Reflection: A Year as an Accessibility Librarian

I had meant to write this up earlier, but I have been overwhelmed with starting a new job and trying to wrangle a new space at home for my home office (which is still actually very much in progress). I also meant to post this after I wrote it 2 weeks ago, but had wanted to add some pictures and totally forgot about it.

Context

Let me start with some context for those who may not be familiar with the work that I was doing.

CAPER-BC (formerly CILS) provides accessible formats for post-secondary students in 19+ colleges and universities across BC. Disabilities office staff at each school refer students to us and will also request the materials that students need on their behalf.

CAPER-BC Business Cards

The two librarians, along with the director, take care of managing the department, which is housed inside of Langara College (which makes things interesting since it’s part of Langara, but also different from any other department).

In addition to the regular duties related to accessible files and our users (students and staff), I was the IT person on the team, and I also took care of statistics/reports, and some of the communications stuff (namely, writing the newsletters that went out to students and disabilities office staff).

Thrown into the Day to Day

I was thrown into the day to day duties fairly quickly, and was left to run shop after 4 weeks (as the other librarian went on vacation). Thankfully, my coworker trained me as much as possible beforehand and that there was a fair amount of documentation related to processing books.

While I felt like I was drowning in books at times, I was grateful to my past self for taking cataloguing and to the instructors I had, especially in ensuring that I was familiar with MARC.

We were so busy last fall that there were days when I felt like all I was doing was processing books for production, contacting new students, doing follow up, and providing tech help (whether that be for the team or students that called).

Projects

It was months actually until things finally calmed down enough for me to really start on projects. It was nice to have something aside from the day to day. To me, projects are great because you can have concrete goals that you fulfill, and I got a lot done in the last year (see my About Me page for a list of related posts).

  • wiki migration (to Confluence) and revision
  • website migration (to WordPress) and redesign (because of the new name)
  • setup of automated backups of digital collection
  • ingest of files and records from an ILL agreement

caperbc front page of websiteI won’t talk too much about the projects themselves, since I’ve blogged enough about them. Interestingly, while I’m proud of the new website that I created (and which garnered a decent amount of praise), I probably learnt the most from the batch files and records ingestion even though it was a small project.

The Extras

Code4Lib

I was flattered and excited when the Code4LibBC group invited me to join them to help organize the inaugural Code4LibBC regional unconference. Possibly unsurprisingly, my main contribution seemed to be the willingness to be MC, which I also played a role in at the last Code4Lib annual.

I was really lucky to be able to go to Code4Lib annual, and convinced me to be on a committee again for 2015.

Conferences & Presentations

Honestly, I was floored to have been accepted at so many conferences the past year, and to speak about accessibility (which is not exactly a “hot” topic, but maybe (hopefully) it’s turning into one). It was amazing to also have the ability to attend almost all of them. (I couldn’t make it to Access, but I will be fulfilling my dream of speaking at Access this year!)

this is my search screenshot

I don’t plan to be speaking at conferences in the next year (except at Access) since I now have very minimal funding, and it’s no longer part of my job description. Alas a wonderful privilege of working in an academic library. I count myself lucky that I got what I did so early in my librarian life.

The Article That Hasn’t Happened

I keep saying that I plan to co-author an article on web accessibility, but it hasn’t happened yet. Nevertheless, it forced me to read a lot of published material on accessibility and universal design, which is where I got a lot of the ideas, quotes, and evidence for my presentations, so not all is lost. Maybe, that article will even be written some day.

Mozilla

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my contributions to the Webmaker project. I got really excited when I heard about the localization efforts, and even more excited when I was introduced to the new tutorial addition. I was the first one to really use it, and converted a couple of existing projects, which are in use!

screenshot
Thimble Poster Project

I also did a couple of presentations related to Webmaker and the Web Literacy Standard over the last year. It was great to see others (especially other librarians) get into it.

While my contributions and involvement will likely be curtailed this year, one of the appeals is that there are lots of small ways to contribute, most of which don’t involve coding.

Learning About Accessibility

When I started doing web accessibility work, I didn’t think I would be delving any deeper into the accessibility world than web. Little did I know that I’d end up working at a place like CAPER-BC.

I have learnt a lot in the last year, especially about accessible formats, but also about accessible technology and the different ways people interact with technology. Especially when I first started, I had a lot of questions, so I am very appreciative of the patience and knowledge of the technicians on staff who I constantly had questions for.presentation black white purple with custom fonts

Of course, I realize that I still have a lot to learn, especially in finding ways to make accessibility happen for people, but the last year was a great way to start.

A Year Gone By

It’s hard to encapsulate an entire year. There is a lot here that I don’t think I have properly, fully expressed in words.

libtechconf chibibis on podiumJust one example is that someone said I’m their “go to person” on accessibility. When did that happen?! How did that happen? Just goes to show that there aren’t enough people who know about accessibility, especially in the library world.

I was sad to leave CAPER-BC. After a year, I finally felt like I was settling in, and then it was time to go. The staff are great people to work with, and I hope to visit them through my new duties.

It was a very fulfilling year, and I take everything with me going forward.

Published by

Cynthia

A librarian learning the ways of technology, accessibility, metadata, and people

Leave a Comment

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s