary of future shows throughout North Carolina and South Carolina. This includes a stop here in Durham, NC a few weeks after Bill wrote this letter.
Around this time, Walter Clark, associate justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, began writing his own histories of North Carolina throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. Three of Clark’s articles prepared for the University Magazine of the University of North Carolina have been digitized as part of Section A. This includes an article entitled “North Carolina in War”, where he made note of the Generals from North Carolina engaged in every war up to that point. It’s possible that John Malachi Bowden was once on the battlefield alongside some of these generals mentioned in Clark’s writings. This type of synergy in our collection is what makes Section A so exciting to dive into.
As the new Still Image Digitization Specialist at the Duke Digital Production Center, seeing projects like this take off in such a spectacular way is near and dear to my heart. Even just the four collections I’ve highlighted here have been so informative. We still have so many more Section A boxes to digitize and host online. It’s so exciting to think of what we might find and what we’ll digitize for all the world to see. Our work never stops, so remember to stay updated on Duke Digital Collections to see some of these newly digitized collections as they become available.
For the past year, developers in the Library’s Software Services department have been working to rebuild Duke’s MorphoSource repository for 3D research data. The current repository, available at www.morphosource.org, provides a place for researchers and curators to make scans of biological specimens available to other researchers and to the general public.
MorphoSource, first launched in 2013, has become the most popular website for virtual fossils in the world. The site currently contains sixty thousand data sets representing twenty thousand specimens from seven thousand different species. In 2017, led by Doug Boyer in Duke Evolutionary Anthropology, the project received a National Science Foundation grant. Under this grant, the technical infrastructure for the repository will be moved to the Library’s management, and the user interface is being rebuilt using Hyrax, an open-source digital repository application widely implemented by libraries that manage research data. The scope of the repository is being expanded to include data for cultural heritage objects, such as museum artifacts, architecture, and archaeological sites. Most importantly, MorphoSource is being improved with better performance, a more intuitive user experience, and expanded functionality for users to view and interact with the data within the site.
Viewing and manipulating CT scans and the derived 3D model of a platypus in the MorphoSource viewer
Management of 3D data is in itself complicated. It becomes even more so when striving towards long-term preservation of the digital representation of a unique biological specimen. In many cases, these specimens no longer exist, and the 3D data becomes the only record of their particular morphology. It’s necessary to collect not only the actual digital files, but extensive metadata describing both the data’s creation and the specimen that was scanned to create the data. This can make the process of contributing data daunting for researchers. To improve the user experience and assist users with entering metadata about their files, MorphoSource 2.0 will guide them through the process. Users will be asked questions about their data, what it represents, when and how it was created, and if it is a derivative of data already in MorphoSource. As they progress through making their deposit, the answers they provide will direct them through linking their deposit to records already in the repository, or help them with entering new metadata about the specimen that was scanned, the facility and equipment used to scan the specimen, and any automated processes that were run to create the files.
The new repository will also improve the experience for users exploring metadata about contributed resources and viewing the accompanying 3D files. All of the data describing technical information, acquisition and processing information, ownership and permissions, and related files will be gathered in one page, and give users the option to expand or collapse different metadata sections as their interests dictate. A file viewer will also be embedded in the page, which also allows for full-screen viewing and provides several new tools for users analyzing the media. Besides being able to move and spin the model within the viewer, users can also adjust lighting and other factors to focus on different areas of the model, and take custom measurements of different points on the specimen. Most exciting, for CT image series, users can scroll through the images along three axes, or convert the images to a 3D model. For some data, users will also be able to share models by embedding the file viewer in a webpage.
The MorphoSource team is very excited about our planned improvements, and plans to launch MorphoSource 2.0 in 2020. Stay tuned for the launch date, and in the meantime please visit the current site: www.morphosource.org.
Duke Libraries has a large collection of analog videotapes, in several different formats. One of the most common in our archives is 3/4″ videotape, also called “U-matic” (shown above). Invented by Sony in 1969, U-matic was the first videotape to be housed inside a plastic cassette for portability. Before U-matic, videotape was recorded on very large reels in the 2″ format known as Quadruplex which required heavy recording and playback machines the size of household refrigerators. U-matic got its name from the shape of the tape path as it wraps around the video head drum, which looks like the letter U.
The format was officially released in 1971, and soon became popular with television stations, when the portable Sony VO-3800 video deck was released in 1974. The VO-3800 enabled TV crews to record directly to U-matic videotape at breaking news events, which previously had to be shot with 16mm film. The news content was now immediately available for broadcast, as opposed to film, which had to wait for processing in a darkroom. And the compact videocassettes could easily and quickly be transported to the TV station.
In the 1970’s, movie studios also used U-matic tapes to easily transport filmed scenes or “dailies,” such as the first rough cut of “Apocalypse Now.” In 1976, the high-band BVU (Broadcast Video U-matic) version of 3/4″ videotape, with better color reproduction and lower noise levels, replaced the previous “lo-band” version.
The U-matic format remained popular at TV stations throughout the 1980’s, but was soon replaced by Sony’s 1/2″ Betacam SP format. The BVU-900 series was the last U-matic product line made by Sony, and Duke Libraries’ Digital Production Center uses two BVU-950s for NTSC tapes, as well as a VO-9800P for tapes in PAL format. A U-matic videotape player in good working order is now an obsolete collector’s item, so they can be hard to find, and expensive to purchase.
Unfortunately, most U-matic tapes have not aged well. After decades in storage, many of the videotapes in our collection now have sticky-shed syndrome, a condition in which the oxide that holds the visual content is literally flaking off the polyester tape base, and is moist and gummy in texture. When a videotape has sticky-shed, not only will it not play correctly, the residue can also clog up the tape heads in the U-matic playback deck, then transfer the contaminant to other tapes played afterwards in the same deck.
To combat this, we always bake (dehumidify) our U-matic videotapes in a scientific oven at 52 celsius (125 fahrenheit) for at least 10 hours. Then we run each tape through a specialized tape-cleaning machine, which fast-forwards and rewinds each tape, while using a burnishing blade to wipe off any built-up residue. We also clean the video heads inside our U-matic decks before each playback, using denatured alcohol.
Most of the time, these procedures make the U-matic tape playable, and we are able to digitize them, which rescues the content from the videotapes, before the magnetic tape ages and degrades any further. While the U-matic tapes are nearing the end of their life-span, the digital surrogates will potentially last for centuries to come, and will be accessible online through our Duke Digital Repository, from anywhere in the world.
This week, Digitization Specialist Mike Adamo will move on from Duke Libraries after 14 years to assume a new position as Digital Imaging Coordinator at the Libraries of Virginia Tech University. Mike has contributed so much to our Digital Collections program during his tenure, providing years of uncompromising still imaging services, stewardship in times of change for the Digital Production Center, as well as leadership of and then years of service on our Digital Collections Implementation Team. He has also been the lead digitization specialist on some of our most well known digital collections like the Hugh Mangum photographs, James Karales photographs and William Gedney collection.
In addition, Mike has been a principal figure on our Multispectral Imaging Team and has been invaluable to our development of this service for the library. He established the setup and led all MSI imaging sessions; collaborated cross-departmentally with other members on the MSI Team to vet requests and develop workflows; and worked with vendors and other MSI practitioners to develop best practices, documentation, and a preservation plan and service model for MSI services at Duke Libraries. He’s also provided maintenance for our MSI equipment, researching options for additional equipment as our program grew.
We are grateful to Mike for his years of dedication to the job at to the field of cultural heritage digitization as well as for the instrumental role he’s played in developing MSI Services at DUL. We offer a huge thank you to Mike for his work and wish him well in his future position!
Post contributed by Giao Luong Baker and Erin Hammeke
The ongoing tensions between academic institutions and publishers have been escalating the last few months, but those tensions have existed for many years. The term “Big Deal” has been coined to describe a long-standing, industry-wide practice of journal bundling that forces libraries to subscribe to unwanted and unneeded publications rather than paying more for a limited number of individual subscriptions. This is a practice you see in other industries – for example, cable packages that provide hundreds of channels, even if you only want one or two specific channels.
What is especially problematic in higher education is that academics produce and review the content that gets published in the journals (for free), and then the universities have to pay the publishers a subscription fee to access the content. Imagine if YouTube required a subscription fee to watch any videos, including the ones you had posted. It’s a system that makes research harder to access and inhibits global scientific progress, all so publishers can earn an enormous profit margin.
Right now, academic publishing is controlled by five publishers (the “Big Five”) – a monopoly that makes it very difficult for libraries to negotiate better deals. Only very large organizations or consortia, like the University of California, have been able to start pushing back against the system. It will likely take large shake-ups like this for any large changes to take hold, but it in the meantime there may be ways to situate ourselves for making better purchasing decisions.
At Duke, we often review our usage of specific journal titles as we prepare to make purchasing decisions. Usage data comes in a variety of forms, but the most popular are counts of Duke views and downloads that come directly from the publishers and the number of times Duke authors publish in or cite a particular journal. There are many other kinds of data that might be of interest, however, including Duke participation on editorial boards, usage differences across disciplines, and even whether or not the journal is fully open access. Blending various data sources and optimizing the search decisions for a given budget cycle can be overwhelming.
Last fall, Duke University Libraries decided to propose a project for Duke’s Data+ summer program – a summer research experience in data science for undergraduate students. Our project, “Breaking the Bundle: Analyzing Duke’s Journal Subscriptions“, focuses on Duke’s subscriptions to journals published by Elsevier. The program is in its third week, and our team of two incredibly-sharp undergraduates has been hard at work building and blending our datasets. Our goal by the end of summer is to have a proof-of-concept dashboard that lets collection managers adjust the weights of various usage measures to generate an ideal collection of journals for a particular budget.
It is still very early in the process, but the students have been hard at work and have made great progress. We decided it would be best to develop the analysis software and dashboard using R, a statistical computing project with a rich history and many helpful development tools. In addition to publisher-provided views and downloads, the students have been able to use websites and APIs to collect data on journal open access status, editorial boards, numbers of publications, and numbers of citations. All Data+ teams present publicly on the projects twice during the summer, and we hope to schedule a third talk for a library audience before the end of the program on August 2.
We look forward to seeing what the summer will bring! While this project is just one small step, automating the collection and analysis of journal usage will position us well, both for responsible purchases and for a hopefully-changing publishing landscape.
Looking for something to keep you company on your Summer vacation? Why not direct your devices to a Duke Digital collections! Seriously! Here are a few of the compelling collections we debuted earlier this Spring, and we have have more coming in late June.
These maps and 2 volume report document Durham’s Hayti-Elizabeth st neighborhood infrastructure prior to the construction of the Durham Freeway, as well as the justifications for the redevelopment of the area. This is an excellent resource for folks studying Durham history and/or the urban renewal initiatives of the mid-20th century.
We launched 8 collections of photograph albums created by African American soldiers serving in the military across the world including Japan, Vietnam and Iowa. Together these albums help “document the complexity of the African American military experience” (Bennett Carpenter from his blog post, “War in Black and White: African American Soldiers’ Photograph Albums”).
This photograph album contains pictures taken by Sir Percy Moleworth Sykes during his travels in a mountainous region of Central Asia, now the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China, with his sister, Ella Sykes. According to the collection guide, the album’s “images are large, crisp, and rich with detail, offering views of a remote area and its culture during tensions in the decades following the Russo-Turkish War”.
Our work never stops, and we have several large projects in the works that are scheduled to launch by the end of June. They are the first batch of video recordings from the Memory Project. We are busy migrating the incredible photographs from the Sydney Gamble collection – into the digital repository. Finally there is one last batch of Radio Haiti recordings on the way.
Keeping in touch
We launch new digital collections just about every quarter, and have been investigating new ways to promote our collections as part of an assessment project. We are thinking of starting a newsletter – would you subscribe? What other ways would you like to keep in touch with Duke Digital Collections? Post a comment or contact me directly.
Since my last post about our integrated library system (ILS), there’s been a few changes. First, my team is now the Library Systems and Integration Support Department. We’ve also added three business analysts to our team and we have a developer coming on board this summer. We continue to work on FOLIO as a replacement for our current ILS. So what work are we doing on FOLIO?
FOLIO is a community-sourced product. There are currently more than 30 institutions, over a dozen developer organizations, and vendors such as EBSCO and IndexData involved. The members of the community come together in Special Interest Groups (SIGs). The SIGs discuss what functionality and data is needed, write the user stories, and develop workflows so the library staff will be able to do their tasks. There are ten main SIGs, an Implementation Group, and Product and Technical Councils. Here at Duke, we have staff from all over the libraries involved in the SIGs. They speak up to be sure the product will work for Duke Libraries.
The institutions planning to implement FOLIO in Summer 2020 spent April ranking 468 open features. They needed to choose whether the feature was needed at the time the institution planned to go live, or if they could wait for the feature to be added (one quarter later or one year later). Duke voted for 62% of the features be available at the time we go live with FOLIO. These features include things like default reports, user experience enhancements, and more detailed permission settings, to name a few.
After the feature prioritization was complete, we conducted a gap analysis. The gap analysis required our business analysts to take what they’ve learned from conducting interviews with library staff across the University and compare it to what FOLIO can currently do and what is planned. The Duke Libraries’ staff who have been active on the SIGs were extremely helpful in identifying gaps. Some feature requests that came out of the gap analysis included making sure a user has an expiration date associated with it. Another was being able to re-print notices to patrons. Others had to do with workflow, for example, making sure that when a holdings record is “empty” (no items attached), that an alert is sent so a staff person can decide to delete the empty record or not.
So where to the bees come into all of this? Well, the logo for FOLIO includes a bee!
The release names and logos are flowers. And we’re working together in a community toward a single goal – a new Library Services Platform that is community-sourced and works for the future of libraries.
It takes a lot to build and publish digital collections as you can see from the variety and scope of the blog posts here on Bitstreams. We all have our internal workflows and tools we use to make our jobs easier and more efficient. The number and scale of activities going on behind the scenes is mind-boggling and we would never be able to do as much as we do if we didn’t continually refine our workflows and create tools and systems that help manage our data and work. Some of these tools are big, like the Duke Digital Repository (DDR), with its public, staff and backend interface used to preserve, secure, and provide access to digital resources, while others are small, like scripts built to transform ArchiveSpace output into a starter digitization guides. In the Digital Production Center (DPC) we use a homegrown tool that not only tracks production statistics but is also used to do project projections and to help isolate problems that occur during the digitization process. This tool is a relational database that is affectionately named the Daily Work Report and has collected over 9 years of data on nearly every project in that time.
A long time ago, in a newly minted DPC, supervisors and other Library staff often asked me, “How long will that take?”, “How many students will we need to digitize this collection?”, “What will the data foot print of this project be?”, “How fast does this scanner go?”, “How many scans did we do last year?”, “How many items is that?”. While I used to provide general information and anecdotal evidence to answer all of these questions, along with some manual hunting down of this information, it became more and more difficult to answer these questions as the number of projects multiplied, our services grew, the number of capture devices multiplied and the types of projects grew to include preservation projects, donor requests, patron request and exhibits. Answering these seemingly simple questions became more complicated and time consuming as the department grew. I thought to myself, I need a simple way to track the work being done on these projects that would help me answer these recurring common questions.
We were already using a FileMaker Pro database with a GUI interface as a checkout system to assign students batches of material to scan, but it was only tracking what student worked on what material. I decided I could build out this concept to include all of the data points needed to answer the questions above. I decided to use Microsoft Access because it was a common tool installed on every workstation in the department, I had used it before, and classes and instructional videos abound if I wanted to do anything fancy.
Enter the Daily Work Report (DWR). I created a number of discrete tables to hold various types of data: project names, digitization tasks, employee names and so on. These fields are connected to a datasheet represented as a form, which allowed for dropdown lists and auto filling for rapid and consistent entry of information.
At the end of each shift students and professionals alike fill out the DWR for each task they performed on each project and how long they worked on each task. These range from the obvious tasks of scanning and quality control to more minute tasks of derivative creation, equipment cleaning, calibration, documentation, material transfer, file movement, file renaming, ingest prep, and ingest.
Some of these tasks may seem minor and possibly too insignificant to record but they add up. They add up to ~30% of the time it takes to complete a project. When projecting the time it will take to complete a project we collect Scanning and Quality Control data from a similar project, calculate the time and add 30%.
Common Digitization Tasks
Overall % of project
Quality Control 1
Quality Control 2
Quality Control 3
New Project Estimates
Using the Daily Work Report’s Datasheet View, the database can be filtered by project, then by the “Scanning” task to get the total number of scans and the hours worked to complete those scans. The same can be done for the Quality Control task. With this information the average number of scans per hour can be calculated for the project and applied to the new project estimate.
Gather information from an existing project that is most similar to the project you are creating the estimate for. For example, if you need to develop an estimate for a collection of bound volumes that will be captured on the Zeutschel you should find a similar collection in the DWR to run your numbers.
Gather data from an existing project:
Number of scans = 3,473
Number of hours = 78.5
3,473/78.5 = 2/hr
Number of scans = 3,473
Number of hours = 52.75
3,473/52.75 = 8/hr
Apply the per hour rates to the new project:
Estimated number of scans: 7,800
Scanning: 7,800 / 44.2/hr = 176.5 hrs
QC: 7,800 / 68.8/hr = 113.4 hrs
Total: 290 hrs
+ 30%: 87 hrs
Grand Total: 377 hrs
Rolling Production Rate
When an update is required for an ongoing project the Daily Work Report can be used to see how much has been done and calculate how much longer it will take. The number of images scanned in a collection can be found by filtering by project then by the “Scanning” Task. That number can then be subtracted from the total number of scans in the project. Then, using a similar project to the one above you can calculate the production rate for the project and estimate the number of hours it will take to complete the project.
Number of scans in the project = 7,800
Number of scans completed = 4,951
Number of scans left to do = 7,800 – 4,951 = 2,849
Scanning time to completion
Number of scans left = 2,849
2,849/42.4/hr = 2 hrs
Number of files to QC in the project = 7,800
Number of files completed = 3,712
Number of files left to do = 7,800 – 3,712 = 4,088
QC hours to completion
Number of scans left to scan = 4,088
4,088/68.8 = 4 hrs
The amount of time left to complete the project
Scanning – 67.2 hrs
Quality Control – 59.4 hrs
Total = 126.2 hrs
+ 30% = 38
Grand Total = 164.2 hrs
Isolate an error
Errors inevitably occur during most digitization projects. The DWR can be used to identify how widespread the error is by using a combination of filtering, the digitization guide (which is an inventory of images captured along with other metadata about the capture process), and inspecting the images. As an example, a set of files may be found to have no color profile. The digitization guide can be used to identify the day the erroneous images were created and who created them. The DWR can be used to filter by the scanner operator and date to see if the error is isolated to a particular person, a particular machine or a particular day. This information can then be used to filter by the same variables across collections to see if the error exists elsewhere. The result of this search can facilitate retraining, recalibrating of capture devices and also identify groups of images that need to be rescanned without having to comb through an entire collection.
While I’ve only touched on the uses of the Daily Work Report, we have used this database in many different ways over the years. It has continued to answer those recurring questions that come up year after year. How many scans did we do last year? How many students worked on that multiyear project? How many patron requests did we complete last quarter? This database has helped us do our estimates, isolate problems and provide accurate updates over the years. For such a simple tool it sure does come in handy.
As one of the largest research libraries in the U.S., we have a whole lot of content on the web to consider.
Our website alone comprises over a thousand pages with more than fifty staff contributors. The library catalog interface displays records for over 13 million items at Duke and partner libraries. Our various digital repositories and digital exhibits platforms host hundreds of thousands of interactive digital objects of different types, including images, A/V, documents, datasets, and more. The list goes on.
Any attempt to take a full inventory of the library’s digital content reveals potentially several million web pages under the library’s purview, and all that content is managed and rendered via a dizzying array of technology platforms. We have upwards of a hundred web applications with public-facing interfaces. We built some of these ourselves, some are community-developed (with local customizations), and others we have licensed from vendors. Some interfaces are new, some are old. And some are really old, dating all the way back to the mid-90s.
Ensuring that this content is equally accessible to everyone is important, and it is indeed a significant undertaking. We must also be vigilant to ensure that it stays accessible over time.
With that as our context, I’d like to highlight a few recent efforts in the library to improve the accessibility of our digital resources.
Style Guide With Color Contrast Checks
In January 2019, we launched a new catalog, replacing a decade-old platform and its outdated interface. As we began developing the front-end, we knew we wanted to be consistent, constrained, and intentional in how we styled elements of the interface. We were especially focused on ensuring that any text in the UI had sufficient contrast with its background to be accessible to users with low vision or color-blindness.
This style guide is “living” in that it’s a real-time up-to-date reflection of how elements of the UI will appear when using particular color variable names and CSS classes. It helps to guide developers and other project team members to make good decisions about colors from our palette to stay in compliance with accessibility guidelines.
In the course of this assessment, we were able to identify (and then fix!) several accessibility issues in DukeSpace. I’ll share two strategies in particular from the guide that proved to be really effective. I highly recommend using them frequently.
The Keyboard Test
How easy is it to navigate your site using only your keyboard? Can you get where you want to go using TAB, ENTER, SPACE, UP, and DOWN? Is it clear which element of the page current has the focus?
If you’re a developer like me, chances are you already spend a lot of time using your browser’s Developer Tools pane to look under the hood of web pages, reverse-engineer UIs, mess with styles and markup, or troubleshoot problems.
The Deque Systems aXe Chrome Extension (also available for Firefox) integrates seamlessly into existing Dev Tools. It’s a remarkably useful tool to have in your toolset to help quickly find and fix accessibility issues. Its interface is clear and easy to understand. It finds and succinctly describes accessibility problems, and even tells you how to fix them in your code.
With aXe testing, we quickly learned we had some major issues to fix. The biggest problems revealed were missing form labels and page landmarks, and low contrast on color pairings. Again, these were not hard to fix since the tool explained what to do, and where.
Turning away from DSpace for a moment, see this example article published on a popular academic journal’s website. Note how it fares with an automated aXe accessibility test (197 violations of various types found). And if you were using a keyboard, you’d have to press Tab over 100 times in order to download a PDF of the article.
Libraries are increasingly becoming champions for open access to scholarly research. The overlap in aims between the open access movement and web accessibility in general is quite striking. It all boils down to removing barriers and making access to information as inclusive as possible.
Our open access repository UIs may never be able to match all the feature-rich bells and whistles present in many academic journal websites. But accessibility, well, that’s right up our alley. We can and should do better. It’s all about being true to our values, collaborating with our community of peers, and being vigilant in prioritizing the work.
Look for many more accessibility improvements throughout many of the library’s digital resources as the year progresses.