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Meeting Minutes: May 19, 2005

InfoEyes Advisory Committee Meeting


Jennifer, Crystal Lentz, Linda Johns, Diana Sussman, Mollyne Honor, Joe Thompson, Linda Rossman, Robin Rousu, John Mugford, Sharon Ruda, and Lori Thornton

1) Statistics and Usage Report (John Mugford, NM; Catherine, MN)

Statistics are now coming from the QuestionPoint statistics module.

In April there were 19 assigned questions and 27 answers sent.

To compare, in February there were 20 questions and in March there were 22.

2) Reminder:

In June we will vote on the following:

  1. continue as is
  2. reduce service to email only (no live ivocalize service)
  3. reduce service to email (with iVocalize service by appointment only)
  4. discontinue the project

3) Nominating New Project Coordinator(s)

In June we will also nominate new Project Coordinator(s) if the project is to continue. New Project Coordinator(s) will take office November 1, 2005. Diana will work with them prior to that date to transition new Project Coordinator(s) into her role. If no-one is willing to take on this role, InfoEyes will end on November 1, 2005.

Diana has been Project Coordinator for 2 years. InfoEyes is a multi-state, unfunded project and we cannot expect someone to continue in that role for more than 2 years. People need to participate in leadership of the project if they want it to continue. Right now leadership of the project is a bit of a burden because IE is in constant state of flux - people joining and dropping out, do we continue service, how, etc. As it settles down after the vote in June, especially if we decide to not have a constant scheduled service, the job shouldn't be too hard. Being a project coordinator is a good resume item.

If you want to be co-coordinator, contact people via the list serv to see if you can get someone else to work with you.

4) Publicity Reports (from any/all libraries)

Diana - IE/Opal joint presentation at Midlands and West Regional Conference; July/August article in Dialog magazine - describes challenges faced by IE and soliciting feedback on whether or not people value IE service.

Mollyne - emailed a vision specialist at the Dept. of Education and asked her to distribute a letter about InfoEyes to vision specialists in schools. She also emailed someone at Johns Hopkins and asked him to send the letter to people in schools.

Kim - sent something to a national list serv of schools for the blind

Diana and Sharon have emailed people in Illinois

There was a discussion about the fact that some participating libraries are hesitant to publicize InfoEyes because of the project's instability. Diana said that if IE folds, the website will stay up. The site will provide an explanation of why the service ended and information and referrals for libraries and/or patrons for where to ask reference questions or how to integrate iVocalize into their existing services. InfoEyes will continue in its current form through end of Oct. People should not let the potential ending of the project deter them from advertising it.

5) Any other business to report or discuss

Maryland - (Joe) Still working out the details and finding libraries that want to participate.

Advocacy ideas to encourage accessibility - None given, although Diana mentioned a conversation she had with a librarian from Seattle Public Library. The gist of his comments was that he views InfoEyes as an "out" that allows his library to not worry about providing accessible VR services. The service is provided elsewhere, so they don't have to worry about it. This attitude has long been a concern and is one of the reasons the project's future is being discussed and voted on.

John asked about the format for the vote in June. Diana said that libraries contributing to the weekly schedule get to vote (if multiple libraries in one state split schedule duties, the group gets one vote). Basically it works out to one vote per state. In the past, voting has been done by roll call. After some discussion, it was decided that voting this time will be done via text chat, perhaps privately to Diana so people aren't swayed by how others are voting. There was also discussion about whether or not people need to be present to vote. Diana mentioned that the conversation beforehand is vital to helping people decide what they want to do. If a library cannot send a representative to the meeting, contact Diana. John then mentioned that having 4 options to choose from could make getting a majority difficult. Run offs can happen if there is a tie.

There was then a discussion about sustainability through Oct. if the vote is to discontinue the service completely. Diana mentioned that she hopes libraries will continue to meet their commitments through the end of the project. She then talked about what could happen if the vote is to discontinue the project, but a few libraries want to keep it going. A smaller group, or individual libraries, could continue to use the InfoEyes name. Links to libraries could be listed on the IE site. There are ways to make de-evolution of the consortium not noticeable to patrons. Do we need to have a consortium to provide/promote our reference services? A library can purchase 2-seat iVocalize room for $8 per month.

Mollyne asked about what the financial commitment will be once our current contract with OCLC runs out. Last time, the cost for 1 profile to OCLC was split between participating libraries who could afford to pay (one paid using in-kind contributions + $500 donation from Barry Levine; some libraries also gave more money to make up difference). Can't say what cost will be; can try to get an estimate from OCLC, but not knowing number of libraries makes it impossible to tell. The price will be known in advance of Nov 1, but not in advance of vote. Lori Thornton mentioned that there is a new pricing structure as a result of QuestionPoint's merger with 24/7. The new fee is $3500 per profile. Joe mentioned that IE may be able to get some discounts from OCLC.

Joe - Will be doing presentation at a VR conference in Denver about serving special populations (IE, middle schoolers, suicide crisis situations)

We need to encourage other libraries to open iVocalize alongside normal VR; spread word about current VR software not being accessible.

Joe - Showed everyone a test page where he had added an InfoEyes link to the Maryland Ask Us Now website. He is also trying to get QP to take another look at InfoEyes.

It would be beneficial to Maryland, or to any other mainstream VR service, to offer iVocalize as not just an accessible option, but as a voice option for all of their patrons. Diana has gotten the sense from talking with other mainstream consortia that libraries are reluctant to open a second application simply to serve a small percentage of patrons. However, there is naturally interest in adding a reasonably priced simple to use application with voice for all patrons. It's a much easier sell. If mainstream libraries (Maryland or any state) wanted to partner with InfoEyes with that type of model, the InfoEyes group would need to problem solve the issue of increased and misdirected traffic. Misdirected traffic in that potential future scenario could cause too many email questions to be sent to InfoEyes. Customers' time expectations might not be met because IE staff would have trouble keeping up with the increased traffic. This "routing" issue should be kept in mind as future partnerships develop.

There needs to be an effort to educate patrons, especially the blind, about what reference is. Visually impaired patrons need to know that they aren't limited to asking questions related to their disability.