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Telematics for Libraries - Projects


Updated: 22 NOV 99
Project Number and Title
4003 - Testing Systems using Telematics for Library Access for Blind and Visually Handicapped Readers
Programme/Action line Call Topic(s) Start End Project Duration
in Months
FP 4/ A 2 and 11 October 1996

Keywords : OPACs; Public library services; visually disadvantaged user requirements

blue bullet Additional information is available from the TESTLAB Web site . (

Action Line

Action line A: Network-oriented internal library systems.

Call Topic(s)

Call topic 2: Tools and methods for the creation and use of library materials in electronic form
Call topic 11: User applications supporting unified access to combined network information and library-based resources.

Project description

TESTLAB has established a series of practical trials in public and academic libraries whereby blind and visually handicapped readers can gain access to catalogues and digital documents in forms which they can read. These trials stem from the EXLIB (Expansion of European Library Services for the Visually Disadvantaged) project under FP3. TESTLAB links to several national activities.

Technical approach

The project encompassed five trials:

The Netherlands built on an ongoing national project and develop a common user interface.

In Ireland , the trial supported the policy of moving access to alternative format materials from the national centre, NCBI, to the public library system.

In the UK , the public library system linked in to a national catalogue with data for alternative formats, and to an extended ILL system for such formats.

In Italy , workstations were installed in a special library, a regional public library and in a small local library.

Four universities in Austria installed workstations and linked the libraries together. They also linked to the German database of alternative format materials.

Developments were based on user needs. User interactions with the system and the user responses (users include the librarians) were analysed. Care was taken to ensure that the evaluation criteria in each country had a common basis.

Key issues

In four countries and eleven libraries, adapted workstations have been installed to allow blind and visually handicapped readers to access catalogues, networks, databases and electronic documents. Each trial had its own characteristics, although all are based on the same premises.

The main technical issues were:

  • Improved access to catalogue information.
  • The ability to search networks and databases.
  • Improved access to documents, either as electronic files or through other conversion systems to produce electronic files.
  • Delivery of these files to the readers for them to adapt them to the form which is most appropriate (synthetic speech, transitory Braille, printed Braille, large print).


TESTLAB has provided real experience, in public and academic libraries, of ways in which the target group can have access to what the sighted take for granted. The project provided direct benefits to the users of the test sites, and also provided fully evaluated models to all other library systems as to how this group can be served.
For readers, the impact could be considerable. Today, even the most active user of national institutions for the visually handicapped gets access to one or two percent of what is available to the sighted. As these experiments have been firmly embedded in national and local library developments, there is a higher possibility that the practice will become integrated into national policy and practice.


Main deliverables of the project, not all of which are public, included:

  • Report on OPAC access.
  • Report on expert users group.
  • Study report, Greece.
  • Interim report on catalogue.
  • Report on implementation, Italy.
  • Integrated Catalogue.
  • Central Catalogue, Ireland.
  • Report on user needs for interfaces.
  • Interim interlending report.
  • Interim evaluation report.
  • Interim users report.
  • Interim report on changes in library use.
  • Annual and Final project reports.

Additional information is available from the TESTLAB Web site . (


Name of Institution/Organisation Postal Code / City Country
Studie en Vakbibliotheek voor visueel en anderszins gehandicapten
Project Department
Title, First Name, Name Mr. Richard TUCKER
Project Manager
Address: Molenpad 2
Tel: + 31 20 62 66 465 Fax: + 31 20 62 08 459
E-mail 1: (email removed) E-mail 2:

Other Partners

Name of Institution/Organisation Country Role
National Council for the Blind of Ireland IE P
The Royal National Institute for the Blind UK P
Centrum voor Gesproken Lectuur NL P
University of Linz AT P
Polyplano Euroconsultants GR P
Istituto David Chiossone IT P
Berio Library IT P
Libris Computing Ltd. UK A
University of Graz AT A
Share the Vision UK S

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