DPLA April events explored book banning and ebook accessibility

By DPLA, April 21, 2022.

Last week, the DPLA community gathered to explore two topics critical to our mission of advancing equitable access to knowledge for all. 

On Monday, April 11, at our quarterly Open Board + Community Meeting, Kelvin Watson, DPLA board member and executive director of the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District, moderated a conversation with two librarians on the front lines of the recent book banning push seen in communities across the country, which Watson called “the most widespread form of censorship in the United States.” Many thanks to Sean Anderson, Senior Librarian at ImagineIF Libraries in Flathead County, Montana, and Carolyn Foote from FReadom Fighters, a Texas-based team of librarians that provides professional resources for teachers, librarians, and authors facing book challenges, for sharing their experiences and insights with the DPLA community. 

Sean and Carolyn described how book challenges have become not only a threat to accessing knowledge but are damaging to the library profession, as personal attacks and social media campaigns by proponents of book banning push public and school librarians out of the field. The panel also discussed the meaning of “neutrality” in a library context and the challenges of finding common ground amidst cultural upheaval while upholding the core mission of a library.  The panel discussed how libraries need to find ways to make people of divergent beliefs and backgrounds feel equally welcome in the library while continuing to serve as a safe space for students and adults from marginalized populations. You can watch the full video of the conversation here.

Later in the week, we joined with COSLA and ReadersFirst for the second in our Collaborating for Access series of webinars, Creating More Inclusive Ebooks. Michael Blackwell of ReadersFirst and St. Mary’s County Library in Maryland moderated a panel discussion with Jason Broughton from the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled; Darren DeFrain, Ph.D. and Aaron Rodriguez, co-creators of the Vizling app; and user experience designer Reginé Gilbert, author of Inclusive Design for a Digital World. This conversation highlighted the complexities of accessibility and the need to involve affected communities in the development of solutions. The panel discussed the current limitations of web browsers, the need for inclusive best practices to be designed into applications from the beginning, and the potential of assistive technologies. (We, unfortunately, experienced technical difficulties with the video recording of this event, but you can read a transcript here.) 

Our next event is a DPLA Network Member Meet Up on Thursday, April 28, at 1 pm ET. It will be an opportunity for the DPLA community to gather to share learnings and questions about the opportunities and challenges presented by the decentralized web for libraries and archives. You can register to join the conversation here.