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Podcast: Victoria Owen on Libraries and the Marrakesh Treaty

About the ARL Views Podcast

The ARL Views podcast provides deep dives into key issues of interest to the research library community.

About This Episode

In this episode, Victoria Owen discusses the role that libraries and advocates played in Marrakesh Treaty negotiation, and the work currently underway by the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL) and the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) to implement the treaty. The Marrakesh Treaty establishes an international legal framework that allows for the creation, distribution, and import/export of accessible texts for persons with print disabilities.

Marrakesh is the first copyright treaty that is rooted in human rights principles, particularly the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Worldwide, about 300 million people are blind or have print disabilities; 90 percent of people who are blind or visually impaired live in the Global South, where only 1–7 percent of works are published  in accessible formats.

About Victoria Owen

Victoria Owen headshotVictoria Owen’s role as information policy scholar-practitioner in the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto allows her to put into practice the scholarship and principles of information policy. Her particular focus encompasses copyright, access, preservation, and the public interest. Her background is in library administration at the University of Toronto, and in special and public libraries, including the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) Library for the Blind. Victoria holds a master’s in library science and a master’s in law, specializing in intellectual property. She is the chair of the Canadian Federation of Library Associations (CFLA) Copyright Committee, on the board of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Accessible Books Consortium, a member of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) Freedom of Access to Information and Freedom of Expression Advisory Committee, and a member of the Ontario Library Association (OLA) Copyright User Group. She is currently a visiting program officer with the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL), and chairs the ARL/CARL Joint Task Force on the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation.

The following documents were referenced during our conversation:


Episode Transcript

Cynthia Hudson Vitale:

Excellent. Well, thank you all for joining us today for the first ARL Views podcast. My name is Cynthia Hudson Vitale. I’m the director of scholars and scholarship with the Association of Research Libraries.

Katherine Klosek:

I’m Katherine Klosek, director of information policy here at ARL.

Cynthia Hudson Vitale:

And we’re very excited to be premiering ARL’s first podcast series.

Katherine Klosek:

Yeah. So, Cynthia, what exactly are we doing here?

Cynthia Hudson Vitale:

Excellent question. Over the next six months, ARL will be piloting this podcast idea. And our goals are really kind of multifaceted. Obviously, we really want to provide deeper dives into certain topics and policy discussions that ARL libraries are a part of, and contributing to.

Cynthia Hudson Vitale:

You know, libraries are key partners in the research ecosystem, and then in the teaching and learning ecosystem at many of our institutions and organizations. And so providing more information in ways that they’re contributing to that is also a goal here.

Cynthia Hudson Vitale:

And we’re also super interested in explaining why this is important. Like what’s the bigger impact?

Katherine Klosek:

Yeah, and I think in our first episode on the Marrakesh Treaty, Victoria Owen does a really great job illustrating the role that libraries and library associations played in Marrakesh Treaty negotiation.

Cynthia Hudson Vitale:

So can you tell us more about what the Marrakesh Treaty is, Katherine?

Katherine Klosek:

Definitely. So Marrakesh, or the Marrakesh Treaty, I’m going to read you the full name because it kind of defines itself within the official title here. The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons who are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled.

Katherine Klosek:

So as Victoria lays out, the idea is to increase cross-border lending of accessible books and other materials. And it does that through requiring countries that sign onto the treaty to make changes to their copyright laws, really by committing to copyright limitations and exceptions.

Katherine Klosek:

Victoria does a great job talking about how the treaty is really the first treaty for users, rather than rights holders. And so she tells this story in a really great way.

Cynthia Hudson Vitale:

So what kind of stood out to you about her story? What was some of the things she talked about and listeners should be listening for?

Katherine Klosek:

I think the piece that I just mentioned, around this being the first rights treaty for users, and the human rights implications there. And the way that the treaty addresses intellectual property rights, as well as human rights.

Katherine Klosek:

I think too, that the imagery of the World Blind Union leadership, and that visible vocal advocacy, Victoria paints a really great picture of that. And then I think her own story around how she can’t stop thinking about accessibility and looking at issues through that lens.

Katherine Klosek:

You know, I listened to this again, and Victoria mentioned that accessibility issues are an afterthought. And we actually have a paper that I think we can post in the show notes around procurement issues for accessibility related to COVID-19.

Katherine Klosek:

And that comes through there as well. That’s sort of a theme, is that accessibility is an afterthought or a box that folks have to tick. But in an emergency situation, it kind of gets pushed to the sidelines.

Katherine Klosek:

I’ve just been sort of reflecting on all this in the context of COVID and the current emergency. And then of course the Stevie Wonder story is so cool as well.

Cynthia Hudson Vitale:

Yeah. The Stevie Wonder story was pretty impressive. But you bring up really excellent points about COVID-19, and the impact that it’s had on accessibility.

Cynthia Hudson Vitale:

I mean, when everything went remote, it really shifted the way we were teaching and doing research. And so for some, that unfortunately meant different modes of accessing information as well. And so what, what are sort of the implications there, I think is important to unpack.

Katherine Klosek:

Absolutely. And we sort of allude to this in a sentence or two, but currently there’s a proposal to take a look at current copyright law, and to ease up on some of the restrictions, so that companies can share their IP with one another to expedite vaccine creation and development, particularly in the global south.

Katherine Klosek:

And what’s interesting about that is, the focus is on the global south, individuals in the global south not being able to access affordable vaccines. And it’s the same issue that we’re talking about here with the book famine.

Katherine Klosek:

I believe the statistic is at 90% of people with blindness and visual impairment who don’t have access to accessible materials are in the global south. And so it’s the same challenges and the same problems perpetuating it.

Katherine Klosek:

What it really is, is existing patterns of poverty and disinvestment. And we’re seeing them show up in these different regimes, especially related to intellectual property.

Cynthia Hudson Vitale:

So you mentioned that Victoria Owen, she’s at the University of Toronto, and she is actually a joint visiting program officer with ARL and the Canadian Association of Research Libraries.

Cynthia Hudson Vitale:

And she’s actually leading this whole joint task force on the Marrakesh Treaty implementation. Correct?

Katherine Klosek:

Yes, exactly. And so, part of that task force. So right now the work is to identify institutions in the US and Canada to design and pilot this cross-border lending.

Cynthia Hudson Vitale:

That’s very cool. And I mean, she, as a visiting program officer within the Association of Research Libraries, essentially a part of your professional time with the institution is dedicated to working on these larger national issues.

Cynthia Hudson Vitale:

It’s a really fantastic opportunity for ARL member representatives or folks at ARL member representative institutions to really get involved in some high-level, impactful work. I think it’s just great that she’s this joint VPO, and that we’re working closely with Canada to kind of move this forward.

Katherine Klosek:

Absolutely. And Victoria’s background, which she shares a little bit about as well. But having worked at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, Library for the Blind, and chaired the International Federation of Library Association’s, IFLA, Copyright and Other Legal Matters Strategic Program. And IFLA’s an acronym that Victoria uses as well a lot.

Katherine Klosek:

And so that background and experience, and then passion that she brings as well, that VPO role is really perfect. And it’s great to work with her on that project.

Cynthia Hudson Vitale:

So you bring up some jargon or some acronyms that are used. Are there other terms that as people listen, they may be unfamiliar with?

Katherine Klosek:

I think so. I think probably the other big one that comes up a lot is WIPO, the World Intellectual Property Organization. And Victoria defines and gives context for this as well.

Katherine Klosek:

But WIPO administers copyright treaties, including Marrakesh. Also advises member states that might want to join the treaty.

Katherine Klosek:

WIPO also operates the Accessible Books Consortium, which is made up of libraries and in other organizations that represent people with print disabilities. Provides training and standards.

Katherine Klosek:

And, of course, WIPO is instrumental, because, as we’ll hear, the treaty was negotiated at WIPO headquarters in Geneva.

Cynthia Hudson Vitale:

Cool. So exciting. I think, our listeners will really love to hear more about Marrakesh. And with that, we’re going to turn it over to the recorded interview.

Katherine Klosek:

Let’s get into it.

Katherine Klosek:

So Victoria, we’re delighted to be talking to you today about Marrakesh. And before we get into the discussion, would just like to hear from you about the best term or language to use that centers the beneficiaries of Marrakesh. What’s the best sort of language or term to use in this conversation?

Victoria Owen:

Well, I think the Marrakesh beneficiaries captures it. They are the beneficiaries of the treaty.

Victoria Owen:

The people with print disabilities is another term that we can use. And there are blind people, or people who are blind. Starting with the people part is really, I think, the best way to proceed in any kind of conversation.

Victoria Owen:

But people with print disabilities includes everybody. And in some particular implementations of the Marrakesh Treaty, it is really for people who are blind. So, yeah.

Katherine Klosek:

Thank you. And I know we’re going to talk about implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty, but I’d love to hear a little more about how the Marrakesh Treaty came about, and what problem it’s trying to solve.

Victoria Owen:

I think a good place to start is with the problem that Marrakesh is trying to solve. And the World Blind Union, the people in the World Blind Union, the WBU people, they talk about it as a book famine.

Victoria Owen:

There are fewer than 10% of books, so one in 10 maybe. Well, under 10%. So between 7% and 10% of the world’s printed materials are available in alternate format.

Victoria Owen:

People with print disabilities… And there are approximately 300 million people worldwide who are unable to fully and meaningfully participate in many aspects of society, because they don’t have access to the materials that we take for granted to be able to participate.

Victoria Owen:

And the other thing to notice is that, about 90% of the people with print disabilities live in the global south. So one of the key provisions in Marrakesh is the cross-border access.

Victoria Owen:

And it provides the opportunities for works that are made into alternate format. So anywhere in the world, through a Marrakesh Treaty, they’re available and they can be accessed across borders.

Victoria Owen:

So how did the Marrakesh Treaty come about? To go back to the first part of the question. Treaty making in intellectual property happens internationally. And it usually happens with the World Intellectual Property Organization.

Victoria Owen:

Now the World Trade Organization has gotten into it too, but this treaty was negotiated in Geneva at the World Intellectual Property, WIPO, headquarters. So it is in that forum that it came about.

Victoria Owen:

And, just to go back a little bit in history, it came before WIPO in the early ’80s for the first time that we know of. So Dr. Manon Ress of KEI writes that the first step occurred in 1982 when WIPO and UNESCO recommended model laws.

Victoria Owen:

And then in 1985, a WIPO consultant, Wanda Noel, who’s a Canadian lawyer, recommended a [inaudible 00:12:15]. And we started going there in the mid ’80s, I think. So that was IFLA and ARL and a number of organizations. The Library Copyright Alliance, which represented ARL and a number of other institutions.

Victoria Owen:

And we drafted limitations and exceptions. So kind of a draft treaty. And it included an article on the print disabled, on making accessible works.

Victoria Owen:

But also at that time, and we were working together with countries who were sympathetic to that kind of an agenda. And the WBU was involved as well. I remember when I was at CNIB in the ’90s and early 2000s that we worked on language that we would put forward.

Victoria Owen:

So that was the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, the World Blind Union, the Royal National Institute for the Blind, the National Federation of the Blind. So lots of international associations were involved in trying to solve this problem.

Victoria Owen:

And then there was a proposal. The World Blind Union was really very [inaudible 00:13:32] in the forefront. It was really very bold, actually. The World Blind Union boldly put forward a draft treaty to WIPO.

Victoria Owen:

Well, the World Blind Union’s not a member state. So it was very interesting that they got on the agenda. But eventually it became normalized, and it was proposed by Brazil, Ecuador, and Paraguay to take on that treaty that the World Blind Union had put forward. And the African group was a big supporter of it too.

Victoria Owen:

Then it took on a life of its own, and it took many, many years. So that proposal by Brazil, Ecuador, and Paraguay came in 2009. And then it took until 2013 to get the diplomatic conference.

Victoria Owen:

So that’s how it came about. It was a long, hard slog. And when the World Blind Union became involved, many of the people from the World Blind Union came to Geneva, were in Geneva.

Victoria Owen:

So they came into the WIPO buildings with their white canes and their guide dogs. They were visible, vocal, and very persistent. And it came about.

Katherine Klosek:

That’s amazing. Thanks for kind of bringing us back to the origin of it. It’s a longer history than maybe folks realize.

Katherine Klosek:

We’ve heard that Stevie Wonder is instrumental in the treaty. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

Victoria Owen:

Well, I think, there were a lot of American associations for the blind who were involved. And, as you know, United States is a significant international player.

Victoria Owen:

And Stevie Wonder went to the General Assembly of the World Intellectual Property Organization in September 2010, and he issued a call for action. That proposal was on the books from 2009. So in 2010, he went to Geneva and spoke to the member states.

Victoria Owen:

Then after his speech, he gave a little concert and he said that if you have this treaty, I will come to Marrakesh and play for you, you know? That is really something that helps persuade people. It’s high profile. It encourages people to participate, I think.

Victoria Owen:

He was committed. And he was conversant about many aspects of copyright and intellectual property, and knew that access and the protection of rights could work side by side.

Victoria Owen:

I think it satisfied people on many levels. Like it was an emotional response, it was high profile, it was substantive. He knew what it was about, and what effect it would have.

Victoria Owen:

When he was young, most of the people who are blind went to residential schools. And some of the people I worked with at CNIB had been in school with Stevie. So they are very, very good Braille readers. Yeah.

Katherine Klosek:

It’s such a cool story. Thanks.

Victoria Owen:

It is. And he was wonderful. He came to Marrakesh and did his concert. Jose Feliciano was there and sang at the opening event, at the diplomatic conference. Lots of high profile people would have been interested in it.

Katherine Klosek:

That’s cool. You know, we say anyone can be an advocate. And I think you just gave several examples of advocacy.

Katherine Klosek:

You know, the high profile visibility of Stevie Wonder. And also you mentioned people experiencing blindness showing up as well, and that’s got to be so powerful. [crosstalk 00:17:59]

Victoria Owen:

That was really powerful. When people who are blind come into a room, you notice.

Katherine Klosek:

Absolutely.

Victoria Owen:

Yeah, yeah.

Katherine Klosek:

Love to hear you share a little bit about yourself and how you got involved in this work and the task force that you’re leading now on Marrakesh implementation.

Victoria Owen:

Well, so I’ve been involved in accessibility issues since the 1990s. I was the director of library services at the CNIB Library for the Blind in Toronto.

Victoria Owen:

You know, when you’re a director of a national organization, your colleagues are other national organizations. So we had a lot to do with others internationally.

Victoria Owen:

The Royal National Institute for the Blind, the NLS in the United States of the Library of Congress, the National Library Service. It was the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled at that time. The National Federation of the Blind and lots of blindness organizations.

Victoria Owen:

And in those days we worked on… So the World Blind Union was involved with CNIB. And they were interested in taking this forward for a legal instrument, for a treaty. And CNIB and IFLA, the International Federation of Library Associations, we were all involved in putting this thing forward.

Victoria Owen:

So it was a real collaborative effort. And in those early days, as part of a IFLA and CNIB initiative, we were drafting what those requirements might be.

Victoria Owen:

That just kept going after I left CNIB, but while I left CNIB, the experience of working in a library for the blind and dealing with all those issues, changes you forever. You are never the same.

Victoria Owen:

You never walk down the street, you never look at a web page. You never see anything in the same way. You’re always looking at accessibility. And I was there a little bit over 10 years. So it was really inculcated into me.

Victoria Owen:

So in a way, I think it was a shock to go back to the mainstream. Because this is your perception. This is the way you advocate. And then you go back into the mainstream and accessibility becomes an afterthought, if it’s thought of at all.

Victoria Owen:

And if you remind people, you are… Reminding people is discouraged. If you want to pursue accessibility… People would tell me that there aren’t enough people who are going to take it up. So it’s not worthwhile to make such an effort.

Victoria Owen:

So I remained involved in IFLA, and then I was a member and the chair of the Copyright and Other Legal Matters committee. And then I began to attend those WIPO meetings.

Victoria Owen:

I started in about 2006 to go to the WIPO meetings. And then you just begin to take up the issues on the exceptions and limitations.

Victoria Owen:

So while that was, from 2004 I’d been working on a draft limitations and exceptions document with the library community. And as I said, one of those articles was about accessibility. Then it began to gather a lot of steam, and it went forward.

Victoria Owen:

We allowed it to go forward, hoping that we would be able to put the initiative back in the other exceptions later on, which is what we’re currently doing. But this one has gone ahead.

Victoria Owen:

And this one, the Marrakesh Treaty, was a very good one to go ahead. Because, we’ll talk about it a little later, but because it was a human rights issue. And that was, I think, something that made it a little different in terms of perceptions from others.

Victoria Owen:

So then I stayed involved, and that initiative took on momentum. And the blindness organizations turned up. And then we found ourselves in Marrakesh at the diplomatic conference.

Victoria Owen:

And while the work had started from, if you go back to, as early as 1982. So the work had started, and then we found ourselves in Marrakesh at this diplomatic conference. And it was amazing how much work had to be done there.

Victoria Owen:

In the first days of it, during the first week, there were so many voices against the treaty that the director general, Dr. Francis Gurry, said, “If this persists, we might as well go home.” Because it was going to be derailed. There were still member states who were against it.

Victoria Owen:

Anyway, that seemed to settle it down a little bit. And then we were there working on the text, and helping on the language that was going to be in there, and the terms of negotiation.

Victoria Owen:

So the libraries, IFLA was there, a lot of other library organizations, the blindness associations were there. There was a lot of move back and forth to have those conversations.

Victoria Owen:

We got the treaty, and now we have a lot of momentum there, and how many people have signed the treaty. There are well over 100 individual countries, because the EU signed on as a unit, but that’s 28 member states. So I think it’s in the low hundreds.

Victoria Owen:

There are a good number of countries left, but there is momentum. And there’s the ability to put this into practice. Now we have the legal framework. Now we have the ability to do it. So, ever practical, how are we doing it?

Victoria Owen:

Because I never forget, when I was at CNIB and I was telling blind people that I knew, my friends who are blind, that I was leaving. And they were just devastated. Like, “Who will do this for us?” You know?

Victoria Owen:

So I feel like I still owe them this. This still needs to be done. We have the policy framework. Is it actionable? What are we doing on the ground? Are they seeing the difference?

Victoria Owen:

The promise of the treaty is fabulous, but I want to do what I can to deliver on the promise. And I think it’s partly because of that connection to people who are the beneficiaries still seems so strong for me.

Victoria Owen:

So I want to know how it’s working. Are the books moving across the borders? If not, how do we make that happen?

Victoria Owen:

I think that’s what we’re doing with CARL and ARL. We’ve had the conversation, so kudos to CARL and ARL for getting this going, and then for taking up the challenge of having a VPO and putting it forward.

Victoria Owen:

So now we’re having this implementation project to work out the mechanisms, the technicalities that are a barrier. Because while we have this international treaty, so that’s the first step, we now need international standards so discovery can happen, and cross-border exchange can happen as seamlessly as possible.

Victoria Owen:

I think that’s the next step in working it out. The policy framework is there, so let’s put the practical framework in place.

Victoria Owen:

We’ve done a number of things. We’ve created a Getting Started guide to help libraries and library staff understand what the Marrakesh Treaty does. Because when you talk to people, there’s a lot of misunderstanding about exactly what it does and what it allows you to do.

Victoria Owen:

So we did this Getting Started guide, produced by IFLA, and CARL, and EIFL, and the World Blind Union, and the University of Toronto. It’s available on the website at IFLA and CARL. And then there are a number of adaptations.

Victoria Owen:

It was always meant as a template. Because the one that we created was high level, and it was about the treaty. But how each country implements the treaty is a little bit different. The United States implemented differently than Canada did. So how do we work [inaudible 00:27:39] that?

Victoria Owen:

There’s a guide there for Canada, and there’s a guide there for… In Canada it’s in French and English, because we’re a bilingual country. And then the United States, there’s just one that Karen Keninger did from the NLS.

Victoria Owen:

So that’s available. And then we also, in 2019, we did a test run in Vilnius. We had a little regional pilot project, really. We went to Vilnius, and we had about five or six countries come. Astonia Finland, Russia, Lithuania.

Victoria Owen:

Countries in that region who wanted to exchange Russian language materials. They had their own national language, but they wanted to exchange Russian language material, they would have that in common.

Victoria Owen:

So we did a pilot there, and then they started doing some kinds of international exchange. It’s a start.

Victoria Owen:

One of the things that we came up with against them, and I think we’ve come up with the CARL/ARL one, is how we get the accessible metadata organized and get it standardized? So that we can automate the searches and the delivery.

Victoria Owen:

So there are some things to work out, but I think we’re on the way to solving some of them, or the first steps in solving some of them. They’re not easy.

Victoria Owen:

And you can see what the impediments are for people in implementing it on the ground. So if we can take away of those impediments, I think we’re going to be in much better shape for the delivery of the promise of the treaty.

Katherine Klosek:

Thank you for sharing what keeps you motivated to work in this space. And we’ll share the Getting Started guide in the show notes. That sounds like a great resource.

Katherine Klosek:

You mentioned human rights. So I did want to ask, we’ve heard the Marrakesh Treaty described as sort of straddling human rights and intellectual property. And I think we’re maybe seeing a similar theme emerge related to vaccines currently.

Katherine Klosek:

So I’d just love to hear, from your perspective, what does that mean to you? Does that resonate? How do you see Marrakesh straddling that line?

Victoria Owen:

Well, I agree with the scholars who wrote the article on the Marrakesh implementation, where it is now. So that’s Ruth Okediji, and Molly Land and Laurence Helfer.

Victoria Owen:

I’ve talked to both Professors Land and Okediji on this over the years, to understand the role that the human rights played. Because they’ve written about it in the copyright exceptions article. And also, of course, in the book, the World Blind Union Guide to the Marrakesh Treaty, in that introduction.

Victoria Owen:

I don’t think without the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities… I guess I should restate that. I think that Convention on the Rights of Disabilities informed how we were able to go ahead with the Marrakesh Treaty. Because there were significant human rights that could be advanced through making accessible works, and making them available worldwide.

Victoria Owen:

So that international provision, and the provision to be able to make works without having to ask for permission. And you can see how important it was in the EU directive on the Marrakesh Treaty, is that there were no exceptions to it.

Victoria Owen:

The way you implement Marrakesh is that you have that, that ability to do it… I think every country did that. Is that you have the ability to produce the material in alternate format.

Victoria Owen:

So I think it is the intersection of intellectual property rights and human rights. And it may be way forward. I think Drs. Okediji and Land talk about it in the article, that it opens the opportunity of Marrakesh to apply to other disability groups.

Victoria Owen:

And in some countries, other disability groups have been included. So for example, in Canada, it is people with perceptual disabilities. So that’s a much, much broader term than for people who are blind.

Victoria Owen:

I think it’s a broader term than the language in the US law. So those kinds of expansions into human rights, they can see can happen fairly readily.

Victoria Owen:

There may be other ways that other human rights, like the rights to culture and education, can be leveraged to have limitations for education, for certain kinds of library activities, like the preservation of cultural heritage materials and those kinds of things.

Victoria Owen:

I think it’s an important first step. I think it is, the Marrakesh Treaty is unique and wonderful in so many ways. Of course it was the first rights treaty for users. And I think it got to be that because of its association with human rights.

Victoria Owen:

It also led to a lot of countries adopting Marrakesh and then looking at their other exceptions and expanding them. Those were very good outcomes of the Marrakesh Treaty.

Victoria Owen:

Then it’s the fastest moving treaty in the history of WIPO treaties. So in some ways, you do things right and you’re rewarded with a broad adoption of it.

Victoria Owen:

And that’s not insignificant for WIPO. The WIPO director general, Francis Gurry, mentioned it so frequently, that it was the fastest moving treaty. So it’s good for them, because it helps with their relevance.

Katherine Klosek:

That’s great. Yeah, I’m certainly learning a lot from you today. So one more question.

Katherine Klosek:

Victoria, you’ve mentioned the promise of the treaty a few times, and we’d just love to hear your thoughts on what is the promise? What does the future of accessibility look like when the treaty is fully implemented?

Katherine Klosek:

And you also talked about some barriers that are precluding lending of these materials. So we’d love to hear what does the future look like? What is the promise and what does it mean to be fulfilled?

Victoria Owen:

Well, I think, with so many things, the promise is very big and it would be really… It’s such a model. Marrakesh is a model in so many ways.

Victoria Owen:

It would be wonderful to have it as a model of full implementation. That it really does achieve its goals in a fairly short period of time. And that, I think, is one of the great benefits. I think it’s so wonderful that CARL and ARL have taken this on.

Victoria Owen:

CARL and ARL, these are the largest, most influential research libraries in Canada and the United States. And they have, among their staff, they have experts in metadata. They have experts in systems implementation.

Victoria Owen:

So we’re able to make use of that expertise, really to benefit the whole world. Because if we can showcase how this is implemented, and then develop those operating procedures that we talked about, so that people who are using library systems elsewhere can look at the documentation that we provide, and be able to do this implementation.

Victoria Owen:

Then foundationally too, we need that metadata sorted out. And so to have some of the best and brightest of our institutions participating in solving this problem, is going to advance the implementation of Marrakesh and help realize the promise of the treaty.

Victoria Owen:

If we can ground it in specifics, what it will mean is that print disabled people in Canada and the United States can get access to alternate format works. They can discover them on our systems, and they can get access in the same way as sighted people do.

Victoria Owen:

So to me, that’s the promise of it. That there aren’t additional barriers. That it is the same. What we’re doing now is making the works that are already in alternate format.

Victoria Owen:

So when they’re born accessible, that will be a very big difference. A lot of them, the accessibility is added after the fact. It’s taking works that are part of a course and/or materials that people need for their papers and research, and making them an alternate format, the specific format that they’re requesting.

Victoria Owen:

That makes those words accessible. And that’s what we’re doing in the short term. But I think in the long term, to have born-accessible, and barrier-free access in the same way that people who can read print have, will be the full implementation of that treaty.

Victoria Owen:

I mean, yeah. The full implementation of the treaty is making those works accessible worldwide. And those are the beneficiaries, those are the students and staff and faculty at all of the CARL and ARL institutions that would be the beneficiaries, who need alternate format works.

Katherine Klosek:

If we can go into the weeds, you’ve mentioned metadata several times. And if you could just explain the role that metadata plays in this project, and why it’s so important, I think that would be really great.

Victoria Owen:

Well, with every work that’s held in a library that’s accessible, there’s a catalog record for it. There’s a description of that work.

Victoria Owen:

And currently we’re using a machine readable format called MARC 21. And MARC 21 has fields in it, data fields, that describe the work. So there are specific fields for title information and there’s specific fields for publisher and date of publication.

Victoria Owen:

And there are some specific fields for accessibility. But many of them are not available to be indexed. So you put a text, this is a, an accessible work in Braille format, for example. It may not be searchable. Because you can’t index if it isn’t going to be searchable.

Victoria Owen:

So what do you want to be able to put in there is to identify the fields that you need, and make them searchable so that you have DAISY format, Braille format, every kind of accessible format that’s available, is listed and searchable.

Victoria Owen:

And then you want to be able to have the rights information. Because, as I mentioned earlier, different countries have implemented the law differently.

Victoria Owen:

You need to be able to make sure that there’s adherence to the laws in the countries that they apply. You need to have that in your rights information, because that’s also a MARC field, is the rights information.

Victoria Owen:

Those are things that need to have agreement, and then become standardized. Because everybody has to agree, just as we did with the title field, that that’s the field for titles. And then you can search across systems.

Victoria Owen:

So it’s a kind of a standardization. And it would be a standardization of the metadata so that everybody uses it in the same way, and then the queries and delivery can bring about the discovery of the materials.

Katherine Klosek:

Thank you so much. [inaudible 00:42:32] Is there anything that we didn’t ask about that you’d like to share?

Victoria Owen:

Well, I would like to say that a lot of people are committed to making this happen. We’ve been involved in this, I think the CARL and ARL implementation project started last year. So over the course of the year, we’ve been really looking at, spending some time getting to know metadata and what’s required.

Victoria Owen:

But then being in touch with other organizations that are involved in accessibility, and to work with them, has been really very rewarding and so helpful. There’s a commitment, there’s a national, international commitment to doing this. And there is a real cadre of experts who are committed to doing this.

Victoria Owen:

And it’s been really wonderful to work with them and to renew acquaintances with people that I’ve been in touch with when I was at CNIB, and then also to make new ones. It’s across the globe, who’s involved in this.

Victoria Owen:

There’s the W3C, there’s, OCLC, there’s the FRAME Project. There’s the Library Serving the Print Disabled at IFLA. There’s [Naus 00:44:09], and CNIB, and Bookshare. And everybody has been very, very generous with their expertise.

Victoria Owen:

We all have the same goal. So it’s been very inspiring, and I’m so grateful for their generosity.

Katherine Klosek:

Well, we are grateful for you today for sharing your expertise and your time with us today. Thank you so much. This has been a great conversation.

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