Smarter searching with library databases
Tuesday, 16 May, 2023 - 19:30
Learn how to access library databases, take advantage of the functionality they offer, and devise a proper search technique.
Your gateway to a wide range of online information resources
TRAINER: Hello, and welcome to this library training session, Improving your Experience Accessing Online Resources. My name is Hannah Woods, and I'm one of the Learning and Teaching Librarians here at the Open University, and I'll be taking you through this session.
So starting with our learning outcomes-- so by the end of this session, you will be aware of accessibility issues with the formats of some library resources, know about hints, tips, and tools for improving the accessibility of library resources, know what SensusAccess is and how to use it if you have a print disability, and know how to contact the library for help and support.
So library resource formats-- the library buys subscriptions to journal articles, ebooks, new sources, and lots of other resources through databases. A database is simply a collection of resources. There are many different suppliers of databases, and so the material they provide has different levels of accessibility.
The main formats of our resources include images of text, PDFs, HTML, and EPUB, which is an ebook format. The library does liaise with publishers over accessibility of their resources. So if you have any feedback or comments, please let us know by getting in touch via the library help desk. We can forward the feedback on and work with publishers to improve the accessibility of their resources.
We're now going to focus on each of the resource types in more detail. So starting first with images of texts. So where you might find problems with the format of materials is in certain PDFs, particularly older ones, and in scans and images. An image of text is a scan or photo printed material. Images cannot be read by screen readers, nor text-to-speech software. This is a format used in some historical materials, such as newspapers.
Where funding allows, some historical material is being made more accessible using optical character recognition, or OCR for short. This is a type of software that reads an image of a text and tries to transcribe the image into characters. However, results vary widely, and it is not without its problems. Sometimes databases default to showing images of text when it is also available in another format, so it's always worth checking for other options.
Next, we're going to visit one of the databases in the library's collection. So next is an activity, and this activity uses a database called GALE Primary Sources. So I'm going to talk through the instructions, and then you might like to pause the video so you can have a go at the activity. So first, you'll need to navigate to the database, GALE Primary Sources. So there is a link in the session slides, or you can search for the database name in Library Search.
Once you're in Gale Primary Sources, search for "A letter to the Earl of Moira." Your results will display, and then from the list of results for monographs, select the letter dated 1797, "A letter to the Earl of Moira, in defence of the conduct of His Majesty's ministers, and of the army in Ireland." Try reading a few lines of the text, then tick the Plain Text OCR option under Views, and compare the two views of the document. What do you notice?
So now would be a good time to pause the video and work through the instructions on the slide. You might like to note down your observations when comparing the two views of the document.
So how did you find that activity? What did you notice about the two different views of the document? Perhaps you noticed that the original image shows the letter S appearing like a modern day F. Whilst the plain text OCR version is available, it does not always transcribe this correctly and won't have been checked for accuracy. Maybe you spotted some of the errors in the OCR version. It's important to remember that the original image was old typeface, and so the OCR conversion won't be perfect.
So we're moving on to PDFs. So PDFs are created to protect the content by being hard to edit and reflect what the original article or book chapter looks like in print. Adobe Acrobat Reader is the app originally created to open PDF files. You may have noticed that your web browser can often open these files, but there are some additional accessibility options in Adobe Acrobat Reader which may be helpful. I'm going to be demonstrating some of these shortly.
Legacy or older PDFs are typically poorly accessible and difficult to read for anyone. Newer PDFs tend to have good accessibility functionality. Accessible PDFs are available for download-- subject to copyright, of course-- to read offline through Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is available on most devices. To use a PDF with Adobe Acrobat Reader, first save it to your device, and then open it using Adobe Acrobat Reader. If a PDF has poor accessibility, you could try opening it in a Word document, as this may help. Word is better at identifying headings and spaces between words.
I'm now going to demo how to use some of the tools in Adobe Acrobat Reader. OK, so I'm going to switch to screen share mode, and I'm going to share my screen with you so that we can take a look at Adobe Acrobat Reader. It might be a few seconds pause while I share my screen.
OK, so the screen will have changed, and we're now in Adobe Acrobat Reader, and I've already got my journal article open, which is called "Changes in Volume and Bouts of Physical Activity and Sedentary Time Across Early Childhood-- A Longitudinal Study." So the first time you use assistive software or devices with Adobe Acrobat Reader, you'll encounter the accessibility setup assistant. This will allow you to set up some accessibility preferences.
You can also set accessibility preferences at any point by going into the Edit menu at the top of Adobe Acrobat Reader, so I'm going to click on Edit. And at the bottom of this menu, there is a Preferences option, so I'm going to scroll down and click on Preferences. This will open up the Preferences option, and within this, there is a section for accessibility. So this is where you can set your accessibility preferences.
So this, for example, allows you to change the document's colours, so the easiest way to do this quickly is to use the high-contrast colours offered by Adobe Acrobat Reader, but it is also possible to select your own custom colours as well. So I'm going to use the document colour options, and I'm going to click into the box next to the Replace Document Colours.
Then I'm going to click into the box to choose the high contrast colours that have been set by Adobe Acrobat Reader, and there is a dropdown menu with different colour combinations, so I'm going to select green text on a black background. Just underneath the colour options-- it's worth pointing this out-- there is the option to only change the colour of black text or line art.
Now, I haven't got this option selected because the text of my article is actually grey rather than black, so I want to make sure that Adobe Acrobat Reader knows to change any colour text to my preferred colour, which in this case is the green text. Now, before I come out of the Preferences option, there are some other accessibility options that I wanted to mention, and one of those is the option to have or to enable assistive technology support, so I've got this option selected.
And what this means is that Adobe Acrobat Reader will let you know when it can help or make kind of additional accessibility suggestions. But for now I'm going to click on the OK button. My PDF should be displaying in the custom Colours, or in the Colours that I've just selected, so the green text on a black background.
OK, so next I'm going to run through how to access the Read Out Loud text-to-speech tool available in Adobe Acrobat Reader. So I'm going to click on the View menu at the top of Adobe Acrobat Reader, and at the bottom of the View menu is the option for Read Out Loud. This opens up a submenu, and all the other options are greyed out, apart from the option at the moment to activate the Read Out Loud function. So I'm going to click on Activate Read Out Loud.
And next, if I go back to the View menu at the top of Adobe Acrobat Reader, scroll to the bottom of that menu to the Read Out Loud option. The submenu opens, but now that I've activated Read Out Loud, I've got the option to read this page only or read to the end of document, and also the option to deactivate the Read Out Loud as well.
So I'm not going to click that to do a full demo of Read Out Loud because I'm not sure that it would pick up in the session recording, but it's a useful option to explore, so let me click out of the View menu for now.
So next, I'm going to show how to reflow text. So this should convert the text into a single column that fills the width of the window. So I'm going back into the View menu at the top of Adobe Acrobat Reader, and I want to select the Zoom option. So a submenu has opened for me, and within that submenu, I'm scrolling down to the bottom, to the option to Reflow, and I'm going to click on Reflow.
So with some PDFs, like the one that I've got downloaded today, this option may not work. So the Reflow option, my article is still set out in two columns rather than one single column of text, so it's not worked on this particular article. So if this happens, it is possible to convert the PDF into a more accessible format using SensusAccess, which will then allow you to use the Reflow option.
So later in the session, we're going to talk about SensusAccess, and I'll revisit Adobe Acrobat Reader to show you how the option to reflow text works on a converted PDF file. But for now, I'm going to stop sharing my screen and we're going to go back to the session slides, so there might be a slight pause while I do this.
OK so the screen has changed, and we're back to the session slides. So next, we're going to be talking about HTML. So a lot of library resources are available online as web pages-- HTML format that can be viewed in a web browser, like Google Chrome or Edge. This format provides quick and straightforward online access, as there there's no need to download resources.
HTML format is usually compatible with text-to-speech and screen-reading software. Internet browsers have a lot of accessibility options built in, which can be used when viewing full text content in HTML. Browers also allow you to add plugins that can help enhance your reading experience. So you might like to pause the video now and spend a few minutes thinking about what you currently do to make studying on screen more comfortable.
So some of the things that we thought of to make studying on screen more comfortable were zooming in on a web page so that it's a bigger size, changing the theme to a higher contrast one, or dark on light, changing the size of a mouse pointer, changing the background Colours, using online rulers like Reach Ruler for reading on screen.
You might try using the Windows H shortcut so you can speak your words onto the screen, so voice to text, or perhaps changing the font used by your device. So there are a lot of browser plugins which can help, and there are some guides on the My Computer My Way website for AbilityNet. So I'll be sharing the link on a later slide.
So moving on to ebooks, so the EPUB format. So a number of factors can adversely impact on accessibility when the book is made available. For example, digital rights management, which allows a book to be downloaded for a set period of time and the software used to provide access to the book, sometimes created by the publisher.
The download, save, copy, and print limits on ebooks vary between platform and publisher. Ebook reading varies between publishers. For books available for download for a set period of time, you need to download software to read them, usually Adobe Digital Editions, which is free. It's more compatible with screen-reading software than text-to-speech. You can download books by chapter, where this is possible, and you can convert them to an alternative format using SensusAccess, which I'm going to talk about a little later on.
So database accessibility-- some of the library databases offer some accessibility features, but these will vary. It can be helpful to check out the Help section with an individual database to find out what guidance and accessibility features are available. We also provide accessibility tips for selected databases in the library's database list. This includes instructions for screen readers and keyboard users.
Databases may provide different ways to access the full text. For example, a journal article may be available as a PDF and in HTML. Remember that HTML versions may be easy to access and adapt the PDFs. Some databases also provide a built-in reader.
So in the next section, we'll focus on the conversion tool, SensusAccess. So this tool can be used by students with print disabilities to convert library resources from one format to another. So can you use SensusAccess? So material can be converted by and for print disabled students, i.e., those who have a visual impairment, a learning disability, such as dyslexia, autism, attention deficit disorder, or a physical disability where it significantly affects the use of printed materials.
So your module material should already be converted into an appropriate format for you. Contact your student support team if you have a question about accessible module materials. So what is SensusAccess? So it's an automated, online, self-service conversion tool to convert resources from one format to another. So for example, it can convert a PDF to text, audio, word, or Braille. It can convert some PDFs into more accessible versions. So we're going to be running through how to do this shortly when I do a demo of SensusAccess and convert my earlier article into a more accessible PDF.
It can't make tables, figures, and mathematical or scientific notation more accessible than they already are. And SensusAccess is available from the library website, and there's a link to convert a file with SensusAccess.
So I'm now going to show you how to upload a file to SensusAccess. So I'm going to go into screen share mode again so I can share my screen with you and we can run through how to upload a file to SensusAccess.
OK, so the screen will have changed, and I'm now on the home page for the Open University Library. So you can find a wealth of information to help you during your studies from these pages, but I'm going to click onto the tab called Help and Support from across the top of the page. So going to click on the Help and Support tab.
So the page has changed, and it's taken us to the Help and Support page. So I'm going to use the Help and Support menu on the right-hand side of the page, and I'm going to click on the link for Disabled User Support.
So once again, the page has changed, and I'm now on the Disabled User Support page. So this page provides lots of useful information about the resources and services available to disabled students at a distance. So this includes SensusAccess. So I'm going to scroll down the page to the section that is called Convert Files with SensusAccess.
And next, I'm going to click on the link, Convert a File with SensusAccess. So I will click the link. So the page has once again changed, and this has taken me to a page with further information about SensusAccess. So there's a useful video on this page that's got an accompanying transcript, and this provides a good introduction to the SensusAccess service.
There's also some guidance about how to reference the converted materials in your assignments, but I'm going to scroll towards the bottom of the page, where we'll find the SensusAccess conversion form. So this is a form that you would use to upload a document for conversion, so I'm now going to briefly run through how to do that.
So I'd like to upload a PDF file. So this is the journal article from our earlier demo. So for the source, I'm going to make sure that the File option is selected. You could also enter a URL or web address or type or paste in the text that you want to have converted.
Next is step one, which is to upload your document. So I'm going to click on the Choose Files button, and I'm going to locate the file on my desktop. Select it. So I've selected the file that I want to upload, and then I'm going to click the Upload button.
So step two is to select the format you would like to have it converted to. So I'm going to select the accessibility conversion. You could, if you wanted to, choose something like MP3 audio. Step three is then to specify your accessibility conversion options. So there's a dropdown menu. I'm going to click into the dropdown menu, and I'm going to select PDF, Tagged PDF (text over image).
So this is the option that you would select in most cases if you're wanting to convert a PDF into a more accessible PDF. And if you find that diagrams are blurry, you may wish to use the Tagged PDF (image over text) option. But for now, I'm going to choose Tagged PDF (text over image).
And then the final step, so step four, is to enter your email address and then to click the Submit button to complete your request. So I'm not going to do that myself because I don't want to submit an actual request, but that's what you do, and then you'll receive the converted file by email or via link, so you've got seven days to do that. It usually takes about 10 minutes for it to be converted, but if it's complex, it can take up to two hours.
If you have any questions about SensusAccess or would like further support with using it at any point, then you can get in touch with the library help desk, so I'm going to be saying a bit more shortly about how you can contact us on the library help desk. But for now, assuming that we've got our converted file, we're going to go back to Adobe Acrobat Reader so that I can show you how the Reflow option now works.
So I'm going to click into open Adobe Acrobat Reader. So the screen will change, and I've now got Adobe Acrobat Reader, and I've got my converted file open in Adobe Acrobat Reader. So the Reflow option we will find in the View menu. So I'm going to click into the View menu at the top of Adobe Acrobat Reader, and then I'm going to go into the Zoom option.
This opens that submenu. At the bottom of that submenu is the Reflow option. So I'm going to click on Reflow. So the text of my article was previously displayed in two columns, and it's now reflowed into a single column that fills the width of the window. So this makes it easier to read, as I can magnify the text, and I can read it without having to scroll left and right. So I'm going to stop sharing my screen now and return back to the session slides.
OK, so back with the session slides. So what to do if something is inaccessible? And this includes results from SensusAccess. So if you encounter any resources that are inaccessible, including file conversions from SensusAccess, you can contact the library helpdesk, and we will help. So you can contact us via webchat 24/7, email, and phone. Details of how to contact the library can be found on every page of the library website.
Please do also get in touch with us if you have any feedback or comments about the accessibility of library resources. So I mentioned earlier, we do a lot of work liaising with publishers about the accessibility of their resources, and so your feedback is incredibly important.
So sources of OU support-- so I've just mentioned, we've got the library help desk. There is also the OU computing help desk and your student support team. We've also put together a list of some external accessibility tools. So this includes, for example, My Computer My Way from AbilityNet. So this covers how to make a keyboard, mouse, Windows, the internet, and applications more accessible.
There's also a link to ATbar. So ATbar is a cross-browser toolbar, and it helps users customise the way they view and interact with web pages. So ATbar is free, and it allows you to change the look and feel of web pages, increase and decrease font sizes, have text read aloud. You could use coloured overlays. There's readability and a dictionary to aid reading. So it's a simple tool, and it's available for most popular browsers.
There's also the University of Kent Software Finder. So this provides links to free tools, apps, and software that could help make studying easier. So there's an accessibility category, and this includes assistive technology. There's another tool, called Grammarly. So this can be used to help check for general spelling mistakes and grammatical errors within documents and other text files.
OK, so we're just about at the end of the session now, so we're going to revisit our learning outcomes. So hopefully you should now be aware of accessibility issues with the formats of some library resources, know about hints, tips, and tools for improving the accessibility of library resources, know what SensusAccess is and how to use it if you have a print disability, and know how to contact the library for help and support.
If you have any questions about any of the content or guidance covered in this session or would like some further advice, please contact the library help desk. Remember, the details of how to contact the library can be found on every page of the library website. Thank you for watching this session recording, and goodbye for now.
Tuesday, 16 May, 2023 - 19:30
Learn how to access library databases, take advantage of the functionality they offer, and devise a proper search technique.