In this week’s Princh Library Blog post, guest writer Sam L. Bowman expands on what digital accessibility means for libraries, and suggest potential avenues for making your library more accessible. Enjoy!

Equal access to literary resources, open thought, and learning is foundational to libraries. It’s what makes them vital to society and local communities. Resources that can’t be accessed, for any myriad of reasons, will never benefit end users. This is why libraries strive to make their stores of knowledge accessible to people from all walks of life.

Since libraries serve a diverse audience, accessibility is an ongoing objective. Libraries already prioritize making their physical locations as accessible as possible, but with an ever-evolving digital demand, they are now tasked with making electronic resources more available.

Digital Accessibility in Libraries

Digital accessibility, or web accessibility, is a practice where digital tools and web interfaces are designed to be as inclusive as possible. This means socioeconomic restrictions, physical disabilities, and situational disparities shouldn’t be a barrier to freely using technologies. In the online world, this refers to accommodating users with varying degrees of digital literacy and differing physical or cognitive abilities.

In libraries, digital accessibility ensures electronic resources and information can be accessed and interpreted by as many patrons as possible. This accessibility serves patrons who otherwise wouldn’t be able to go to their local library due to work hours or mobility issues, patrons with visual or auditory impairments, and lastly, those who cannot afford their own electronic devices.

Today, libraries have embraced numerous means to be more digitally accessible, for example by providing free public access to the internet, computers, headphones, and printers. Some libraries even have Wi-Fi hotspots that can be checked out and taken home. Many libraries also offer screen-reading, speech recognition, and magnification software. All of these digital tools make library resources more relevant to the communities they serve.

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Technology Needed for Expanding Digital Access in Libraries

With digital accessibility as the objective, local libraries are looking to further expand their online capacities. Luckily, there are numerous tech tools for accessing library resources currently at their disposal. LibraryIQ is a cloud-based software that compiles all of a library’s data into a single dashboard for easier decision-making and analytics, and Communico is an international cloud-based software solution that integrates a library’s in-branch and online services to eliminate unnecessary time spent on duplicate tasks. There is also software available for collecting overdue books or fines, lending ebooks, checking out laptops or digital devices, and more.

Before layering on these integrated software solutions, libraries must first build a strong base network. Network management systems are employed so a small team can connect and manage all of an organization’s hardware and software — both in the cloud or onsite. A successful network management system should contain a clear physical layout, ample cybersecurity, efficient device response times, and scalability. This type of network will ensure libraries have the structural framework in place to hold more advanced software systems.

However, one drawback of expanding digital capacity through integrated systems is the added energy costs of compiling and storing library data. The environmental impact of cloud computing includes the ongoing electricity required to power data center hardware as well as billions of gallons of water to cool their servers. Libraries can overcome these energy issues by prioritizing sustainable cloud solutions such as partnering with data centers that utilize clean energy sources — like solar or wind energy — or partnering with centers that use energy-efficient hardware to reduce redundancy. This will ensure digital expansion will not only meet the needs of patrons but protect the environment as well.

Public Benefits of Digital Accessibility in Libraries

Equipping libraries to be more digitally accessible comes at the cost of embracing new technologies, but the added benefits to society are invaluable. Libraries are relevant because they can help anyone which in turn helps everyone.

Libraries are instrumental in the learning of children and the next generation. They serve to bridge the education gap through personalized study plans and access to necessary study resources, both physical and digital. They also support eLearning curriculums by providing computers and internet access to students who won’t otherwise have them, which means greater opportunities for these students and their families.

Libraries are also vital to supporting current and future workforces. According to a 2010 study conducted by the University of Washington Information School, “40% of respondents (30 million people) used library computers and internet access for employment or career purposes.” Of this, 68% submitted an online application while searching for jobs on library computers. In this way, libraries are supporting millions of people to get into the workforce.


Equal access to literature and knowledge in all of its various forms benefits everyone and learning resources in the hands of end users have nearly limitless potential. Hence, libraries are striving to cater to the ongoing needs of all their patrons by embracing not only physical accessibility but digital accessibility as well.

Digital accessibility means physical ability, socioeconomic status, and situational disparity shouldn’t be barriers to library patrons. This is why libraries are taking strides to incorporate new technologies and expand their digital capacities. These actions ultimately benefit the whole of society, because all gain from the empowerment of one person.

We will be back with another interesting article from the library world soon!

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Sam L. Bowman

Sam writes about people, community, wellness and how they merge. He enjoys getting to utilize the internet for community without actually having to leave his house. In his spare time, he likes running, reading, and combining the two in a run to his local library.

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