Library resources can be hard to locate, but all of the university libraries I have worked at have used Springshare libguides, called help or subject guides, to make resources more visible to the public.  Perhaps yours does too!  If this is true, I have one tip for great libguides:  design for accessibility.  If you design for accessibility, your guides will be better for everyone.

While the intention of libguides is to make resources more easily found, they can still be a significant hurdle to individuals with sight impairments or literacy challenges.  Thanks to Springshare, the solution is actually quite simple:  use the information structures available to you.  First, create boxes with names that help students identify what information will be found within.  Using headings like “Finding background Information” and “Finding scholarly articles” will help students identify where to find the information they need.  Then, within these boxes, choose the correct information type or structure.  If you are including a link, use the “link” structure – the same goes for “database” or “book from the catalog.”

Why is this useful?  Because assistive learning technologies, like Kurzweil, utilize the hierarchy of data structures to allow users to skip from one to the next quickly.  Therefore, if a user is interested in finding scholarly journal articles they can easily skip past the box labeled “Finding background information” and go to the box titled “Finding scholarly articles.”  If they know they want to search in Worldwide Political Science Abstracts they can easily skip through the other databases listed.  The alternative to this quick hop through information resources is a comparatively slow process of listening to a lot of text in order to find the desired resource.  I’ve seen this many times – librarians commonly select to use the “Rich Text/HTML” structure, which allows you to include text, and links, at will.  The lack of structure in this kind of content makes it inaccessible and unwieldy.

One of the nicest information types to use is “book from the catalog.”  By allowing users to paste the ISBN number for a book into the proper field, Springshare automates and standardizes the rest of the bibliographic information included in the recommendation.  This is also important for accessibility – individuals can learn a significant amount of information without having to leave the page and the standardization allows users to anticipate what information to expect on the page. Utilizing this information structure also makes your guide look nice!  The cover of the book can easily be included, and the visual element breaks up the text-heavy guide.

accessible libguides

Revising libguides to abide by this accessibility principle provides great value to the library’s user community.  If your library uses another application to direct students to resources, take a look at the structures available or be sure to utilize the correct html element in your guide creation process.  Leveraging the hierarchy of guide design and descriptive elements of html can make a huge difference for the access of individuals with differing needs.