Scholars' Lab Blog //Evaluating Scholars' Lab Interfaces and Digital Tools for Inclusivity, Accessibility, and Equity
Blog //Evaluating Scholars' Lab Interfaces and Digital Tools for Inclusivity, Accessibility, and Equity

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“Diversity and inclusion are not achievements; they are active and continuous strivings.”

from Scholars’ Lab Charter

Fall semester of 2018 I participated in Dr. Shaundra Walker’s Library Juice Academy course Cultural Competence for Librarians, which gave me a foundational understanding of the work that’s been done to assess diversity, accessibility, and equity in library and academic spaces, and for evaluation of digital and analog tools. The course, if you’re wondering, is fantastic, and I highly recommend it. The final assignment provided me with an opportunity to design a project to apply what I’d learned in class for Scholars’ Lab’s digital tools and interfaces.

I proposed that we create and apply an evaluation tool for the digital interfaces and tools we’ve developed here in the Lab, and after discussion with Amanda, I chose to make it part of my annual goals for 2019. As a first step, I looked for example evaluation rubrics and tools to get a better idea of what other institutions and organizations in academic, governmental, and corporate workplaces have done, hoping to find solid evaluation tools that we could adapt, with permission, and apply to our interfaces.

What I discovered is that no one seems to be sharing their evaluation tools, nor is there much in the way of conversation about all three of these topics in a single place. I can find institutional policies on diversity, and on accessibility, but they’re not the same documents, generally speaking. I can find opinion pieces about what equity means in this context. But apparently no one is putting all these requirements together and sharing the specifics of how these requirements are being evaluated in their organizations.

In short, what once seemed like a goal I could accomplish in a calendar year with some assistance and input from a small group of coworkers and community stakeholders, now seems like a project that far exceeds that scope.

Creating evaluation rubrics and matrices from scratch is a project for a larger group, with input from the Library’s new IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility) committee, as well as University community members, to guard against creating tools that just confirm what we hope to be true. And as a Library unit, it seems a good idea for any evaluations we perform to line up with the larger organization’s goals and aspirations about inclusion, equity, and accessibility. Also, adapting evaluation tools from another organization requires less time and resources than writing one, or more, from scratch. If we’re to request that kind of time from our coworkers in other units and from stakeholders in the larger University community, we need to get buy-in from everyone concerned and permission to request this kind of time commitment. We also need to identify and reserve a source of funding for this project. Because we will not ask for free labor from community stakeholders.

Next steps?

  1. Keep searching for discussion about this kind of evaluation tool and process. The next phase of this search will include better networking with others who are working in this space.
  2. Keep Amanda, and through her our AUL, informed about the status of this work and request her guidance on project plan.
  3. Accessibility evaluation is straightforward, and there is a process in place and a network of experienced and interested people here in the Library and at UVA for this work, although the requirements set outline only the bare minimum to clear the very low bar set by the ADA, so we need to do better.
  4. Connect with the Library’s IDEA committee to better understand the Library’s goals for this work and how we can support those goals.
  5. Find funding for a series of focus groups with underrepresented students, faculty, and staff here at UVA. I want for us to better understand what equity and diversity in interactive interfaces and physical spaces means for them.

There’s so much more work to be done, and no one group or committee can possibly do it all. If the Scholars’ Lab can carve out a small part of this work and do it, reporting what we learn back to the Library, we will be better aligned with our stated aspiration in our Charter and with the Library’s goals, and we’ll be better representing and supporting UVA’s students, faculty, and staff. All we can do is a tiny fraction of the work, but all those fractions will add up to an organization that, overall, is as equitable, diverse, and accessible as we can make it.