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Meeting Minutes: April 24, 2008

InfoEyes Advisory Committee Meeting [InfoEyes Next Steps Meeting]


Minnesota Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped OPAL Online Room


2:00 pm ET / 1:00 pm CT / 12:00 p.m. MT / 11:00 a.m. PT


Kim Charlson, Catherine Durivage, Megan McDaniel, Karen Odean, Linda Rossman, Julie Strange, Diana Sussman, Joe Thompson

Purpose of Meeting

Catherine began the meeting by suggesting that we need to settle on what we want InfoEyes to be into the future and reestablish expectations for the project. Every October our subscription with OCLC comes up, and while we officially haven't had any request from libraries that they can't pay their share, this might be a concern come this next October. The number of questions asked by our users have also been down for the past few months. We have repeat customers and not necessarily new customers. What do we need to do to help InfoEyes refocus its direction?

With the agenda that was distributed, Catherine included the initial goals for the service. These were also shown on-screen. Are these still valid? Do these need to be expanded on or revised? These initial goals are included here:

Project Goals

Source: Final Report InfoEyes Beta Phase March through August 2004 (

  1. Develop and test a national collaborative model for providing virtual reference services, e-resources and online community support services for print-impaired individuals.
  2. Evaluate the features of the various software components. Determine which features and software options are most effective when serving print-impaired individuals.
  3. In particular test the audio Voice-over-IP (VoIP) features and functionality of a virtual reference service. For example, test how well VoIP and text chat interface with screen reader software programs commonly used by print-impaired users, such as JAWS and Window-Eyes.
  4. Coordinate libraries for the print-impaired in multiple states and time zones to provide a consistently high quality virtual reference service to a large pool of library patrons.
  5. Collaborate with other types of libraries and service agencies to increase and improve online reference services to ensure accessibility to print-impaired individuals from any service point.
  6. Work with OCLC to make QuestionPoint software and services accessible to print-impaired librarians and library users.
  7. Offer access and training to e-resources (e.g. selected First-Search databases, free Web-based resources) to determine which are most useful to print-impaired end-users and the organizations that provide online library services to them.
  8. Investigate how online communities utilizing virtual meeting software can be formed to improve the information literacy and in-depth research skills of print-impaired individuals.

Review original project goals - Do they need to be revised?

Catherine asked that we start our discussion. What do we want InfoEyes to be and what place do we see it taking within states or across the virtual reference services?

Kim Charleston, director of the Perkins Library, said that she could only stay on for a few minutes but wanted to share her perspective on the service to start this discussion. Kim expressed that InfoEyes is an incredibly valuable service. Everyone involved should be so proud of what's been accomplished and our offering of a service of this type is still the right way to go even if usage numbers are currently slightly down. The decline in usage is likely tied into decline in our marketing. If people don't know about it, they won't use it. Kim has heard people talk repeatedly about InfoEyes at various conferences. These people understand the situation of a special services and how important it is to get service from a librarian. Kim expressed how glad she was that she could join us for this meeting to let us know how important InfoEyes is to so many people.

Catherine reflected on what a double edge sword we maintain even in marketing InfoEyes. If we promote the service we'd be encouraging more usage and we may not be able to keep up with that demand. Yet, people need to know about it to use it. We need to look at what InfoEyes is today, and what it could be in the future. People who have used InfoEyes have certainly commented about how happy they are with the service they've received from us.

Catherine put on-screen the initial "Aspects of the Neet for InfoEyes" from 2004, located at the page

One question that the original core project team had asked was, "How should InfoEyes be offered in conjunction with mainstream virtual reference services for the general population?" In preparation for this meeting, Catherine looked online to find out which states were offering statewide virtual reference services (chat or email). One of the initial goals of the project was to fill the gap left by mainstream VR services that were not available to people who used screen readers du to inaccessible technologies.

There are at least 14 states in the U.S. not offering a statewide virtual reference service available to all residents, and even of those that are offering online reference service it's not clear which are available to customers who use screen reading software or are available to customers with low-vision.

Julie also shared these two links, which represent virtual reference services:
(In 2014, this URL takes you to

Joe also noted that there are some email reference services available from libraries that do serve a national audience, specifically the Library of Congress and the Internet Public Library.

Linda recommended that we look at the goals and see which ones we have met so far.

It was discussed if InfoEyes should target the audiences of the 14 states that do not offer any kind of statewide VR service. Kim noted that this could be a problem, and could reduce the support from the participating states since they are each involved primarily to support the needs of their own residents. InfoEyes should be primarily for the residents of the participating states.

Catherine suggested that InfoEyes likely wouldn't want to target the populations of these non-VR states, but instead would want to target the library leadership in these states and encourage them to participate as partners in offering the service.

Julie suggested that we need to market the service and see what response we get. Joe said that increased usage is a problem that we should desire. If usage becomes too high to sustain, then we can consider options to reduce it or manage it better.

Diana also questioned how we manage the service and the cost effectiveness of Catherine and Linda playing the roles that they do. While their leadership is incredibly valuable and appreciated, their roles in InfoEyes may not be cost effective for their organizations. Joe's role as secretary must also take time. Linda, Catherine, and Joe each expressed that they do find it very worthwhile to play these roles in managing the service. Catherine added that InfoEyes doesn't take a great deal of her time, but she also doesn't feel that she could contribute any more of her time beyond what she does now.

Catherine brought up another consideration for the future of the service. Last October, 2007, Catherine had heard indications from some states that they may not be able to renew their participation in covering their percentage of InfoEyes' OCLC QuestionPoint contract.

Kim stressed her support for the project and said that she would like to have a letter sent with Catherine and Linda's signature to the NLS network libraries asking that information about InfoEyes be included in their newsletters. Catherine noted appreciation for Kim's support.

Some interest in the service was generated by the Talking Book Topics article 2 years ago. Catherine and Linda did hear from two agencies recently who requested information about InfoEyes, but long periods go by where there are no requests of this kind. To increase awareness, consistent marketing seems the way to go. A marketing plan needs to be developed. This would give us goals to meet. If we don't meet the goals by the time indicated, this would give us some evidence to support discontinuation of the service.

Diana suggested offering a reward to those libraries or networks that include information about the service in their newsletter if they send us a copy of it. Whichever state has the most participation, perhaps we could send them a bigger prize. Catherine also endorsed this idea.

Catherine suggested that most libraries would need pre-written text to include in their newsletters, which we would need to prepare. Joe asked what format these newsletters are available. Catherine said that they are published electronically, in print text, and in Braille.

Catherine suggested that we should also now update our question intake form to ask for the customer's state, so that we can get a better sense of the impact of promotion in specific areas. Diana asked if it is now more possible to change that form that before and Catherine said that it was. Catherine attended an online QP user group meeting where the new form manager was covered. Joe and Julie also now have some experience using the new customizable form manager in QP.

Setting a Course of Action - Development of a Strategic Plan???

It was decided that we should:

Catherine, Linda, Julie, and Diana will work on that marketing plan. This will include a blurb for libraries to include in their newsletters. It will also include an InfoEyes graphic that can be used on library web sites.

Next step: Catherine, Linda, Julie, and Diana will meet online after the NLS conference takes place. They will likely meet on Monday, May 19 at 1:00 p.m. CT / 2:00 p.m. ET. Linda, Catherine, and Diana will also catch up while they attend the NLS conference.

The conversation about the goals of the InfoEyes service itself will take place at a future meeting. The next regular InfoEyes meeting was originally scheduled or May 15, but Joe and Julie can't attend. It was proposed to meet on May 22 instead.

The meeting adjourned at 2:54 p.m. ET.

Next meeting:

Thursday, May 22 at 2:00 pm Eastern / 1:00 pm Central

Minutes submitted by Joe Thompson