GTT/AEBC National Conference Call: NNELS Detailed Notes, July 27, 2016

August 31, 2016

(The following are detailed notes from the CCB and AEBC National Call which took place on July 27, 2016)

Dear program supporters,

On July 27, 2016, we held the national conference call regarding library services. The national conference call was sponsored by the Canadian Council of the Blind’s Get Together with Technology Program (GTT) and AEBC’s Accessible Information and Copyright Committee

The topic of the call was “Canadian Library Services: Who provides it, what do they provide, how does it work and what does the future look like?” Mr. Leo Bissonnette, AEBC National Board Member, and Mr. Albert Ruel, GTT Coordinator, acted as moderators and Kim Kilpatrick, GTT Coordinator, assisted with the question and answer sessions and other logistical details.

During the call, approximately 30 participating listeners heard presentations from representatives of the Center for Equitable Library Access’, Michael Ciccone and Margaret Williams, as well as from the National Network for Equitable Library Services’ we had Sabina Iseli-Otto presenting.

This document contains the NNELS notes from the presenters and the notes from the questions asked by callers. A separate document exists listing the CELA presentation and responses.

We thank all of those who presented and participated on the call.
We hope you will find this document helpful.

##Canadian Library Services: Who provides it, what do they provide, how does it work and what does the future look like?
Wednesday, July 27, 2016, 7:00 until 8:30 PM

##NNELS Presentation Related to Committee Questions
Presenting on behalf of NNELS: Sabina Iseli-Otto, Public Services Librarian. Sabina can be reached at NNELS by e-mail at: or by phone at: 1-888-848-9250, option 5. This information is also on every page of the website at http://www.NNELS.CA.

Questions/ Answers

What is NNELS?

There are two ways we generally talk about what we do:

First off, that we are a team of sharing people who build and maintain an online collection of books in accessible formats that are available through public libraries in participating provinces and territories.

Secondly, we are a service of public libraries. We complement existing library collections and work with library staff to make all library services more accessible.

More officially, NNELS supports independent readers and equitable library service for all Canadians. Lead by eight provincial and territorial governments and their departments responsible for public library service, NNELS and libraries leverage both existing expertise in Canadian accessible format production and public technology infrastructure. NNELS also recognizes regional variations in capacity and consumer service needs to ensure every participating community can make the most of the shared resources and collection.

How and why was NNELS created, and what are its operating and funding structures?

Arguably, NNELS began with IELA, the Initiative for Equitable Library Access, which was a Library and Archives Canada attempt to address the needs for (a) an internet portal, (b) library standards and training, and (c) an electronic clearinghouse, or collection.

In 2010, provinces that participated in the CNIB’s Partners program were, without warning, invoiced large amounts of money for access to that program. In one province, the bill was $1000 one year, and then $350,000 the next. Provinces that didn’t pay were cut off from access to the CNIB collection. Consequently, the CNIB was seen as an unreliable partner by some of the directors of the Provincial and Territorial Public Library Council.

As for the “how”, those provincial and territorial library directors decided to test a precursor to NNELS as a proof of concept — to see if the technology could work. They wanted to test book storage and the online delivery of books to valid library cardholders. The idea was that almost all Canadians have access to a public library, and public libraries have a provincial and territorial mandate to be open to all. These ideas were underscored by a growing understanding (and sometimes legislation) that accessible information was a responsibility that public libraries needed to take seriously, and not offload onto a third party.

Now for the operating and funding structures.

NNELS is funded entirely by participating provincial and territorial governments. NNELS is not a separate organization. We take direction from the provincial and territorial Funding Partners, and every year funding from those partners goes to the BC Libraries Co-op, the service partner (which actually has members from across Canada despite having BC in its name).

When it comes to decision-making, input comes from many places: public libraries, readers like yourself, our staff, even readers’ friends and family members. Ultimately, the Funding Partners make the decisions, but because everyone is clear on the vision, which is making public library services and collections accessible to everyone, we are all working together and moving in the same direction.

How is NNELS’s distribution service funded?

It depends on what a reader needs. For some, the distribution is the download and that does not require anything beyond the download itself. For readers who need discs, provinces and libraries decide what to do. Some provinces fund libraries to perform tasks such as burning DAISY discs for the libraries in a region. There is one very small, rural library in Alberta that downloads dozens of books a month for a few people.

Basically, if a reader needs a book, and that book is in NNELS, most libraries can get it to the reader on the same day, so long as the library’s open, at no charge to the reader – same as any other library books.

How is the end product produced and acquired?

Assuming that the end product is an accessible-format book, we purchase them, we produce them, we convert them from older formats such as reels and cassettes, we have volunteers who record them, and we obtain them through exchange from other accessible format producers, including the Crane Library’s collection from UBC and through the Commonwealth Braille and Talking Book Cooperative.

Furthermore, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia have both negotiated e-book deals that include copies coming to NNELS. This past April, Alberta announced that they had purchased 1,000 books for NNELS through an agreement with the Book Publishers Association of Alberta.

How is the production and acquisition of accessible Library products funded?

Production and acquisition are part of the provincial and territorial funding. A portion of every province and territory’s contribution goes into a content budget every year, and that budget is managed by our Content Coordinator. Reader requests are given highest priority. Sometimes provinces contribute additional funds for specific projects — for example, Saskatchewan has helped with the production of many Summer Reading Club titles, as well as many Saskatchewan Book Award winners and nominees, and more.

Who owns the collection?

The provinces and territories that are building it. If any of the participating jurisdictions withdraw from NNELS, or if the lights go out on the service altogether, those provinces and territories would still have access to the collection they helped build. The books themselves are housed on servers owned by the Co-op, which is made up of libraries, most of which have boards made up of community members.

Can NNELS Library users become decision makers, and if so how?

I’m going to interpret this question as being about how people can contribute to NNELS:

We’re very receptive and responsive to feedback, and are always looking for more. You can contribute directly to the collection by producing or recording books, for example, or, if you’re an author, sending us a copy of your book. It’s helpful when people report books that have problems – that’s true for any library. Letters of support, to us, to your library, or to provincial governments, are always welcome.

One specific way you can be decision-makers is by speaking with staff at your library, and, depending on your community, joining a library board and helping shape library service locally. This can sometimes have a huge impact.

Lastly, a number of people and organizations have done things that have helped themselves become decision-makers along the way. CCB and AEBC are two such organizations. We have seen some extraordinary leadership on public policy and access from the Canadian Federation of the Blind, and the Vision Impaired Resource Network’s pioneering work with peer mentorship programs have become the model to emulate in many libraries.

When it comes to accessible library service, becoming a decision-maker is relatively easy. Find some people you would like to work with, pitch in where you see a need, and stand up for access wherever you live.

Who does NNELS serve? Children, young adults, post-secondary students, working adults, seniors?

Anyone with a print disability as defined by the Copyright Act which includes people of all ages with impairments related to vision, mobility, and cognition that prevent them from being able to read a book in standard print format is our target demographic. At this time, we only accept production requests from public library patrons; we cannot accept requests from academic institutions or schools at this time. Collections for all audiences are growing constantly. For example, we recently received a grant to purchase books for older children and young adults.

What are the current NNELS delivery options: home delivery, computer, and Direct to Player downloads?

Any eligible user (or friends or family) can download books directly from NNELS with a valid library card. Direct-to-Player downloads are not enabled yet, but we are working on an API which would make that possible for those who rely on getting books that way.

For now, people or libraries can download books to computer, burn discs, use flash drives or SD cards, or download directly to an iOS or Android device using the Voice Dream app. If you do not know how to get books onto your device, we can almost certainly help. There is almost always a way.

In-person delivery depends on the services offered by local libraries. Most public libraries do a lot for people, especially for those who read books.

How do I start using my public library’s NNELS service?

If you live in a participating province or territory, talk to someone at your library. If the staff there do not know about NNELS, please ask them to contact us. Training for libraries is free and unlimited. All you need, as a reader, is a library card and a “print disability”.

What services and supports can NNELS library users expect when attending their local public libraries?

We hope everyone can expect to use all of the library’s services. One thing that people often do not know is how much they can do with a library card, and that most libraries already have huge collections of accessible content and library staff who are happy people access it.

For example, if your library subscribes to OverDrive which is a library platform for borrowing downloadable books and audiobooks, you have access to those books. There is an iOS and Android app for OverDrive and for most other products your library licenses. Furthermore, if you are one of the millions of Canadians who does not have a smartphone or tablet, and either does not have a computer or cannot use one, the library is allowed to burn MP3 audio CDs with OverDrive books for readers.

Libraries also offer meeting space. If you are hosting some kind of public event or meeting, libraries are often open to letting people use the library’s space for free or little expense.

Librarians are also very helpful if you need a reading recommendation. Remember, just because a book does not exist in an accessible format now, does not mean it will not after you request it.

Every province has its own legislation for public libraries, and every library is unique based on its history, environment, and staff. At minimum, expect from your library respect, curiosity, and a commitment to public service. And if you are not getting those things, we are among the people you can call.

How do I return a book when I’m done, and when does it expire?

That depends on what your local library is doing — whether they are circulating discs or not – but the digital NNELS files themselves neither expire nor self-destruct. Our Terms of Use require that our books are only for eligible readers. Please do not share copyright-protected books with people who are not qualified to access them.

To date, 54 Canadian publishers and 23 international ones have sent us books, and we want those relationships to stay healthy. That is why we keep our Terms of Use short and clear, and kindly request that both libraries and users follow them to the letter. You can find them at

What are the main print disabilities served by NNELS besides vision loss?

I am not sure because this is not information we collect. We explicitly avoid collecting personal information about our users.

Where is NNELS’s library service available in Canada, and where is it not available?

It is presently available in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and the three territories. It is not available, officially, in Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, or PEI.

If readers in a non-participating area are desperate for a book in NNELS that cannot be found elsewhere, we can send that book to the reader’s local public library. The same goes for other accessible format providers in Canada, if they have a reader who wants a book we have, we will send that book and we will happily cooperate further with any organization that also shares reciprocally. Ultimately, the door to NNELS is open to all Canadian jurisdictions through the provincial department responsible for public libraries.

How can people living in Ontario and other unserved regions of Canada take advantage of NNELS services?

Again, the door to NNELS is open to all Canadian jurisdictions through the provincial department responsible for public libraries. You can discuss access with your library or write a letter to your provincial government explaining why you want access to NNELS.

Also, we have a number of books that are open content, which anyone can download without an account. For example, we are working on producing all of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Reports. Those are in the public domain and anyone can download them from our website. English and French.

Does NNELS currently offer a Direct to Player app, and if not are there any plans to do so?

We don’t have an app yet, and it is not a priority given that the Voice Dream app works so well.

Does NNELS offer a free subscription to BookShare, and if not why not, and is there a plan to do so?

We do not offer access to BooksShare for several reasons. First, because we were excluded from early negotiations to participate in Canadian arrangements with BookShare. Second, its costs exceed our budget. Third, there are privacy problems we would need to resolve associated with public libraries and sending personal information to the US. Fourth, we’d pay for access to Bookshare but never own the content. We aim to invest primarily in content we own.

If there were an opportunity to collaborate nationally, we might be able to revisit that decision.

What copyright access limitations does NNELS face when acquiring or producing accessible library products produced in other countries?

This year’s amendments to the Copyright Act changed the requirements for author nationality (formerly, authors of works exchanged between countries either had to be from Canada or the country with which the exchange was taking place), removed limitations on producing large print books, and changed the language around international commercial availability (changing “commercially available” to “reasonable time and for a reasonable price”).

How will the Marrakesh Treaty and Canada’s altered copyright laws affect our access to alternate Library products?

I hope by increasing access to them tremendously! We may have missed a collective opportunity to push forward federally on a couple of policy pieces, but I hope that doesn’t affect what we’re going to be able to do. There’s a blind, Spanish-speaking refugee who recently arrived in Winnipeg. I suspect the Marrakesh Treaty will make a world of difference for him.



Regarding online books, is that different from audio books found in the CNIB collection?


Yes, it is different.


What is your contact information?


You can contact NNELS by e-mail at: or by phone at: 1-888-848-9250, option 5. This information is also on every page of the website at NNELS.CA.


Asking for a clarification regarding the OverDrive system, the questioner asked, am I correct in understanding that one can take a book text from the OverDrive system and burn it on to a CD in MP3 format?


Correct. Any local library that subscribes to OverDrive can do that with MP3 audiobooks if the app is inaccessible or a library patron is not able to use a computer to borrow OverDrive books.


Does NNELS have any books in braille and large print? If not, have you considered providing books in braille and/or large print?


There is already a lot of large print available through interlibrary loan. With the advent of tablets these days, there is a great deal that people can do to adjust print and fonts with e-text files on these devices. NNELS has a large collection of etext books in RTF format so they will open in Word or any text program, and will also work with braille displays.

In terms of braille, NNELS does have some BRF files. But we have learned that there no Apple or Android APPs that read them. We are not actually printing braille, but there is a move among the provinces to build a shared braille collection. Here we are talking about sharing physical braille books that could be shared and moved around to where they are needed/requested.


How are you funded? Please clarify again.


NNELS is not a separate organization. We are funded completely by the participating provinces and territories. They contribute annually.


**A question about VoiceDream Reader. To confirm, is it a direct link as BookShare is in VoiceDream Reader to get to the NNELS collection—that is, you login on VoiceDream Reader and then you have access to the book?




Can you search for a book from within the APP?


Yes. It opens the NNELS website and you do a search from there.


Can you download both text and audio?




VoiceDream Reader is very powerful because it allows you to work the APP with a braille display. You can read braille from within the VoiceDream APP. And, if you press PLAY, it starts where you left off reading. In other words, you can read braille for a while and then you can switch over to audio if you wish. It’s the “Swiss Army Knife” of reading APPs! So that is one way to get at braille easily.

This switching back and forth between braille and audio is doable in BookShare or with any text file being read in VoiceDream Reader.


Does NNELS produce textbooks and how do you get textbooks for students?


NNELS does not produce textbooks for students. Our mandate is to serve public libraries. So we don’t produce textbooks for the public education system or the post-secondary systems right now because we are funded by the ministries that oversee public libraries. But we have a number of books in the collection that are textbooks—in part because of UBC’s Crane Library Collection. Looking to the future it is the hope that is that accessible format producers across Canada will get better at sharing the books that they have. Right now this is quite locked down for a number of reasons that are political and also have to do with relationships that publishers demand from post-secondary institutions. But to come back to the question, NNELS does not produce textbooks for students at this time.


Could you clarify the audio formats that your books are in? Do you read them with a reader and put them in DAISY format or are they only in etext?


There is a mix. We have MP3s that are only audio and those are all recorded by narrators/by people. We have DAISY books that are recorded by computers and some that are recorded by people. If you are searching the NNELS catalog and you find Apple Alex, Apple Samantha, or Apple anyone in the Narrator field that will mean synthetic/computer speech narration. Just to round this out, as was noted previous the etext books are in RTF format. We also have EPUB and PDF formats.


It was mentioned that Ontario, Quebec and some of the Atlantic provinces—with the exception of Nova Scotia—are not part of NNELS. What the non-participating provinces saying is their reason for not joining NNELS?


Sabina indicated that she was not privy to this information.


You briefly mentioned that you could help us access books if we couldn’t find them in a collection or if we found something in your collection (living in a province where NNELS was not offering their service. Am I correct in understanding that your tech support could help individuals get the books?


Sabina indicated carefully that she is offering this unofficially. As a librarian, Sabina helps where she can. NNELS will collaborate reciprocally with any other accessible-format producers or distributors. In participating provinces and territories, NNELS provides tech support, especially to library staff.


Starting with a comment, the questioner said: Recently the Copyright Act was amended through Bill C11. The questioner noted that the way he had read it several things that the NNELS presenter said were still in the Act had in fact been eliminated. The restriction that the author had to be Canadian or a citizen of the country to which you were sending the work. His reading was that these restrictions were now gone. The large print limitation is gone. The questioner was suggesting that further investigation is needed here….


You are right, but at this time the actual ability to exchange books cannot be done until September 30, 2016 cross borders when the Marrakesh Treaty is ratified. You are right that the large print provision and language around commercially availablility have also changed, but we still cannot produce or distribute books if they’re commercially available.


Going back to the BookShare comments, and BookShare not being available because of not being affordable and not wanting to pay for something that you cannot own, the question is: Are we not charging provinces enough so that we can afford to get services such as BookShare and put more money into production?


The focus on the quantity of money might not be the most effective or interesting way to think about expanded access. When looking longterm, the ideal might be to have a national, non-partisan institution such as Library and Archives Canada have a digital repository and allow any accessible format producer to convert those items into other formats. The collection would be there and public libraries would be responsible for public library services. That’s one idea, and at this point it seems unlikely to be something that becomes a reality in the near future, given the orientation of Library and Archives Canada. Another question is about what we can do to encourage publishers to produce books that are born-accessible, so that the resources needed to convert them are increasingly less expensive. How do we support even small publishers, producing epub formats, for example, so that they are part of the system in the future? Where is leadership on these issues coming from? It needs to come from everywhere, and it needs to advocate for a sustainable model, as well as for options and choice for readers. We want everyone to have access to everything but I would hazard to say that the barriers readers are experiencing at this time have less to do with insufficient funding than with issues of power and control.

##To add NNELS to your Voice Dream Reader app do the following:
If you don’t have an NNELS Account please contact Sabina Iseli-Otto directly, or ask your local Librarian.
Adding Your Existing NNELS Account to Voice Dream Reader (VDR):
Prepared by: Albert Ruel:
1. Double Tap the Settings Button on the VDR Home Screen.
2. Scroll to Content Sources and Double Tap to open it.
3. Scroll to the bottem of the page and Double Tap on Add Web Site Button.
4. Scroll to the Popular Web Sites section of the page and locate NNELS, then Double Tap on it. This should populate the User Name and URL Fields.
5. After checking the page content to see that the User Name and URL Fields are correctly filled in Scroll to the top of the page to find the Save Button and Double Tap on it.
6. NNELS should appear at the bottom of the list of sources you have registered on your device. Be sure the switch is turned On, then scroll to the top of the page and find the Close Button and Double Tap it. .
To add an NNELS book to your VDR reading list do the following:
1. At the top of the VDR Home Page Double Tap the Add Button.
2. Scroll the list of available sources and Double Tap on NNELS.
3. The above will have taken you to the NNELS Web Site, and if this is your first time accessing NNELS from VDR you will have to Log In. This happens when you turn your Router to the Headings movement unit, then Flick Down until you find the Log In Heading, then Flick Right to find the Log In Button and Double Tap it.
4. Scroll to the Edit Fields and type your User Name/Library Card Number and Password for your NNELS Account.
5. During the Log In procedure you can opt to have the Web Site remember your Log In credentials for future access by Double Tapping the Remember Me Check Box, Then scroll to the Log In Button and Double Tap it.
6. Now you’re ready to scroll to the Browse Heading and begin your search, or you can access the list of suggested reading found on this page.
7. Once a book is found, Double Tap the Download MP3 or RTF Link and the book will be loaded to VDR’s list of available titles.
8. Scroll to the top of the page and find the Close Button and Double Tap it. This should land you on the VDR Home Page where you will find your available titles, along with the latest one.

##Presenter CONTACTS
National Network for Equitable Library Service:
Sabina Iseli-Otto can be reached at NNELS by e-mail at: or by phone at: 1-888-848-9250, option 5. This information is also on every page of the website at http://www.NNELS.CA.

##What is CCB and GTT?
##The CCB was founded in 1944 by a coalition of blind war veterans, schools of the blind and local chapters to create a national self-governing organization.
The purpose of the CCB is to give people with vision loss a distinctive and unique perspective before governments. CCB deals with the ongoing effects of vision loss by encouraging active living and rehabilitation through peer support and social and recreational activities.
The CCB recognizes that vision loss has no boundaries with respect to gender, income, ethnicity, culture, other disabilities or age. As the largest membership organization for the blind and partially sighted in Canada the CCB is the “Voice of the Blind™”.
GTT was started in Ottawa in 2011 by Kim Kilpatrick and Ellen Goodman to give people a chance to share low and high-tech solutions, tips, and resources, and was soon brought under the CCB National umbrella as another consumer driven service and participation initiative. Through GTT you can learn from and discuss assistive technology with others walking the same path of discovery.
The group is made up of blindness and low vision related assistive technology users, and those who have an interest in using assistive technology designed to help blind and vision impaired people level the playing field. The GTT group meets monthly to share their passions for assistive technology and to learn what others can offer from their individual perspectives.
For more information about GTT contact: Kim Kilpatrick at, 1-613-567-0311,513, or Albert A. Ruel at 1-613-567-0311,550.

##What is AEBC?
AEBC is a national grassroots, peer support organization that is comprised of Canadians who are blind, deaf-blind or partially sighted and our supporters from the public at large. Our membership is comprised of a diverse range of socioeconomic backgrounds, educational achievements, life experiences, professional and nonprofessional occupations. These members work to ensure AEBC has a voice on all matters affecting participation in Canada’s mainstream society.

AEBC’s individual and collective advocacy efforts have been successful across Canada for almost twenty-five years and have spurred innovation in the private sector. This advocacy has resulted in many advancements and opportunities now available to blind Canadians in the mainstream of our society. In fact, most of the successful innovations with respect to information, communication and technology have taken place as a direct result of our members. They have acted individually and collectively, identifying and challenging Governments and other regulated organizations to make websites, banking machines, personal financial and healthcare information available in accessible formats for people unable to read standard print independently, confidentially and securely.
For more information about AEBC contact: Marcia Yale, National Secretary at, or 1-800-561-4774.