Metadata priorities and focus profile: National Library Service
The Metadata standards committee spoke with Karen Keninger, Director of the National Library Service in October 2017 with the goal of learning more about the current focus and interest areas around metadata. A critical area of exploration included questions around how the areas of diversity, inclusivity and accessibility were factoring into metadata decisions.
In her role as the Director of the NLS, Kenninger oversees and directs programs that provide library services to blind or otherwise disabled. The service involves approximately 104 libraries around the country that collaborate in the provision of this service.
About the NLS
The NLS is a free public library service for residents of the United States who are not able to read standard print. Primarily, the NLS provides talking books and braille books for readers with a general demand that often focuses on fiction and general interest non-fiction with special collections around accessibility. One unique area of focus addresses a need for braille music. Kenninger notes that this an area where the NLS is seeking to provide some type of repository to facilitate access to this content.
The users of the NLS are quite often blind or visually impaired (approximately 86% of users). Users are often over 60 (approximately 60%). In part this is driven by the fact that there are many age-related vision loss. Critical interest areas include general reading, civic engagement and historical information. There is a growing K-12 users and organizations such as Bookshare also do a good job of serving the needs of these users.
Metadata background for the NLS
The NLS primarily uses the catalog of the Library of Congress to manage and provide access to the collection. As a result the collection is cataloged using MARC and MARC-related standards. A critical need that has emerged in the past few years has been the need to be able to share more information about accessible resources internationally. In relation specifically to the work being inspired from the Marrakech treaty, building additional support for cross-country discovery of and access to shared collections is increasingly important. Specifically being able to improve discovery of and access to accessible content as well as enabling more detailed discovery through more detailed metadata. Critical challenges here include metadata interoperability and the ability to work with metadata and materials in multiple languages.
Critical work in diversity, inclusion and accessibility
By definition, the NLS focuses on accessibility issues for a significant community. A major metadata need in this area is more granular need in the description of types of accessibility. The Accessible Books consortium of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is building a shared catalog of all member materials for accessible content. Such platforms would be greatly improved with additional format, narration and other types of content messages.
NLS focus and future work
Greater collaboration with other similarly focused organizations is on the radar for NLS as the landscape of information evolves and as new formats emerge. One area of emphasis is the exploration of an authentication service that would lower barriers of access to eligible users. In this distributed network users would be able to use a single authentication service to sign into a variety of information resource services so that a user, once validated as an eligible user, would not need to re-establish that relationship with each information provider. Such a service would significantly reduce the barriers that disabled users currently have to information.