REVEAL: The National Database of Resources in Accessible Formats

As part of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport funded Library and Information Commission and Share the Vision programme to improve library and information services for visually impaired people, UKOLN was commissioned to review the role of a national union database of resources in accessible formats and to make a technical specification of the data elements required. The study took place between September and December 1999.

The original commission to UKOLN was to produce a technical specification of the metadata requirements for the National Union Catalogue of Alternative Formats (NUCAF), created and currently maintained by the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB). This brief was extended to include a review of the future role of the union catalogue and its accessibility to a range of professional users and the general public.

In the review of NUCAF and its role, a number of factors were identified. Historically, provision of accessible format materials has been the province of voluntary specialist organisations with some commercial production in large print and more recently in sound recordings. Bibliographic record coverage of accessible format titles is incomplete and not comprehensive, and little is listed in the national bibliography. The British Library charter contains no specific remit in this area and much of the material is excluded from the national bibliography. Existing regional library system union catalogues coverage is variable. Currently copyright restrictions discriminate against effective provision of library and education services for visually impaired people and accessible format producers must negotiate individually with every publisher for every title they wish to convert.

There are more than 230 producers of this material but only five per cent of the hundred thousand new British titles published each year is converted to an accessible format. While NUCAF provides a vital tool, the output of some producers is not recorded or is recorded incompletely.  Direct access to NUCAF is limited to RNIB staff (because of system constraints) though the file is now accessible to library staff through the Unity and V3.Online inter-lending union catalogues, and through downloaded subset files for schools and post-16 educational establishments.

The recommendations were that an enhanced database should combine the functions of a union catalogue, a stock selection resource, an inter-lending tool, a sales and hire catalogue, a copyright permission register and an in-production file, and form part of the national bibliography. In order to make the database more widely accessible, a web-based platform was recommended, supported by CD-Rom products and the continuing availability of the file on databases such as Unity and V3.Online. This would be supported by the NUCAF retrospective conversion project which aims to identify and acquire records for accessible materials currently not listed in the union catalogue.

The metadata specification identified the data elements which are required for accessible materials in addition to the data elements required for any title. The specific format needs to be identified, including details such as font size for large print and the specific layout for braille music. Records need to include subject indexing for fiction (in addition to genre) and non-fiction, indication of abridged texts, content summaries, and the names of narrators or cast in audio recordings. Some materials are for sale or hire or are free on request rather than being loan items and the record must indicate relevant details.

A report was submitted to the Steering Committee in January 2000 and the recommendations accepted. The full text of the report and an accompanying briefing paper are available in Word7 and pdf formats. A new name for the database has been chosen - Reveal: The National Database of Resources in Accessible Formats. A grant has been awarded by the British Library Co-operation and Partnership Funding programmel to continue development work on Reveal and work on a feasibility study has begun.

[Bibliographic Management]

Content by: Ann Chapman of UKOLN.
Page last revised on: 03-Jun-2005
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