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Project Proposal

InfoEyes: Digital Reference and Electronic Resource
Instruction for Visually Impaired
Illinois State Library Talking Book and Braille Service
Mid-Illinois Talking Book Center, Southern Illinois Talking Book Center


The Mid-Illinois Talking Book Center (MITBC), a subregional library located in central Illinois, serving individuals with visual, physical, and learning disabilities, investigated the use of virtual reference services and web-based customer services with talking book patrons during July and August. This was done under the leadership of the Illinois State Library Talking Book and Braille Service.


The Illinois Network of Libraries Serving the Blind in Illinois proposes to work with OCLC on a collaborative, multi-state virtual reference/electronic resource trial using OCLC QuestionPoint with enhanced communication software. The proposed project would run from January 1, 2004 - July 30, 2004. The project is based on using one or more profiles, with a goal of five participating libraries and no limit to the total number involved. The current profile set up for the MITBC and Southern Illinois Talking Book Center (SITBC) could be shared with other participants. Once the project is operational, the service would be available 40 hours per week.., The number of hours each library would be expected to contribute per week will depend on the number of libraries involved. For example, if ten libraries participate, each will spend four hours in coverage time. If there are less than ten participating libraries, the number of hours the service is offered might be reduced. Services would include: virtual reference service; scheduled one-on-one instructional sessions for individuals; access to electronic resources including FirstSearch and netLibrary and training on these resources. A central web page for "InfoEyes" would be set up and participating libraries could link to that page with a button. Other libraries and agencies would be invited to put up a link or logo for "InfoEyes" as well.

Project Goals

  1. Establish a national model for providing virtual reference services and electronic resources to the visually impaired.
  2. Work with OCLC in making QuestionPoint an accessible software platform for the visually impaired.
  3. Determine and evaluate what features of the software are most helpful in serving this population.
  4. Offer access to electronic resources (FirstSearch and netLibrary) to the visually impaired.
  5. Investigate how this software could be used to offer training on electronic resources, such as FirstSearch and netLibrary, in order to increase information literacy skills of the visually impaired.
  6. Work with libraries to provide online reference services to the visually impaired.
  7. Test audio (voice over IP) in offering digital reference services.
  8. Test a collaborative, multi-state model for virtual reference services.


From January 1, 2004 - July 30, 2004, under the leadership of the Illinois State Library Talking Book and Braille Service, a collaborative, multi-state virtual reference and electronic resource center will be offered to the visually impaired residents of participating states.

Proposed Project Timeline

October 2003

January 1, 2003

February 2003

February 2004

March 2004

April 2004

May 2004

July 30, 2004

Questions We Hope to Answer

Not many libraries are currently offering virtual reference services with audio or specifically for the visually impaired. Here are some questions that this project should answer in the six-month trial.

Outcome Report

After the trial period ends in June, Project Evaluator Tom Peters will write a detailed report on the project. Tom Peters is currently the evaluation consultant on another pilot project involving talking book libraries, the Lobe Library (, and has extensive consulting and project evaluation experience. The report will be published on participant websites and its availability will be publicized on electronic lists. The value of mainstreaming accessibility and the process designed to accomplish this will be discussed in a professional journal article written by project developers.

Responsibilities of Participating Libraries

Libraries must agree to the following to participate...

OCLC will...