Accessibility and back-office archives tools
Posted on March 24, 2011 by Deborah Kaplan | Categories: features | | 4 comments  Tagged:  , |

We all know what accessibility means, right? It means designing physical spaces for wheelchairs and websites for screenreaders.

Hmm. It’s clearly nonsense when I say it like that, isn’t it? We know that there are a multitude of different disabilities, and we need to design both our physical spaces and our software to accommodate those disabilities.

Do you see the major error I still have in the previous sentence? We shouldn’t be designing for disabilities, we should be designing for people. Just as we have to design our finding aids and discovery tools to serve people with a variety of different backgrounds — scholars, archivists, genealogists, undergraduates, hobbyists, etc. — we need to design our physical spaces and software tools to serve people who might have a variety of different needs. It’s universal design, baby.

There’s a lot of back-office work that goes on in archives, enabling us to describe, curate, and preserve our collections. And sometimes, we have to do that back-office work with tools which have not been written using universal design principles. In fact, as a general rule, when people think of accessibility they think of accessibility for end-users, not back office users.

I’ve made a couple of screencasts of me accessing objects in our Fedora Commons repository using the Fedora Commons client tools. I’m not picking on Fedora because it’s a particularly egregious example. In fact, Fedora provides something most other tools don’t: command line interfaces to all of their administrative commands. I generally don’t use the graphical interfaces I’m demonstrating below (for reasons which will become obvious). Usually I work at the command line, where I can use dictation macros I’ve written to speed up my tasks. And we should remember that the list of tools with accessibility problems is exceedingly long. During the course of making these videos and writing this post, I fought with accessibility problems in my screencast software, Adobe AIR, Windows Media Player, the WordPress dashboard, and the Java installer. (Guess who was worst? I’ll give you a hint: it was Adobe AIR.)

We get a lot of queries at DCA about Fedora and whether other archives should use it, and in general our answer is “It depends on your development support structure”. To that I’ll add “As with any tool, make sure your back-office users can use it before you commit.” Archivists, this should be our mantra: We will not have usable and accessible software unless we demand it.

Enough babbling. Here are the videos, both with closed captions, and transcripts included below. The first is of the legacy Java interface to Fedora, and the second is to the vastly-less accessible web interface. (The web interface was written with Adobe Flex, incorrectly identified in the screencast as Adobe AIR. Flex is just the framework used to write the tool, which is presented to the user as a Flash application; I don’t make this clear in the screencast.)

Dictating into the Fedora Commons Java client, transcript

Dictating into the Fedora Commons web client, transcript

DCA announces Tufts University’s DuraSpace sponsorship
Posted on August 27, 2010 by Anne Sauer | Categories: news | |  Tagged:  , |

DCA is proud to announce Tufts University’s gold level sponsorship of DuraSpace.

Duraspace logo

DuraSpace provides leadership and innovation in open source technologies for libraries. It maintains the Fedora Commons open source software used by DCA in partnership with Tufts UIT/Academic Technology for the Tufts Digital Library. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, DuraSpace relies on members of the community to supply some of its operating costs. DCA and UIT/Academic Technology are happy to be more active participants in the Fedora Commons community. Our own values are reflected in DuraSpace’s mission to provide technologies and services that help ensure that digital content is accessible over the long term.

Tufts University Regional Fedora User Conference was a success
Posted on July 22, 2010 by Veronica Martzahl | Categories: news | |  Tagged:  |

On July 20 2010, DCA and UIT/Academic Technology hosted a regional conference for Fedora users at the Tufts Dental School. The event was very successful in sparking useful conversations and reinforcing strategic relationships.

Thorton Staples of DuraSpace spoke about the union of DSpace and Fedora and about DuraCould, and Mark Leggott of the University of PEI spoke about Islandora, their Drupal and Fedora based digital asset management system. Local Fedora users and those interested in Fedora contributed substantially to the discussion during lightning rounds and birds of a feather sessions.

See the Twitter hash #TF10 for an idea about some of the topics of conversation. Click on the image below to a view a slideshow of images from the plenary sessions.

Thornton Stples

Open Repositories 2010
Posted on July 8, 2010 by Deborah Kaplan | Categories: news | |  Tagged:  |

It’s my week to do the blog, and I’ve got so much to blog about I’m almost overwhelmed. I’m currently attending the Open Repositories 2010 conference in Madrid, and I’ve spent much of the conference listening to smart people and thinking “We need to do that! And that! And oh, wait, that!”

The theme for repositories this year seems to be interoperability. Gone is the idea that we should build one perfect vertical repository that can hold all of your materials and provide all of your services. No more solo repository cowboys.

Instead, we’ve acknowledged that all the materials we hold rely on all the materials everybody else holds. A paper here might rely on data somewhere else. Our Boston city directories may be used not from our interface, but from a tool or service written at a second institution, which mixes our street directories with directories from four other institutions and GIS data, images, or historical information from yet others.

In one way this is reassuring; it means we don’t need to be all things to all people. But at the same time, playing together is hard. I mean really, really, hard.

But fun.

One-day regional Fedora conference
Posted on March 19, 2010 by Jennifer Phillips | Categories: events | |  Tagged:  |

Tufts University Digital Collections & Archives and UIT Academic Technology present a one-day regional Fedora conference.

July 20, 2010
9 AM-5 PM

In a tough economy, it’s especially important to make sure we stay in touch with our local colleagues in the Fedora Commons community. This day-long conference in Massachusetts will give us an opportunity to hear from other Northeast Fedora users. More importantly, it will give us an opportunity to talk to each other and swap ideas and thoughts about the way we use Fedora Commons.

Thornton Staples of DuraSpace will be present to give an overview of DuraSpace, Fedora, and DuraCloud.

Register online at For more information, contact us via that site or in the comments to this entry.

The schedule for the day is still evolving, and there may be time for additional presentations. If you have interest in giving a short presentation or demonstration, please contact us by May 1. If you are interested in facilitating a Birds of a Feather session, please contact us by May 1.

Registration is free and includes talks, breakout sessions, and morning and afternoon refreshments. Lunch is not included. The conference will be held in the heart of Boston’s Chinatown, walking distance to many excellent restaurants. Conference registrants will receive updates as the program takes shape.