RLI 281 2
DECEMBER 2012 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A QUARTERLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC
Executive Summary
R
esearch libraries have a responsibility to make library collections and services universally
accessible to their patrons. Doing so is consonant with research library community values and
is also necessary in order to comply with long-standing legal requirements. The role of research
libraries has changed dramatically with the adoption of information technologies and network-based
services, and these technologies are similarly transforming education at all levels.
Both the utilization of these technologies and the digital revolution in publishing have been key
drivers in transforming research libraries and their role in the teaching and research ecosystem. IT,
networked services, and digital publishing have also spurred access to the growing corpus of digital
resources. And as research libraries provide more content electronically to students, faculty members,
researchers, and others, the role of libraries and other partners in their institutions and beyond is
changing in the provision of information resources and services to patrons with disabilities. Whereas
in the past, institutional offices of disability services were the primary facilitators of access to needed
research resources and instructional materials, increasingly, the digital environment requires research
libraries to be full partners with disability services offices and IT departments to ensure that these
electronic resources, when acquired, are fully accessible to all members of the campus or research library
community. Within this nexus of actors in ARL institutions, the library has both the mission and capacity
to provide leadership on matters of content and the depth of experience to provide services to the entire
institutional community.
This ARL task force report focuses on issues relating to users and members of the research library
community who are print disabled.1 Research libraries serve a user community with a diverse set
of disabilities every day, and this report is a starting point to address issues and opportunities of
accessibility more broadly.
Over the last two years, there have been a growing number of complaints filed by print-disabled
individuals in academic and non-academic institutions in the US regarding use of inaccessible IT
products and services. These include settlements with Case Western Reserve University, Reed College,
Pace University, Arizona State University, Princeton University, and the Darden School of Business at
the University of Virginia regarding inaccessible e-readers; a voluntary agreement between the National
Federation of the Blind (NFB) and Penn State University to make university services more accessible,
prompted by a US Department of Education Early Complaint Resolution process; a voluntary agreement
with Florida State University to make some courses more accessible; a settlement with the Free Library
of Philadelphia regarding use of inaccessible e-readers; and a settlement agreement between the US
Department of Justice and the Sacramento Public Library regarding inaccessible e-readers. Settlements
have favored those filing the complaints.
There are several outstanding challenges, such as the recent initiation of an investigation by the
Department of Education into accessibility concerns at the University of Montana, which includes a
focus on access to library services; and correspondence between the NFB and EDUCAUSE/Internet2,
Courseload, and McGraw-Hill Education, in which the NFB states that the EDUCAUSE/Internet2
e-textbook pilot violates both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and guidance from both the
Departments of Justice and Education. Discussions are now underway between the NFB, Internet2, and