From the Desk of: An Atla Member Attends NISO Plus 2022/
April 09, 2022
We offer several scholarships for Atla members to attend conferences. In February, Garrett Trott received a scholarship to attend the NISO Plus 2022 conference. Read about his experience below in our new series, From the Desk of…
I had the privilege of attending NISO (National Information Standards Organization) Plus 2022 with a scholarship from Atla. To be very transparent, I was not certain what to expect from these sessions. I looked at the titles and there were several that, while they looked intriguing, I was concerned might be a bit irrelevant for my context as a librarian and an editor. I enjoy learning, even when the content may be a bit unrelated to my direct needs or scenarios. So, I knew I would enjoy NISO Plus, but I had some questions as to their relevance to my context. I work for a small (we have approximately 1000 students) private university. Subsequently, many of the conferences I have been to present intriguing ideas, which generate stimulating dialogue. However, when the rubber meets the road and I aim to apply what was learned, their relevance is often questionable. I was very nicely surprised with several presentations from NISO Plus 2022 and their relevance to my context.
As this was an online session, and many of us have experienced exhaustion from Zoom and various online formats, I would like to begin by noting that NISO had a commendable format. It was a combination of recorded sessions with live Q&A, and live sessions. These permitted some fantastic interaction with the presenters. The ways in which presenters interacted with questions asked and engaged in the dialogue, combined with intriguing inquiries, made them incredibly enriching.
A handful of sessions stood out to me as directly applicable to some of the institutional needs for my place of work. A session entitled: “Accessibility in the scholarly information space,” provided an inspirational overview of how institutions provided access for various scenarios (i.e., students with learning impediments and/or disabilities through which they need content which can only be attained from the publisher). Often, the period of a term and the delays of a publisher’s response can make resources of this nature difficult to attain. Also, many universities are doing the exact same work (several universities contacting the same publisher to attain permission to provide access to a single work), which could make a cooperative effort worthwhile.
The ability to have a one-stop-shop for disability needs would be wonderful and an incredible time saver for the staff at the institution for which I work.
To resolve some of these issues, the Federated Repositories of Academic Material for Higher Education was created. The Federated Repositories are hoping to create a repository of learning materials for disabled students. Ideally, a member institution could contact the Federal Repository, find the content they need and have access to it instantly, removing the delay in response (and access). While the Federated Repositories of Academic Material for Higher Education received their second Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant in the spring of 2021, they are hoping to open their services to the public soon. This is something that I will watch for our university. The ability to have a one-stop-shop for disability needs would be wonderful and an incredible time saver for the staff at the institution for which I work. I appreciate conferences like NISO Plus because they enable me to see beyond our institution. Things like the Federated Repositories are things which I would not be aware of outside of NISO Plus.
During the same presentation, Anna Lawson, Professor of Law, and Joint Director of the Centre for Disability Studies at University of Leeds, presented. She is blind and she gave a wonderful overview of how some of the components of online publications make the utilization of various reading tools (that are made to assist those with sight impediments) difficult. For example, many tools cannot differentiate between footnotes and regular text. If you think about the irregularity regarding the placement of footnotes, it makes perfect sense how even though they form a critical piece of scholarship, they can be incredibly challenging for an individual with sight impairment to read, primarily because there are no standard indicators utilized to note when the text ends and footnotes begin. Lawson noted that endnotes are much easier for a tool made to assist the sight-impaired to utilize. As an editor of a journal, this was an “aha” moment for me. It is one of those things which I have never considered before, but something easy to change with a broad impact.
As an editor of a journal, this was an “aha” moment for me. It is one of those things which I have never considered before, but something easy to change with a broad impact.
Lawson also noted that PDFs have become a familiar format for online publications. While PDFs do have strengths, they are incredibly difficult for many tools made for assisting the sight-impaired to utilize. Therefore, Lawson suggested that all journals provide the article in HTML (either instead of, or alongside the PDF).
There were many more sessions I attended. The keynotes were enriching and engaging, the closing speaker provided great insight regarding the future of research, and others presented intriguing dialog on the future of libraries and digitization. While NISO did not take any travel, it still took time from my regular responsibilities. Subsequently, I often ask myself if it was worth it? Was what I learned worth the time I lost? The answer for NISO Plus 2022 is a resounding yes. If NISO were to do anything like this again, I would attend in a heartbeat. Despite being zoomed out and a little sick of virtual conferences, the live response sessions were incredibly enriching. I am appreciative of the funding Atla provided for this.
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