Well, it seems I may have been overthinking things. As it turns out, perhaps all I had to do was ask.
You may not be lucky enough to have a “Heather,” but my biggest takeaway from this experience is “When in doubt, ask!” Of course, I don’t mean pester patrons with disabilities to provide education. But there are online resources, organizations, and individuals who are more than happy to educate and advise, and it’s easy to reach out. I’ve used the strategy in the past with special education classes at the local high schools – by communicating with the teacher about what they need, I’ve been able to improve our resources and services for teens with disabilities in those classes and beyond, and am constantly finding new ways to be better. Even for groups as broad as “teens” – my specialty – asking for their input has vastly improved our services, and helped us zero in on the best ways to reach and serve that community.
In the end, the most valuable thing I learned working with Heather this summer was that there’s no need to reinvent the wheel, or try to guess at a community’s needs. As it turns out, the simplest answer is usually to just…ask. When I have, I’ve gained confidence in the steps I have taken, since they come directly from the individuals and communities I am trying to serve, and found that often, the best ways of improving our services are simpler and easier than I had imagined. Now when I have questions about something or want to improve our services to any particular group, community, or demographic, the first thing I think about isn’t what to do or how to do it, but who to ask.
This guest blog post was written by Hannah Rapp, Young Adult Librarian at Glen Ellyn Public Library. She can be reached at hrapp(at)gepl(dot)org.