Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Accessibility Topics at ALA Midwinter Meeting

It's that time of year when members of ALA convene to do committee work, network with colleagues, and learn about new resources on the exhibit floor! For those of you heading down to McCormick Place in Chicago for ALA Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits, you might be interested in the following meetings and sessions.  If you attend any of the programs listed, please post your thoughts in our comments section!

Friday, January 30

ASCLA Networking and Social Event
7:00-8:00pm | Renaissance Blackstone, Bar Lower Lounge
Network with members of the Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies about accessibility. You don't have to be a member to attend!

Saturday, January 31

Enabling Acts: The Hidden Story of How the Americans with Disabilities Act Gave the Largest US Minority Its Rights
1:00-2:30pm | McCormick Pace West W183b
Learn about the success and shortcomings of the ADA just in time to plan your summer or fall ADA 25th Anniversary celebration.

Serving Children with Special Needs Discussion
3:30-4:30pm | Networking Uncommons
A very informal meet-up to discuss the joys and challenges of trying to best serve this segment of our library users. Meeting might focus on Sensory Storytime.

Library Services for People with Visual or Physical Disabilities - Interest Group Meeting (LSPVD)
4:30-5:30pm Hyatt Regency McCormick Field / CC 20C
Stop by to talk about serving patrons with print disabilities. Discuss upcoming programs and events. Open up new topics of conversation.

Sunday, February 1

ASCLA Accessibility Assembly
10:30-11:30am | Hyatt Regency McCormick Field / CC 20AB
Although this is a formal committee meeting, conference attendees are usually welcome to observe. The purpose of this committee is to advance ALA's continuing commitment to diversity and to accessibility of library and information services for all, including people with physical, sensory or mental disabilities, as reflected in the ALA policy on library services to people with disabilities.

Meet the Authors: Randy Lewis
11:00am-noon | Exhibit Hall - Booth 3928
Meet the author of No Greatness without Goodness, a book about how a corporate executive, whose son has Autism, created a workplace where people with disabilities thrive.

Power Up Your Storytime
1:00-2:30pm | McCormick Place West W181a
Add sensory play to your storytimes with tips from Renee Grassi of Glen Ellyn Public Library and Hayley Anderson of the National Lekotek Center. Be the first to get your hands on their newly-published literacy and play manual, sponsored by Weplay toys.

Diversity Matters: Stepping it Up with Action
1:00-2:30pm | McCormick Place West W183b
Learn more about the invitation only Day of Diversity: Dialogue and Action in Children’s Literature and Programming event, its outcomes, and participate in laying the groundwork for a promising future.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Library Lions: Storytime for Children with Special Needs

This guest post was written by Jo Kaeding, Children’s Programs Co-ordinator at Adelaide Hills Library Service, and PhD Student at University of South Australia. Jo attended one of our SNAILS meetings while she was touring North America and conducting research for her dissertation on library services for children with special needs. Thank you for the follow-up, Jo!

I would like to start my post by thanking all of the SNAILS members for the opportunity to attend the November meeting. It was both informative and inspirational. It is absolutely wonderful to see so many libraries and librarians passionate about access for children with special needs. I loved my time in Chicago, and I am keen to establish a similar kind of network as SNAILS in South Australia. Please keep an eye on my blog, and I would love to hear from you, particularly if you are interested in taking part in a survey as part of my research into this area.

The following is a description of the program that we run for children with special needs and their families at our library.

Program title: Library Lions - Storytime for children with special needs.

Program outline: Library Lions is a literacy-based, early childhood program (ages birth-5) developed for children with special needs. It is offered weekly - Wednesdays at 11:00am - during school terms. The program involves using Makaton (i.e. keyword) sign language and props / puppets to enable stories, songs, rhymes and actions to be more accessible to the children. The program promotes interaction and involvement with literacy at whatever stage and / or capability of the child. The pace and developmental level of each session is dictated by the children involved. The needs of all children are taken into consideration when developing each session. Specific examples of this include: a child with autism who is comfortable participating when she is provided with a large cushion under which she can lie; another child with vision impairment will participate if he is able to view the book up close before each page is turned.

Parents/carers are provided with photocopied Makaton signing sheets related to the songs and stories of each session. This encourages parents/carers to continue to practice and increase the number of signs that they are familiar with – enabling them to incorporate it into their everyday literacy activities. Siblings of the children with special needs are welcomed and included in the sessions with the aim that they will also feel important. After the half-hour program, families stay for a coffee and chat session to meet and support each other.

Rationale: The need for the program resulted from staff observation and customer comments that the regular programs were not accessible to their children with special needs. In particular, customers commented that the regular early childhood group sessions were too large and too loud for their children. We also identified a lack of literacy based programs for children with special needs within the local area.

Goals: The goals of the program are to:
  • Enable children with special needs to access and become involved in literacy based programs within the library
  • Assist the parents/carers to access the library and its resources
  • Provide a safe and welcoming environment for parents/carers and their children with special needs to attend library programs.
  • Encourage parents/carers and their children with special needs to feel welcome at all times within the library.
  • Provide opportunities for parents/carers of children with special needs to meet and support each other.

Partnerships: In developing and running the program we have worked in partnership with a number local health services. This has been vital to establishing connections with families, increasing promotion and developing sound programs. The support we were provided by these groups included -
  • Provision of a speech pathologist to help develop the program
  • Provision of a speech pathologist to attend the first few sessions
  • Contacting families of children with special needs in the local area of the program
  • Sharing of their signing sheet resources.

Evaluation: The program has been running for just three years. In that time we have had a regular group of between 3-6 families, with a very small dropout rate. The high level of involvement with and interaction from the children is also a good indicator as to the success of the program and its content. Some of the families have become regular borrowers of the library’s resources and have also started to attend other children’s and school holiday programs.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Library Partners and Programs for Teens and Adults

This guest post was written by Michèle Freese, Senior Librarian at Oak Lawn Public Library in Oak Lawn, Illinois. Thank you for sharing your experience with us, Michèle!

When I was in high school in the 1960's, I helped out a classmate, who was deaf, by repeating what the teacher said for her and sharing my notes. My classmate attended Argo Community High School through A.E.R.O. -- a special education cooperative in Burbank, Illinois composed of twelve member school districts. The acronym, A.E.R.O., stands for the four high schools in the cooperative – Argo, Evergreen Park, Reavis, and Oak Lawn. Little did I know then that I would also work with A.E.R.O. students as an adult. In the late seventies and early eighties, I supervised A.E.R.O. student workers at the Bridgeview Public Library where I was the Youth Services Librarian. Now, at the Oak Lawn Public Library, I have an even closer relationship with A.E.R.O. staff and students.

At least twice a year, both primary grade and transitional students (ages 16-22) visit the library for tours, stories and crafts, and to use the library's resources. Transitional students from two of the high schools also volunteer weekly at the library during the school year. They work in teams of two or three to thoroughly dust bookshelves and clean audiovisual materials. This gives the students an opportunity to work in cooperation with others, to learn a routine, and to help learn responsibility. One transitional student who began working in the Adult Services Department in a supervised school work program back in 2005 was hired as a page upon graduation, and he is one of our most dedicated and reliable staff members to this day.

We also serve adults with developmental disabilities who are clients of an organization in Oak Lawn called Park Lawn. Rotating groups of 8-12 adults come to the library every Thursday morning to listen to folktales, do a "science craft," and use the library. In order to meet with all 150 clients, we will repeatedly present the same six sessions over the next two years. We will then plan six new sessions and start the rotation over again.

Beginning in January 2015, we'll be showing movies on the fourth Friday morning of each month for the Park Lawn clients, the transitional students, and any adults who would like to see a film at the library. One of the reasons we are having both age groups come together for movies is so the students can meet adults with special needs and see that there are opportunities for them after high school.

I feel that working with transitional students and adults with developmental disabilities benefits everyone. These patrons have a place to come where they are not treated like small children but as capable adults and young adults. The Library staff and general public become aware of people with special needs and learn that they have abilities and are valued patrons. And ME - I get the affection and gratitude from these special patrons, their caregivers, and teachers. Truly, I think I benefit most of all.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Fall 2014 Meeting Recap

Our November 12, 2014 meeting took place at the beautiful Batavia Public Library thanks to our incredible host, Joleen Batek. We covered A LOT of information at this meeting, so what follows are merely highlights. Please check back later for videos of the featured presentations.

Targeting Autism

Our very own Renee Grassi is serving as a board member on the Illinois State Library's new Targeting Autism project! If you are passionate about making a difference in the lives of people on the Autism spectrum, be sure to follow the Targeting Autism blog and consider applying to be a participant in two stakeholder forums where experts and advocates will help develop strategies to support library patrons and family members impacted by ASD. The forums will be held in Springfield, IL in March and September, 2015.

SNAILS Celebrations
Congratulations to our member libraries who tried something new this quarter!
  • Geneva Public Library offered their first successful Sensory Storytime.
  • Arlington Heights Memorial Library hosted a wonderfully inclusive yoga story time.
  • Oak Lawn Public Library is providing weekly activities for two transitional groups. The adults in these groups are currently creating pencil holders for the Library's service desks.
Lekotek Presentation
Our first guest speaker was Hayley Anderson, Manager of Family Services and Partnerships at the National Lekotek Center in Chicago, a play-based therapy center with affiliate sites in eight states. Hayley opened by explaining that "there is no wrong way to play." Learn how all play benefits children's physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development by requesting a copy of  Lekotek's White Paper.

You may want to share with your patrons that Lekotek offers a $300 family membership which includes monthly therapeutic play sessions; five borrowed toys from the lending library; social play groups for kids and siblings; parent support groups; and special events. If you are hosting a special program at your library and would like Hayley to promote it to Lekotek families, please email her a program flyer.

Professional Memberships for libraries and other organizations costs $500 and includes five borrowed toys each month; free webinars and trainings for library staff; monthly raffles for free toys; and coupons for patrons to try a Lekotek play group and parent workshop. Even without a professional membership, libraries can hire Lekotek staff to provide inclusive Sensory Storytimes for their patrons. The cost is $250 for a one-hour program (all supplies included), plus mileage.

If you are thinking about adding toys to your collection, Lekotek's AblePlay website features 8,000 toys rated by Lekotek staff according to their developmental benefits, and the annual Toys"R"Us Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids recommends 200 toys (also evaluated and recommended by Lektotek).

Hot off the press! Lekotek's upcoming publication is a Literacy Guide sponsored by Weplay and edited by Hayley and Renee Grassi. It will be available for purchase at ALA Midwinter in January 2015.

Jo Kaeding
Jo Kaeding, a children’s librarian and PhD student interested in library programs for children with special needs, visited us all the way from Australia! As the recipient of three awards, Jo received funding to come to the United States to research her PhD topic, “Opening public libraries for children with special needs and their families.” Jo visited several libraries in the Chicago-area, including Gail Borden, Skokie, Arlington Heights, Glen Ellyn, Deerfield, and Glenview. At our SNAILS meeting, Jo talked about her research and her travels and described a typical library in Australia. Be sure to check out her literacy based early childhood program for children with special needs called Library Lions and The Little Big Book Club in Australia that mirrors ECRR’s message about the five early literacy practices of talking, singing, reading, writing, and playing. You can read more about Jo on her blog. Thank you for visiting us, Jo!  

Batavia Public Library Programs
Joleen is currently focusing on networking with parents. Recently, she was able to share the magic of e-books for kids with disabilities with a family at a resource fair. Joleen encourages you to "find a way to represent your Library and get the word out about what you offer." Joleen also shared Batavia's social story, special needs bibliography, and examples of sensory and fine motor bags that she added to the early literacy kit collection. She finished off her presentation by talking about the value of getting parents involved. Last year, a mother of a teen with disabilities initiated a Teen Game Night that is now coordinated by the Library's teen librarian, Christine Edison.

Lekotek Facilitating Play Workshop
After our meeting, approximately 30 members stayed for a Facilitating Play for Children of All Abilities workshop presented by Hayley and Megan Murphy. If you weren't able to attend, you can always register for Lekotek's next workshop or bring the training to your Library or networking group!