Implications for Accessibility in Academic Libraries

The New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Report: 2017 Library Edition was released at the ACRL conference in Baltimore March 23. The report identifies six tech trends and challenges that will impact academic libraries in the short, mid, and long term, including:

  • Big Data
  • Digital scholarship
  • Library services platforms (LSPs)
  • Online identity
  • Artificial intelligence
  • The “internet of things”

These trends will certainly shape the way students and librarians interact with library resources. How will they affect accessibility?

Melissa Green, academic technologies instruction librarian at the University of Alabama, Rachel Thompson, director of emerging technology and accessibility at the University of Alabama, and Melissa Mallon, director of the Peabody Library at Vanderbilt University explored the implications of these six trends on accessibility, identifying the ways each will transform teaching and learning, as well as how they can potentially enhance or diminish accessibility.

In the near-term, defined in the report as within the next two years, the major identified trends are Big Data and digital scholarship.

Big Data, the massive amounts of information generated by the actions of internet users, are giving campuses new ways to examine student behaviors and predict their needs, as well as providing new pathways to research. What’s more, recent technological advances are making working with, displaying, and digesting big data even easier.

The presenters noted that Big Data can enhance accessibility as it provides a means to explore new ways to comprehend data relationships, and it demonstrates areas of concern and opportunity for services. It also offers much broader access to materials. Developments in Big Data are providing new ways to reach visual learners.

The use of Big Data does bring forth significant privacy concerns, and the strong emphasis on visual representations of Big Data projects can exclude some library users. Additionally there is a…

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