Koen Krikhaar - Part 2
In Part 1 of his story, Koen Krikhaar shared with us memories of the very early days of his 'DAISY connection'. Here, in Part 2, we learn about his introduction to IFLA, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions and the 'connection' between IFLA/LPD and the DAISY Consortium. Koen has been the Chair of IFLA/LPD (Libraries Serving Persons with Print Disabilities Section) for more than four years now. In his work with this association he has met some truly wonderful people and has learned a great deal about human rights and information access. His commitment is clear; his understanding and knowledge of the issues are evident. He has a vision for the way forward – the way to equitable library services and information access.
As Chair he was very much involved with the organization of and preparations for eBooks for Everyone! the IFLA Satellite Conference that was held place in Paris France this August. Please also read the article IFLA/LPD, DAISY, & You. It is published in this issue of the DAISY Planet.
Koen Krikhaar's Story: Part 2
The Connecting Road to a11y at the 'Library Junction'
Picking up my DAISY story from where we left off at the end of Part 1, (we were in 2004 at that point), my road to understanding a11y (The Accessibility Project) took a turn for the better. This was a result of my involvement with IFLA and the section for Libraries for the Blind (LSB) (now called ILFA/LPD, International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, Libraries Serving Persons with Print Disabilities Section"). I learned later that LSB has been the cradle of the DAISY cooperation, so in a way I turned back to my roots. At that time in the Netherlands, DAISY was fully implemented in the audio and braille services and most production facilities were centralized at Dedicon.
My first active engagement with the Section and its Standing Committee was in Hamburg, Germany in 2007 where I met with a mix of DAISY people and new library people. The meeting was chaired by Beatrice Christensen Sköld from TPB (now MTM) and hosted by Elke Dittmer from Medibus. The meeting was in turmoil – many experienced members were about to leave the Committee (or had already left) and it was unclear who would run the Committee since not all candidates met the IFLA statutes rules of eligibility. Fortunately a good number of new people had nominated to become part of the steering part. Because of the need to meet IFLA rules and regulations we had difficulty finding and appointing a chair for the committee. After some bureaucratic arm wrestling with IFLA we survived as an independent section with the help of Helen Brazier who bravely volunteered to be interim chair until the end of that year (2007). I later realized that finding new members and volunteering for the officers' posts in the standing committee is a recurring theme for this section.
Join IFLA, See the World!
It takes time to make sense of IFLA…at least for me it did. As a newcomer to the IFLA World Information Library Congress (WILC) at Durban South Africa in 2007, I needed to wear a "first timer" badge which added to my general sense of not knowing my way in this overwhelming crowd of 2,000 to 3,000 librarians and information workers from all over the world. I remember texting to a Dutch colleague at home (Twitter was not invented yet): "Help I am surrounded by middle-aged, bespectacled, grey-haired librarians!" (The library world then was not as cool and sexy as it is now…or have I changed my perspective?) Anyway, I was glad my first IFLA congress began with a pre-conference satellite for 'our kind' of libraries, organized by the South African Library for the Blind, and DAISY for Africa. This was the world I recognized and understood. I was impressed by the leading role SALB played for the African continent. I met Chris Friend from Sightsavers International and was impressed with his oratory powers. I had some hands-on experience with tactile books, and enjoyed good African drumming and a genuine skottelbraai (BBQ) with various kinds of indigenous meat.
IFLA is What You Make of It
And we did try to make something of it! For example I met with Sanja Frajtag from the Croatian Library of the Blind in Zagreb. Half a year later we worked with her and the DAISY Consortium to organize an IFLA-DAISY seminar for March 2008 in Zagreb. I also met with my Flemish colleague Geert Ruebens from the Luisterpunt Library in Brussels, which marked the beginning fruitful cooperation between our two Dutch speaking countries. Geert and I volunteered to host and organize the next LPD satellite to the Milan IFLA conference in 2009, two days in Mechelen, Belgium and one day in Maastricht, Netherlands. This satellite later became known as the P3 conference because of our threefold theme: Publishers, Public Libraries and People. These three P's still help to organize my thinking on a11y, although every now and then I add a fourth P, the one for (good) Products.
Driven by Products, Public Libraries, Publishing and the People
My perspective on a11y changed after the satellite at the Lamot brewery in Belgium. From that conference a P3 declaration was issued and endorsed by the IFLA Governing Board in December 2009. The whole event turned my attention to the interests of the people, who for now, may still need our products and services, but in the future may have an equitable choice from what is available in the marketplace. This lay the foundation for the work the LPD was to embark on in creating an IFLA Manifesto for libraries serving persons with a print disability. The Manifesto gained UNESCO recognition in 2013, the same year the Marrakech Treaty was concluded.
I also began to take an interest in copyright, its limitations and exceptions. It dawned on me that the human rights framework of the UNCRPD was the missing link needed to help bring the work of special libraries operating under an exception, into an inclusive society with barrier free access to books and information.
Creating Services, Not Only Products
Driven by an ambition to bring more accessible books to the people, the focus was in danger of being narrowed down to tools, techniques and deals with the publishers. As valuable as this may be, it does not take in consideration the simple truth that budgets will never support the conversion of mainstream publications into accessible ones. Working with publishers to help them publish in a better way is of course key, and it is at the core of the DAISY mission. The success of working with the IDPF (International Digital Publishing Forum) on the key accessibility issues of the emerging eBook file formats is indeed a miracle, I think comparable to that of Marrakech. The file formats and possibilities of media overlays are manifold.
There are also many ways of delivering the content, with or without digital carriers. "What do the people want, how do they (want to) read it?" is a question we need to ask time and again. Libraries are at the frontline of the reading public. Moreover, they are not owned by commercial "e-tailers" that lock readers into their ecosystem. LPD is helping to develop the agenda to create publicly available services where people with print disabilities can find their books and information, and have a choice of devices that create a good reading experience for them.
I have been chair of LPD now for more than four years and am looking forward to another year of working with the LPD group and other IFLA people, taking part in fruitful discussion, sharing and cooperating. A leading theme over the last years of our LPD work has been the integration of our (special) kind of libraries into the domain of general public library work. Last August in Lyon we presented several examples of how this can be done. We asked ourselves "How special are we anyway?" and showcased that in various ways we can integrate into the bigger library world. (We are pretty special in a way, but that was not my point.)
Now with the emergence of eBooks and eReading, integration is within reach. The BrailleNet-LPD satellite in Paris, just after the IFLA Congress in Lyon, was a good example of the efforts library and information workers are making to close the gap between mainstream and inclusive publishing. It is my conviction that working from the library service perspective can help to clarify the specific needs and wishes that readers with print disabilities have and also help them face the many challenges that still exists. Libraries know how to present their value to the public. They know a lot about the search and discovery library systems that are now emerging on the scale of the Internet. Days of library records sitting in a filing cabinet are long gone. Linked data, global collections and rich description access (RDA) are leading the way. We need to be there with our collections and files. This is one strategic issue where LPD and DAISY can collaborate. If people can't find us, we are nowhere. An ongoing alignment between LPD's and DAISY's agendas on this point could be extremely helpful.
There is of course no end yet to my DAISY story and the road to a11y…I'd love to continue this story with you through IFLA or otherwise.