Archive | January, 2022

Celebrate the Increased Accessibility of Libby!

19 Jan
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In an exciting development for late 2021 and early 2022, Libby has continued to make their service more accessible to disabled patrons! OverDrive has been working with the accessibility platform Fable, a user experience service that allows disabled people to test websites and programs for accessibility and provide feedback, to improve their service to ensure greater access to all users. They have also been utilizing industry standards, including the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, which you can read here. Hoboken Library Patrons have two different options for Overdrive services that use the Libby
: eLibraryNJ and eBCCLS both of which include collections of ebooks, magazines, and digital audiobooks.

The first batch of updates have made the service more accessible to blind and low-vision users:

  • Support for screen readers: Libby currently allows screen readers on the mobile apps for iOS and Android, and is hoping to test this for desktop screen readers (NVDA, JAWS, etc.) in the near future. Screen readers allow blind and low-vision readers to listen to the text on a page, essentially reading the page aloud like an audiobook and thereby making it accessible to them.
  • Read From Here Mode: Users can enter ‘Read From Here’ mode to have the text of an ebook or magazine read aloud if they’re using a screen reader.
  • The option to add Navigation Bar labels (currently English-only): This can be found in the in-app menu. Hopefully this will be expanded to non-English languages in the near future.
  • Adjustable text size: Libby will automatically scale the text in the app based on the text size setting of the user’s device. Users can also increase or decrease the text size in ebooks manually, helpful for anyone who uses large print books.
  • Adjustable audiobook playback speed: There are 48 speed settings for audiobooks, allowing users to find the perfect listening speed.
  • Keyboard shortcuts: Libby’s ebook reader and audiobook player now have keyboard shortcuts to make keyboard navigation more seamless.
  • Lighting options: Libby now has three lighting options – light, dark, or sepia – and users can select one manually in the ebook reader. Libby will default to the device’s built-in lighting setting and display the app in light or dark mode depending on the user’s device.

Other accessibility features are coming this year – January 2022 being the target date:

  • Improvements to the screen reader and voice control: These improvements will make it easier for assistive technology users to interact with the app. Label and description improvements are planned.
  • Keyboard focus indicators: This will allow users to navigate the Libby app with a keyboard or any other assistive technology that doesn’t use a pointing device, such as a mouse or touch controls.
  • Full screen menus: The app menu, instead of opening from the side of the app, will now open full screen, allowing users to better focus on the task they opened the menu to perform. It also allows for more consistency for keyboard and screen reader navigation.
  • Updated menu icon: The in-app menu icon will be changed to an icon that is more universally recognized as a menu icon to improve navigation.
  • New settings under Accessibility Features:
    • Ability to reduce color variation: a toggle will allow users to reduce adaptive changes based on book cover colors. Instead the colors will be neutral and have good contrast, enabling easier reading.
    • Text Variation Reduction: Users will be able to adjust the text variation settings to make for easier reading, such as removing text changes for emphasis (italics, etc.).
    • Motion Reduction: This reduces transitional motion in the interface; users can set this preference in their operating system or browser preferences and Libby will learn it automatically upon opening the app.
    • Haptics Reduction: Haptics are subtle vibrations devices use to provide feedback on touch interactions. Users can turn haptics off in Libby at the operating system level on their device or in the accessibility features menu.
    • Orientation Locking: Libby defaults to using a “smart orientation” setting that chooses the device orientation that best suits the content being viewed, but OverDrive has learned from WCAG guidelines that users should be able to override this orientation and select what is easiest for them to use.

With these updates, Libby’s accessibility to disabled users – and users in general – is increasing tenfold. As a disabled library professional myself, it’s always heartening to see changes like these being made, allowing disabled people to more fully participate in society as we deserve to. Hopefully more apps follow suit and continue to improve accessibility to the fullest extent possible!

Steph Diorio is an autistic self-advocate and can be found discussing issues affecting the autistic community and disability community at large on social media. She has spoken at Targeting Autism, a conference regarding autism and libraries, twice, once in 2018 and once in 2019. She is also the archivist/local history librarian here at Hoboken Public Library.

A High School Classic and a Modern Debut: Catcher in the Rye and Boys of Alabama

12 Jan

Hi all! I’m Emily Sierra, and I am a new library assistant at Hoboken Public Library! With a degree in English with a focus on creative writing, being surrounded by literature and talking about literature is almost second nature for me at this point. But what I’ve enjoyed most since graduating (and since I’ve been able to wander the stacks again) is being able to finally catch up with contemporary fiction and not just be bogged down by all the literary “Greats.”

During the summer of 2020, I picked up a book on a whim: Genevieve Hudson’s debut novel, Boys of Alabama. The first thing that instantly caught my attention was that this would be a queer coming of age story based in a state I was unfamiliar with. The second thing that made me take it home was Hudson’s use of magical realism; weaving and blending the whimsical with the mundane until they are indiscernible. Being a fan of Gabriel García Márquez, I simply had to explore this contemporary addition of the genre.

Hudson’s debut novel is gripping and haunting while at the same time stingingly relatable with characters that effortlessly crack some of the best one-liners, all of which is painted in front of the backdrop that is the sticky Alabama heat. The story centers on shy teenager Max as his family makes the move from Germany to Alabama. His sense of otherness instantly suffocates the pages; he is not just a foreigner in a new land, there is also something just off about him than from the other boys. And yet due to his physical strengths, he is taken in–or perhaps better put dissolved into–his high school’s football team. Surrounded by good old fashioned American machismo, beer, and the Bible, Max adjusts and readjusts himself to mold into this new idea of manhood. However, upon meeting the school’s “witch” and openly gay student Pan, Max must see and confront aspects of himself he would rather have melt away in the Alabama humidity.  

Staring at my bookshelf, I could see a strange parallel to make with the ever classic and timeless syllabus-stuffer J.D Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye.

I had re-read Catcher during a rather bleak summer break my junior year of college (I even read the two books during the same season, look at that!). No longer a sneaky AP kid in high school relying on Sparknotes, I read the book for myself and just myself. And what difference it had made! I am sure Catcher needs no proper introduction. However, Holden Caulfield, the book’s contested and often (rightfully) ridiculed protagonist, no longer was an annoying, incomprehensible character for me to force a 5-paragraph essay on. He was a developed character filled with nuance, one that raised a magnifying glass to the many absurdities of forced masculinity, of what growing up too quickly and too soon can do to a kid. Holden tosses himself into problem after problem, loudly proclaiming the world to be full of phonies and yet bitterly aware that he may be the biggest phony of them all–a timeless conflict, really, and one even more compelling for a teenage boy to face. 

Both Max and Holden embark on their own personal odysseys, both literal and internal. Forced to face teens their own age who can be cruel while surrounded by adults who are even crueler, both young men reflect and re-reflect, contradict themselves and contradict themselves again as they struggle to catch a glimpse of who they truly want to be. Reading the two together, it is clear that even since its publication in 1951, the ripples of Catcher in the Rye and its haunting image of boyhood is still felt in the novels of today. Whimsical imagery coupled by the red hot anger of adolescent boys, both writers paint stark and gripping images of teens on the brink of adulthood. 

Thankfully, both Catcher in the Rye and Boys of Alabama are available in print through the BCCLS Libraries (and you can even score a Catcher in the Rye study guide if you have an upcoming assignment)!

Written by:
Emily Sierra
Library Assistant

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