Issue #9 - Summer 2013

Quarterly Update
OCUL’s quarterly catch-up... read about what’s new at Scholars Portal, announcements from our member libraries and future OCUL plans and initiatives

ACE Pilot Project

Removing barriers for Ontario's university students with print disabilities

Ask a Librarian

See what UOIT, OCADU and Western have to say about their first year offering OCUL's virtual reference service.


Scholars Portal Journals - a Trusted Digital Repository

How did Scholars Portal Journals become a certified trustworthy digital repository?

Events Recap

Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate!


Looking Forward - a message from the OCUL Chair

The first half of 2013 has seen OCUL very much looking toward the future. The collaborative efforts and discussions of our membership have already identified some important opportunities for OCUL. Two of the new directions OCUL has committed to in the coming months include the implementation of a Scholars Portal shared cloud storage network and the investigation of the opportunity for a shared webscale management system (sometimes known as a URM). Stay tuned for updates on these projects.
Congratulations and thanks to all who have attended and helped facilitate the successful OCUL Digitization and URM summits, as well as all those who have participated in webinars, working groups and committees so far this year. This expertise, vision and continued engagement helps the OCUL Directors, OCUL staff and Scholars Portal team make informed strategic decisions. It is truly a strength of OCUL as a consortium.
In order to continue to harness this collaboration and knowledge exchange to maximum effect OCUL recently conducted an Organizational Effectiveness Review. The impetus behind this is to ensure we are well positioned to manage our existing shared resources and infrastructure into the future and to equip OCUL to embrace future opportunities, much like those identified above. The final report and recommendations of the Review are available to staff from OCUL member libraries on the SPOTdocs wiki.*
Discussions are currently underway throughout the OCUL community regarding how best to implement these recommendations and shape OCUL’s future. Further information about this process will become available over the summer.  On behalf of the Directors I encourage all staff at OCUL member libraries to join the conversation, be that through OCUL’s existing committees and working groups or by directly contacting the OCUL Office or the local institution’s OCUL Director.
The ongoing success of OCUL depends on the engagement of its community at all levels. With this in mind I am certainly looking forward to this next stage of our collaborative endeavor.

Margaret Haines

OCUL Chair, University Librarian, Carleton University

*A SPOTdocs login is required to view these pages.
If you would like to request a login please contact the OCUL office, ocul [at]

OCUL Directors Meeting

The OCUL Directors have met in person on two occasions so far this year; on January 30 at the University of Toronto for 2013-14 budget discussions, and for their Spring 2013 meeting at Laurentian on May 9 and 10.  Both meetings were highly productive. The Directors will meet again in late August and for their Fall meeting on November 25 and 26 at the University of Ottawa.
More information is available to staff from OCUL member institutions on the OCUL Reports and Digests section of the SPOTdocs wiki (login required).

Joyce Garnett, Western University UL, retiring

Photo of retiring OCUL Director Joyce Garnett
Credit: Paul Mayne, Western News

Western University Librarian, Joyce Garnett, will retire in March 2014 after 15 years at Western University. She has stepped down from her role as University Librarian on June 30, 2013 to begin administrative leave.  Joyce has long been involved with OCUL as both Treasurer and Chair of the OCUL executive committee, and as Director for both Western University and Laurentian University. She has made an incalculable contribution to OCUL over the years in these roles. She was a driving force behind the establishment of Scholars Portal and the OCUL ILL system through her role as chair of the Ontario Information Infrastructure Project Management Team. Most recently Joyce has been Director Liaison for both the OCUL Maps Group and the Data in Ontario Group (DINO). OCUL would like to thank Joyce for her dedication to OCUL and wish her all the best for the future.

Western University Archivist, Robin Keirstead, has taken on the role of Acting University Librarian at Western, as of July 1, 2013.

ACE Pilot in full-flight

The Accessible Content E-Portal (ACE) Pilot Project is now well underway. The project is entering the second half of its year-long development of an online digital repository for accessible print materials and an accessibility information toolkit for library staff. The goal of the project is simply to make it easier for students to get library materials in accessible formats, and to make it easier for OCUL libraries to provide accessible services to all members of their community. 

The Repository

In fulfilling the first of these goals the pilot is investigating a mechanism for sharing accessible library materials to be made available to students and faculty with verified disabilities across OCUL institutions. Currently disability officers located in the library or the university’s accessibility service support students with print disabilities. The project partners recognize there is much duplication in the process of making library materials accessible. The ACE Pilot Project seeks to decrease the time it takes to convert print texts into accessible digital formats, remove the current duplication of efforts in this area and increase the scope of material available to library users with print disabilities. This can be achieved by sharing the workload and resources across the province.

The Information Toolkit

The second element of the ACE Pilot Project, the information toolkit, aims to increase understanding of accessibility issues within the library including compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA). It will also provide practical tools in the areas of law and administration, procurement, and public services, to help library staff put this knowledge into practice.

The project so far

To date the project team has implemented a pilot version of the repository, loaded with initial content.  To accomplish this, a working group has been established, consisting of library staff working with accessibility services at the pilot institutions. These libraries currently include:

  • Carleton University
  • McMaster University
  • University of Ottawa
  • Queens University
  • Ryerson University
  • University of Toronto
  • University of Waterloo
  • York University

Working with Scholars Portal, these experts have provided practical information and advice to develop the processes and technology for the repository. The ACE project team has also built a relationship with the Internet Archive that is ably assisting with the digitization process.

The repository was launched on May 1, providing students at the pilot institutions access to this content through a beta version of the repository’s web interface. Initial feedback from users has been very positive:

“I just used the new system and "Wow!" this was so easy. Much quicker than the old method for sure.” (Anonymous user)

Development of the second component of the project, an information toolkit, is also underway. Members of this working group are in the midst of creating and collating various toolkit materials to assist library staff in the areas of law and administration, procurement, and public services. The Information Toolkit working group is made up of 17 library staff from 9 OCUL institutions across a range of specializations. The libraries participating in this part of the project include:

  • Algoma University
  • Guelph University
  • McMaster University
  • Queen’s University
  • Ryerson University
  • University of Toronto
  • University of Waterloo
  • Western University
  • York University

What comes next?

In addition to finalizing the content for the information toolkit, the second half of the project will focus on integrating the three OCUL institutions that have recently joined the project (McMaster, Queen’s and Ryerson), uploading additional content to the repository, promoting its use amongst the participating institutions, and pilot evaluation

For more information regarding the ACE Pilot Project contact Project Manager, Katya Pereyaslavska (katya.pereyaslavska [at]
The ACE Pilot Project, is a collaboration between OCUL and the University of Toronto, with support from the Government of Ontario as part of the EnAbling Change Program. This program is an initiative of the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario and provides financial support and expertise to organizations to educate an industry or sector across the province on their obligations under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA).

Ask the new librarians

Ask a Librarian logo with red and orange speech bubbles

In 2012 three new libraries joined Ask a Librarian, OCUL’s virtual reference service which provides research and reference support via online chat accessible through each library’s website. UOIT, OCAD University and Western University began offering Ask to their communities in Fall of 2013, adding to the diversity of OCUL institutions currently participating in the service.

Now as the end of the first year of their participation approaches, OCUL Quarterly asked the virtual reference coordinators Stephanie Orfano (UOIT), Daniel Payne (OCADU) and Jennifer Robinson (Western) to reflect on the impact of the service on their communities.

 “The Library and Learning Zone at OCAD University have experienced immeasurable benefits in participating with Ask a Librarian.” (Daniel Payne, OCADU)

Increased Reach and Reference Support

All three agree that Ask has expanded access to their libraries and reference services. Western, as Jennifer Robinson explains, “was able to double the number of hours per week of virtual reference service provided to the Western community as well as add evening and weekend coverage.” Western did this with the same number of staff hours previously used to deliver their localized service. UOIT (who were not already providing a virtual reference service to their community) discovered that Ask enabled the library to expand its presence beyond the physical campus. “With a large commuter population the Ask service allows the library at UOIT to offer users exceptional reference services off-campus,” explains Stephanie Orfano. This aspect of Ask will become even more valuable as distance education grows.

A Collegial and Collaborative Experience

 The Ask service is provided by library staff and library studies students, with three to five operators scheduled for each shift. From Daniel Payne’s point of view Ask has given OCADU staff the opportunity to “expand [their] capabilities in communications and reference interviewing skills, while honing efficiency in learning to navigate through new information environments.” The Ask service provides networking opportunities within OCUL as operators learn from each other and through exposure to other institutions. Operators “gain a more intimate knowledge of their collections, web design, wayfinding systems and institutional approaches to reference services.”

Stronger Online Connection to Local and Provincial Learning Communities

The benefit to staff stretches beyond the development of professional skills to building a more meaningful online connection with their communities. “Joining Ask a Librarian has revitalized our reference connection to our students and faculty, who have moved online to conduct their research” Jennifer Robinson observes. The positive feedback from Ask users and their repeated use says the same. “It has also exposed library staff to users at universities across Ontario and to other OCUL libraries, which has inspired us to think of new ways to meet local user needs.”
Thanks to Stephanie, Daniel, Jennifer, members of the OCUL Virtual Reference group and contributing staff and interns for ensuring the success of the service this year.

Find out more about Ask a Librarian

The Road to TDR 

Accreditation and beyond

Scholars Portal Journals reached a preservation milestone in February this year, receiving official certification as a Trustworthy Digital Repository (TDR) from the Center for Research Libraries (CLR). This achievement demonstrates OCUL’s commitment to ensuring the integrity, authenticity and usability of the materials in its collection now and into the future, and verifies that Scholars Portal has created a robust digital preservation system to support this goal.
Of course TDR certification signals only the beginning of OCUL’s commitment to digital preservation. But before considering the future, it is important to acknowledge the path so far. How did Scholars Portal come to be a Trusted Digital Repository?

The Vision

In 2007 the digital preservation landscape was heating up. Quality electronic content had already become integral, nay vital, to the academic endeavor. Worldwide, libraries and members of the knowledge community were realizing the importance of ensuring the longevity of their digital collections. The OCUL Directors also recognized that Digital Preservation needed to be one of OCUL’s Strategic priorities. 

Beginning in 2001 as an OCUL collaboration to expand upon a pioneering effort by the University of Toronto Libraries to locally curate and deliver digital content, Scholars Portal is an information infrastructure designed to support research, teaching, and learning in Ontario’s universities. Since these early days, OCUL has signed agreements with the major academic commercial publishers and scholarly presses for local loading of journal and book content.  Since its beginnings in 2001, Scholars Portal had added 8500 journals in its repository with many more to come. The question of how to keep this content safe from the ravages of time, malicious e-meddlers and the ebb and flow of the e-journal marketplace became increasingly important. OCUL began to investigate how this could be achieved and how to make sure its community (current and future born) would be the beneficiaries. It was decided that seeking TDR accreditation for the Scholars Portal Journals repository was an important grounding for OCUL’s digital preservation goals. The aim – to provide OCUL members with needed assurances about the viability of the long-term preservation of the content in Scholars Portal Journals.

The Timeline

In 2010 Steve Marks joined Scholars Portal as the Digital Preservation Librarian, charged with leading OCUL through TDR audit preparation and process.

At the end of 2010 the new TDR Steering Committee had been formed, made up of members from OCUL institutions and Scholars Portal staff. The committee was mandated with authoring and approving documentation created for the OCUL Trusted Digital Repository audit and ensuring Scholars Portal preservation planning activities aligned with the institutional preservation goals of the OCUL members. 
Three guiding principals for OCUL’s digital preservation strategy were identified:

  • Materials must remain whole and integral
  • Materials must remain authentic to the original text
  • Materials must remain accessible for research use

In May 2011 the OCUL Directors approved the high-level policy framework for Scholars Portal’s preservation mandate and implementation of its digital preservation plan and preparation for the audit began in earnest.

Auditors from CRL visited Scholars Portal in April 2012 to evaluate the Journals repository in three main areas: Organizational Infrastructure, Digital Object Management, and Infrastructure and Security Risk Management. The auditors met with Scholars Portal and University of Toronto Libraries staff (the providers of the network and storage infrastructure for Scholars Portal operations) to look at the system and seek clarification on questions raised by the community advisory group. This discussion continued over the following months.

In February 2013, Scholars Portal Journals received certification from CRL as a Trustworthy Digital Repository. (The full report can be accessed on the CRL website).

Now, work continues to ensure Scholars Portal and OCUL’s digital preservation mandate is sustained and to support the TDR efforts of other institutions.

The Players

TDR certification would not have been achievable without the demonstrable commitment of the OCUL Directors and the OCUL community to the cause of digital preservation. Thanks must also go to the following people and institutions for their active assistance and contributions:

  • The TDR Steering Committee as representative of the OCUL community and sage advisors during the audit process:

Brian Cameron, Ryerson University
Alan Darnell, Scholars Portal
Tony Horava, University of Ottawa
Robin Isard, Algoma University
Wayne Johnston, University of Guelph
Andrea Kosavic, York University
Cathy Maskell, University of Windsor
Kathy Scardellato, OCUL
Marisa Scigliano, Trent University
  • Portico and its parent organization ITHAKA for their valuable advice and first-hand experience as a Trustworthy Digital Repository

  • Steve Marks, Scholars Portal Digital Preservation Librarian, and members of the Scholars Portal team for their hard work, tenacity and dedication to the principles of preservation.

Read the Scholars Portal TDR Audit Report