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Accessibility Initiatives

This guide describes major accessibility initiatives at Scholars Portal including the Accessible Content E-Portal (ACE), the ACE digitization service, and the Accessibility Information Toolkit for Libraries.

About the service

What is the ACE digitization service?

The Accessible Content E-Portal (ACE) supports users with print disabilities at participating Ontario universities by making university library collections accessible through an online platform. Through the ACE digitization service, users can request accessible copies of books to be created and added to the ACE collection on demand.

For more information about the ACE platform and collection, please consult the following FAQ: What is the Accessible Content E-Portal (ACE)?

Who is eligible to submit a digitization request?

Any users who are eligible to access the Accessible Content E-Portal (ACE) are eligible to submit a digitization request, provided their university is participating in the digitization service. Please consult the following FAQ for more information on eligibility: Who is eligible to access ACE?

Please note, users cannot submit requests to us directly at this time. Instead, they should talk to their local ACE coordinator, who can submit the request to us on their behalf.

What types of items are eligible for digitization?

According to the scope of the ACE service, we may digitize any books that the requesting library owns in print. While the book does not have to be on the shelf or available for circulation at the time of the request, it is still eligible, provided we are able to acquire a scannable copy within the time frame requested. We also accept requests for any items for which your library has placed a purchase order, even if you have not yet received it.

The following lists should help you determine what types of items are and are not within the scope of our service.

Eligible items

  • Any books available in print at the requesting library (e.g. required or suggested readings for courses, other books needed for study or research)
  • Books for which you have placed a purchase order (but not yet received)
  • Books that are currently signed out or otherwise not available for circulation
  • Books in reference, reserves, or other special collections
  • Books which your library only holds in an electronic format
  • Textbooks

Ineligible items

  • Books that are personally owned by the student, but are not held by the requesting library
  • Coursepacks that have been compiled by an instructor, even if your library holds a copy
  • Rare, delicate, or other special books which cannot be loaned
  • Library or archival materials that are not books, e.g. journal issues

Other types of items not yet covered here will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. If you have any questions about an item you would like to request, please contact us.

How do you prevent the duplication of digitization efforts?

When requesting a book to be digitized, the local ACE coordinator checks the ACE collection to ensure the book has not been scanned already. If the book has already been scanned, we can easily grant the university access to it. The material will not be scanned twice.

Can you convert ebooks to accessible formats?

Currently, the scope of the ACE service only supports the digitization of print collections. However, we hope to investigate the logistics of incorporating digitally-born material (e.g. ebooks from publishers) into ACE in the near future.

Submitting requests

Where can I find the request form?

Staff members at participating universities can submit on-demand digitization requests via our Google form. Please make sure you read through and follow all the instructions below and on the form carefully before submitting your request.

What do I need to know before submitting a request?

Please consult the following instructions when submitting any digitization requests.

Instructions for submitting requests

  1. First, make sure the item the user has requested is within the scope of our project and eligible for digitization: What types of items are eligible for digitization?
  2. Next, clarify the exact book the user needs. Some users may need a particular edition of a book, while others may be okay with any available edition. Enter enough information in the title field on the form as necessary to disambiguate your request (e.g. author, edition, year).
  3. Locate the record for this book in your library catalogue. (If your user is okay with any available edition, you'll want to look for any suitable records.)
  4. Search ACE to determine if the exact same edition of the book is already available. Make sure Show only content I can access is deselected.
    1. If the book is already available and you can access the full text using your token, great! You don't need to submit a request, simply send the user the link.
    2. If the book is already available but you can't access the full text, please submit a digitization request but provide the ACE permalink when filling out the form. This will let us grant your university access to the book quickly, and help us avoid digitizing the book for a second time.
  5. If the book is not available in ACE, you'll need to search the University of Toronto Libraries (UTL) catalogue to find a matching edition.
    1. If the book is available at UTL, please provide the UTL permalink to the record when submitting your request. Remember to list multiple volumes as separate items, as each physical volume is processed separately. They may have the same permalink, but that's okay—just copy and paste it.
    2. If the book is not available at UTL, please provide a permalink for the record in your own library's catalogue.

Where do you acquire books for digitization?

Since Scholars Portal is located in the Robarts Library building at the University of Toronto, we are able to make use of the vast collection of books available at the University of Toronto Libraries (UTL). When you submit a digitization request, we ask you to check the UTL catalogue to see if a copy of the book is available. For the majority of the requests we receive, we are able to acquire a copy of the book locally, which expedites digitization.

If the requested book is not available at UTL, we try to make other arrangements to acquire the book. If possible, we ask the requesting library to send us a copy of their book via the Inter-University Transit System (IUTS) using Canpar. Canpar ships books quickly and reliably, so we can accommodate the request with little delay, and books are usually returned to their original library within a week. 

If the requesting library is unable to send us their copy of the book for whatever reason, we will try to acquire the book through interlibrary loans (ILL). Given the nature of ILL, it can be difficult to predict the length of time required to get hold of a book through this method. This is usually our last resort, and it may take a while for us to receive the book and fulfill the request. 

Which UTL branches can you borrow from?

As there are 44 branches at UTL, we definitely don't expect you to know them all! When you are first starting out, just provide us with the permalink to any suitable copy at UTL, and we'll take care of the rest.

However, as you become more familiar with the digitization service, you will notice there are some locations listed in the UTL catalogue for which we do not have direct borrowing privileges. To help you out, we have provided the following list:

We can borrow from...

  • Most subject/department libraries
  • Most college libraries
  • UofT at Mississauga
  • UofT at Scarborough
  • Downsview storage facility
  • Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)

We can't borrow from...

  • Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library
  • Hospital libraries
  • UofT Schools
Our borrowing privileges for items in reference, reserves, and other special collections vary from library to library. If you're not sure, please submit your request, and we will follow up with you.

How do you determine if an item is scannable?

In order to successfully digitize a book and make it accessible, we must be able to acquire a copy of the book in which the full text is clear and recognizable. We consider the following factors when trying to acquire the best possible copy for digitization:

  • Condition: The book cannot have any significant marginalia or damage that obscures the text, which would prevent us from successfully OCRing it.
  • Binding: Some books are bound so tightly, or their spines are not yet broken in, and the text runs into the gutter. The digitization process will not be able to capture this text.

Can we send you our copy of a book to digitize?

If the book you are requesting is not currently available at UTL, we encourage you to send us your library's copy through the Inter-University Transit System (IUTS) using Canpar.

We will digitize the book and return it to you as quickly as possible. If you are mailing us an item to digitize, please remember to review the following checklist first.

Checklist for mailing items

  1. Check item condition: Please check the item to make sure the text itself is in good condition. Some highlighting or light pencil marking is fine, but please check with us before sending an item that is heavily marked up. If the text is obscured, the OCR process will not be able to recognize it, preventing us from making an accessible copy. Likewise, if there is extensive marginalia, the OCR process may pick up on it, again disrupting the text. Please use the following "cheat sheet" to determine if the item has unacceptable markings in ink and erase any unacceptable pencil markings (PDF version also available). 
    Readability Cheat Sheet. PDF version linked above.
  2. Check item binding: Please check the binding on items. If the text runs into the gutter, the digitization process may not be able to capture this text. This mostly affects very thick books (e.g. dictionaries, medical textbooks, etc.), but can also affect older books (which may have been bound quite tightly), or brand new books (if the spine hasn't been broken in yet). The easiest way to check this is with the "pencil test":
    1. Lay the book flat on a table, and open it to a section where the text runs into the gutter.
    2. Place a pencil in the middle of the book. If you can see all the text around the pencil, the book is probably fine.
    3. If you can't, we probably won't be able to scan the item, so please let us know.
  3. Check item dimensions (height and width) Please check if your item is especially tall or wide, e.g. photography books or children's books. (Maximum dimensions forthcoming.)
  4. Use IUTS (Canpar) to send item: We have had trouble using other couriers, so please use Canpar. They are fast and reliable.
  5. Use the following label:
    ATTN:  Rezwana Bhuiyan or Hailey Graham

    Scholars Portal - ACE Project
    Robarts Library, 7th Floor, Unit #7001
    130 St. George Street
    University of Toronto
    Toronto, ON M5S 1A5

What is the turnaround time for digitization requests?

Requests are generally processed Monday through Friday, though requests received after 2:00pm (or after 12:00pm on Fridays) will be processed the following business day. Most requests are accommodated in 7-8 calendar days or less. Occasionally, server issues or staff availability may affect turnaround, but the most common reasons for longer turnaround times are delays in acquiring the item itself, or high volumes of concurrent requests.

Below, you will find a general description of the digitization process, and the estimated timeline for each stage. Our staff will communicate with you regularly throughout this process to keep you updated about the status of your request.

Overview of digitization process

  1. Acquiring: First, we need to acquire a copy of the item that is borrowable and scannable. If a book is available on the shelf at a UTL branch on the downtown campus, and the copy is in good condition, we can often acquire the item within 1-2 business days of your request.
  2. Digitizing: Once the item has been acquired, it is submitted to the Internet Archive team for digitization. The Internet Archive is usually able to scan items within 1-2 business days of submission, though this may vary depending on the volume of requests currently in the queue.
  3. Processing: Once the item has been scanned, the Internet Archive processes the raw digitized files and converts them into accessible formats. Processing may take another 1-2 business days after digitization, depending on the volume of requests in the queue and the length of the book itself.
  4. Uploading: Lastly, once the files are ready, a Scholars Portal programmer takes the files from the Internet Archive server and uploads them to the ACE platform. This usually happens within 1-2 business days after the files have been processed.

Browsing the collection

Sometimes, you may wish to browse through the collection rather than search for a specific title. Below we have offered two suggestions to help you browse. Students can access these instructions via the ACE LibGuide.

Viewing the entire collection

If you want to view all the books available in ACE, simply leave the search field empty and press Search. (You can choose to check or uncheck the Show only content I can access box, depending on whether you want to see all the books in the collection, or only those which you can access in full text.)

Screenshot demonstrating an empty search, to list all books in the collection

This easy trick allows you to skip entering specific search terms, so you can use the facets on the right-hand side to browse through the entire collection instead.

In addition to all the search and refinement features, ACE also includes a number of hyperlinked fields that allow you to browse through the collection in other ways.

For example, if you are viewing a particular book in the collection, you will notice that you can click on the author's name (near the top of the page) to view a list of all other books in the ACE collection written by that author. Other links that facilitate browsing can be found under the About this book heading on the right-hand side, which allow you to see other books that are part of the same series or about the same topic.

Screenshot highlighting browsable links in the ACE Portal interface

Useful tips: sometimes information about a book's topic or series is not available or applicable, so these links will not be provided. Also, please note that author names may not be standardized across the collection, so if you want to be sure you have found every available book by a particular author, make sure you run a fresh search instead. Browsable links are provided to facilitate convenience and discovery, but they are not necessarily the most rigorous way to search the collection.