InfoEyes Advisory Committee Meeting Minutes
Thursday, July 15, 1:00pm central / 2:00pm eastern (11:00am pacific / 12:00pm mountain)
- Barbara Mates, Cleveland, OH
- Diana Sussman, Southern Illinois
- Joyce Spears, Texas
- Lori Thornton, Washington
- Gloria Leonard, Washington Talking Books
- Mary Mohr, Library of Congress
- Tom Peters, TAP Information Services
- Sharon Ruda, Illinois Regional
- John Mugford, New Mexico
- Linda Rossman, Perkins (MA)
- Bonnie Farrier, New York
- Bob McBrien, New York
- Philadelphia representative(s)
- Blaine Redemer, Illinois State Library
- Lori Bell, Mid-Illinois
- Barry Levine, Illinois library patron and advocate
Welcome Everyone (Diana)
Monthly update on usage statistics and overall project evaluation (Tom)
- Currently monthly report is at
- Both the total number and countable number of sessions rebounded a bit after May.
- Almost all of our sessions are real now, as opposed to practice or interest sessions.
- For the past two months email has been the dominant communication mode.
- The number of FirstSearch sessions took a real jump in June, probably because Tom encourage blind and visually impaired users who attend the online training sessions to use it through the end of August.
- Feel free to send Tom interesting experiences and thoughts re: InfoEyes as they occur to you. In the final report comments will be anonymous.
- Reminder: Please include start and end times in the text chat for reference sessions so we'll know how long the session lasted. You can do this by typing in the times, or you can change your settings once: On the "File" menu in the iVocalize room click "time stamp chat entries" so that a checkmark appears beside that item. You only have to do this once. Then each line of chat will show the time it was entered every time you're in the room.
Discussion of monthly update:
- Tom says he does see a lot of repeat customers. A lot of the same people who attend the online training sessions (see below) also ask reference questions. We think this is a good thing, as it probably indicates customer satisfaction.
- Mary Mohr suggests continuing to publish InfoEyes promotions and to ask reference librarians not affiliated with InfoEyes to talk to their patrons about InfoEyes.
Report of online training sessions with patrons (Tom)
A summer series of online training sessions for blind and visually impaired individuals is being offered as part of the overall InfoEyes service.
- Four classes: Beginning and Intermediate Google and FirstSearch.
- 40 persons have signed up. Most sign up for all four classes.
- For each class Tom created an outline of facets and topics to cover. He puts each outline on his website and sends the registrants the URL, so they may review them before, during, and after each session, if they wish.
- Audio recordings of each of the four sessions are available on the OPAL web site (http://www.opal-online.org/archive.htm)
Discussion of online training:
It was suggested that if sessions and their times and dates could be posted at least two months in advance this would give us time to advertise the sessions in our newsletters.
Integrating Philadelphia and Pittsburg into the virtual reference desk schedule. (Diana)
Their training is not complete yet. They believe that pennsylvania plans to join as a whole and split the three hours, but there were not many available hours in the InfoEyes schedule when their libraries are open. The InfoEyes schedule will be adjusted to accommodate them.
How do we perceive the current InfoEyes arrangement? Are there any suggestions for specific things that might be done to improve it? (Diana)
There was discussion of whether we want to go forward with using QuestionPoint text chat, as it constantly refreshes, making it incompatible with the screen reading software that blind people use for computer access. One person had seen a listing of features for the September release of QP chat, but did not see any mention of the refresh problem being addressed in that listing. Another person had seen the QP software to be released in September and reported that it looks much different than the current software, although she does not know if the refresh problem has been resolved.
It was commented that it would be ideal if OCLC could resolve QP's accessibility challenges, as so many academic and public libraries use QP for reference, and this would lead to true accessibility for blind patrons. If OCLC successfully becomes truly accessible to blind users, this might also encourage other virtual reference software providers to resolve their own accessibility challenges, as we know of no truly accessible software being marketed for virtual reference. (We believe iVocalize is quite accessible, but it is not currently marketed for virtual reference.) OCLC's involvement with InfoEyes does seem to imply good intentions regarding accessibility for the blind; however, we do not know if our persistent use of QP chat serves as any further incentive to OCLC to improve its accessibility. It was also suggested that we encourage patrons to lobby their local libraries for access to their virtual reference service. The concerns of large libraries carry a lot of weight with software providers.
We could use QP email, with its management and statistical features, but not offer QP chat to our patrons. iVocalize does serve as an enhanced chat software for reference sessions with patrons. We decided to continue offering QP chat at this time, but to reexamine this issue in August and/or September.
How we will proceed in the interim between August 31 and the September 21 grant announcement? (Sharon)
Question Point software: We want to proceed as we are now (without any temporary cessation or change in service for the patrons). We will ask OCLC for a one-month free extension for Question Point. If they say no, perhaps we could look into cost sharing for one month. If OCLC will not give an extension we could also just use iVocalize and post a regular email account to the web site, parceling out those questions via the listserv.
FirstSearch Databases: We are not likely to get an extension of the FirstSearch databases. OCLC had to go to each separate vendor to negotiate trials for the databases we've used. To answer questions, each library should use the internet, their own non-proprietary resources, and any databases for which using the database for out-of-state patrons would not be a violation of any licensing agreement. It is strongly suggested that right now each library investigate their own licensing agreements to determine which databases they can use for InfoEyes during the month of August, and possibly into the future in case we do not get IMLS funding. If you cannot answer a question after attempting to do so (due to lack of resources), Mary Mohr can use her databases for patrons anywhere in the U.S. Such questions could be passed on to her. In some cases, the patron's home state may be able to answer the questions as well, but that would still depend on the home state's licensing agreements.
The future: How will we proceed if we do not get grant funding? What adaptations can be made to allow us to proceed? (Sharon)
We will know by the September 21, 2004 determination date whether we will receive grant funding. The grant funding period would begin October 1, 2004.
An iVocalize room has already been purchased for the coming year. Standard pricing for OCLC membership (1 profile) is $1,900 per year. This price was confirmed following this meeting, along with the news that we may qualify for a 5% discount in Illinois, potentially lowering the annual price to $1,615.
We discussed splitting the cost of Question Point among participants if we do not get IMLS funding. We can't calculate an exact cost, as we can't assume that everyone who participated in the trial will proceed in the coming year.
- We have about one month to make a decision about cost sharing.
- Washington plans to continue.
- The Illinois libraries plan to continue (Mid-IL TBC, Southern IL TBC, IL State Library). Their parent organizations subscribe to QP & Firstsearch, but their QP access for InfoEyes could be paid for separately.
- Cleveland would probably be able to continue, but would not be able to contribute money. Their parent organization already provides them with access to QuestionPoint & FirstSearch.
- Mary Mohr (Library of Congress) may be able to participate in the coming year. It hasn't been decided yet. LOC wouldn't be able to contribute money.
Proposed solutions for funding Question Point:
- Perhaps libraries that can't pay financially could contribute their share with other types of in-kind contributions.
- Perhaps we could solicit donations from organizations such as ACB or NFB.
- Barry Levine generously offered a $500 donation. "Thank you, Barry."
- Patrons have asked what they can do. We need to set up a procedure for accepting donations.
- We could encourage universal participation among regional NLS programs. In this way costs would be spread "across the board" thereby reducing the cost to individual libraries.
Some remarked that it would be nice to know the cost of FirstSearch databases. Others remarked that databases are very expensive. We are unlikely to be able to afford them unless we get IMLS funding.
Barry Levine attended the ACB conference where he spoke with some active InfoEyes users. He reported that the active users love InfoEyes. About 55 - 60 people attended Lori Bell's InfoEyes presentation there. Barry feels that people simply don't know about InfoEyes, or they would be using it. He said that it makes life much easier to be able to interact with your informational environment. He wishes that OCLC's text chat were accessible to screen readers, and hopes that OCLC will tackle this problem aggressively.
OPAL: iVocalize rooms, shared programming, discounted costs. How it relates to our use of iVocalize rooms for computer training sessions offered through InfoEyes. (Lori)
If any of the libraries want to try an iVocalize room for free through August may do so. The cost for an ivocalize room and participation in OPAL for one year is $240. The year would begin September 1, 2004. Libraries could also share an iVocalize room and costs with another library.
Last Tuesday and Wednesday were very visible days for OPAL. The DaVinci code discussion produced by Cleveland was very successful. Barbara Mates reports that she has "been telling everyone it was 'electric.' People strolling through the department (not lbph staff) just knew something special was happening. We know we had people from NY, PA, IN, ILL. Everyone enjoyed it... it lasted over 2 hours. People reluctantly left." She strongly encourages everyone to try using an iVocalize room to try reaching the underserved portions of their service territory.
Sharon Ruda reports that the director of the Illinois State Library is now sharing the information about using iVocalize with the Secretary of State for use state wide for training and meetings.
Mary Mohr is sharing the information with the Library of Congress.
Sharon Ruda thanked everyone for their continued good work with our readers. She suggested that if you feel shy about speaking in public to be sure to contact us in private.
Barry suggested we not be discouraged by low participation. He says it's such an important project.
Tom Peters and Lori Bell are working on an InfoEyes article for the journal "American Libraries."