Chapter 6. Universal Design and Copyright Considerations

The Impacts of Universal Design and Copyright on LMS Embedded Librarianship

The goals of embedded librarians can be expressed in many different ways, given the varieties of courses they work with and the differing needs of individual students and priorities of individual faculty. However, key on the mind of every embedded librarian is the need to have the materials shared in the course accessible to all students. Likewise, librarians want to make sure that information resources are used as fully as they can be while still keeping that use within the law. Both of these factors can fill us at once with a sense of opportunity and with a fear that we must follow the rules or risk disaster. These motivations should not become a legal yoke of expectations for librarians to comply with, but rather they should free us to make the most of our embedded experience for our students.

Universal Design

First of all, it is good to get a clear idea of what universal design is. The concept in short is focused on making a service or an object work well for people who have a wide range of skills and abilities.1 For embedded librarians, this means that we need to ask if the resources we share, the instructional tools we offer, and the course site we use are truly available to everyone who is taking the course. It is a fair question to ask of existing services and also one to posit as we plan out our activities. We should think widely here about the audience for our services and consider not only whether or not students in the course may have disabilities but also imagine individuals who may not be proficient English speakers or people who may be new to using technology or library databases.2 Given the spot where we are meeting and interacting with our students, there are many opportunities for barriers to appear.

Following Instructional Design Principles

Given the broad nature of these potential barriers, it may serve the embedded librarian well to work with a more formal set of instructional design principles. This approach can guide our development of embedded librarian pages and learning objects, making our services and operations more transparent and accessible to all of our users.

One model of instructional design goes by the acronym ADDIE, which stands for Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation.3 ADDIE is used widely in designing learning environments to meet their intended outcomes and to assess how well they perform.

It is useful to use the items in the acronym as steps to take (and repeat) when designing materials for the embedded librarian presence in a course. Briefly, the steps work like this. First, you analyze the background of the course and the environment you are working in: what does the instructor expect of students, what resources make the most sense to introduce, what do students already know about the subject matter, when in the course is it most fitting to introduce particular skills or resources? Then, you move to design what you will offer the course participants and when to offer it in the course: contact information for the librarian, list of databases, screencasts or interactive tutorials, guidance on citing sources, monitoring a forum or discussion board, and so on. In the middle of the process comes development, in which you create or locate the materials you will need and prepare text you will use in the course. Then there is the implementation stage, where you actually put everything into place, allowing for adjustments along the way as you make the final fit with material the instructor has posted. Finally, you evaluate the embedded experience, both by querying students and faculty and by making self-assessments of how well the design worked.4 And then the cycle begins anew, with the next embedded course improving on the lessons learned from each prior offering.

Accessible Design Considerations

This discussion of ADDIE leads well into considering the issue of accessibility when analyzing the environment of the course and the eventual design and development of materials to include in the embedded librarian presence. It is important to remember that there may be individuals taking part in the course with extremely low vision or no vision who are accessing these electronic resources using screen-reader software or other adaptive means. Designing online content means that you have to consider how learning objects or embedded librarian pages will display in a text-based browser or how well alt tags will convey what an image represents. Captioning, which addresses the needs of students with hearing impairments and those using text-based browsers, needs to be available for screencasts or videos as well. These are just a few of the considerations that must be made to ensure that your resources are usable. Several design standards are available that can help guide you in this design. Be sure to check the sites listed in the gray box for background reading, specific guidance, and sites that can help test out your content.

Responsive Design

One further exploration of universal design is the recognition that resources must function well on various types of devices. Mobile devices, such as tablets and smartphones, have reduced screen sizes when compared to desktop and laptop computers, and they are growing steadily in use. Embedded librarians need to consider what their learning objects and pages look like on smaller screens. Responsive design is an approach to designing websites and database interfaces so that they scale nicely between different screen sizes and resolutions. Following the tenets of responsive design can ensure that pages are adjusted to work in these situations. It is sometimes used as an alternative to building a separate mobile site or app for a site or a product like an LMS.5

Copyright Considerations in LMS Embedded Librarianship

While this is not an extensive examination of copyright, it seems appropriate to address some issues related to licensed resources and how they may be used in educational settings. Going back to the start of this chapter, if the embedded librarian intends to ensure access to licensed materials to the widest extent possible under the law, then we had better understand the law. Copyright law is established to protect the rights of copyright holders to profit from what they create. The fair use provision in the law allows for a variety of possible educational uses of copyrighted materials, and the TEACH Act extends some further educational uses to the digital realm. More information on each of these is available in the resources listed in the gray box, but generally, in an academic setting, in the LMS, instructors and students are operating in an environment where they can use many licensed resources without fear of challenging copyright law or overstepping the provisions of licenses.

So, what does this mean for how embedded librarians act? We can guide faculty in placing links to online resources (articles, digital videos, e-books, etc.) in their course sites rather than posting PDFs or video files (though it can be argued that this is a proper fair use activity) since posting a link precludes making a copy of something. We can model good behavior for students by citing the items we link to or refer to in text or videos we create, giving credit where credit is due. We are not the copyright police, but rather educators and guides to copyright and licensing issues. Aufderheide and Jaszi’s book is an excellent read on other ways to imagine and apply fair use and the TEACH Act, both of which have great relevance to our work in the LMS.6

And, in addition to licensed resources, embedded librarians can also advocate for the use of various open items that use alternative copyright measures or none at all. These may include open educational resources (OERs), which were addressed in chapter 2, or various Creative Commons–licensed works, which are made available for use and sometimes remixing and reuse so long as credit is given. We can also make use of Creative Commons–licensed materials and images in our learning objects, giving credit as required by the licenses.

Providing access, protecting and teaching the principles of access, and designing to ensure access: three excellent roles for the embedded librarian. Pursuing these aims serves our students and faculty well as we accompany them in the LMS.


  1. Janet Gronneberg and Sam Johnston, Seven Things You Should Know about Universal Design for Learning (Louisville, CO: EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative, April 6, 2015),
  2. Lisa Felix, “Design for Everyone,” Library Journal 133, no. 16 (2008): 38–40.
  3. Steven J. Bell and John D. Shank, Academic Librarianship by Design: A Blended Librarian’s Guide to the Tools and Techniques (Chicago: American Library Association, 2007).
  4. Beth E. Tumbleson and John Burke, Embedding Librarianship in Learning Management Systems: A How-To-Do-It Manual (Chicago: Neal-Schuman, an imprint of the American Library Association, 2013), 70–88.
  5. Nick Pettit, “The 2014 Guide to Responsive Web Design,” Team Treehouse (blog), June 2, 2014,
  6. Patricia Aufderheide and Peter Jaszi, Reclaiming Fair Use: How to Put Balance Back in Copyright (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011).


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