The ENABLEd Librarian: Targeting Autism

  October 01, 2017 |    Ruth V. Small, Ph.D., Director, Project ENABLE

October 2017 

Welcome back!

I am hearing that some of you are curious about our newest learning module, Module 6: "Targeting Autism in Libraries." So, I'd like to tell you a little about it, how it came to be and what you can expect to see on the Project ENABLE site sometime in early spring 2018.


This module is being developed as part of a comprehensive training program for librarians in the State of Illinois. "Targeting Autism" is funded by a National Leadership Grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum & Library Services (IMLS) and led by the Illinois State Library (ISL), Syracuse University and Dominican University as well as several small organizations. The Targeting Autism project focuses on one multifaceted and increasingly prevalent condition---autism---and includes large group forums, face-to-face workshops, webinars, and on-site coaching. Their mission is to educate all librarians in Illinois about autism and ways to design library and information programs and services and identify resources that help meet the needs of this ever-increasing population.


A Little Background Information

When Suzanne Schriar, Associate Director, Library Automation &Technology at the Illinois State Library, first started thinking about her idea to develop a series of forums for Illinois librarians on autism, she wanted to find someone working in this area to bounce some of her ideas off of, as she began to write her very first IMLS grant proposal. So, she called Mary Alice Ball, a program director at IMLS (and now Program Management Specialist for National and International Outreach at Library of Congress), and Mary Alice suggested Suzanne speak with me. IMLS suggested she speak with me. And the rest, as they say, is history.


By the way, this is a wonderful example of how a government agency like IMLS can play a role in bringing people with similar interests and goals together in a synergistic partnership. That's exactly what happened and we are continuing to move forward with even more ideas for collaboration for the future.


Current Project

As the very successful forum grant was coming to an end, Suzanne flew out to Arizona and stayed at my house while we thought about and wrote some of the pieces for a second IMLS grant proposal, in collaboration with Dr. Sujin Huggins, Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Dominican University. Our final idea was to continue the large group forums but to add small group, face-to-face workshops at Dominican, national webinars, peer coaching, and (this is where we come in) an online training national presence through a learning module on Project ENABLE. But with a slight twist.


The Targeting Autism in Libraries module uses a somewhat different format; i.e., a set of related Topics, based on but extending the content of the Targeting Autism project's in-person

training and providing opportunities for more in-depth training on and understanding of how libraries can better serve their patrons on the autism spectrum and their families.


Each topic is a comprehensive, self-contained, stand-alone and in-depth type of "mini-module." Just like the full Project ENABLE training, the trainee can choose to go all seven topics or select those that are most relevant to their needs and interests. Topics include:


Topic 1: What is Autism?

Topic 2: Diagnosis and Characteristics of Autism

Topic 3: Autism Interventions

Topic 4: Creating an Autism-Friendly Library

Topic 5: Targeting Autism-Friendly Library and Information Programs, Services and Resources

Topic: 6: Partnering with the Greater Community to Support Children and Adults with Autism

Topic 7: Library Support and Opportunities: Employment of People on the Spectrum


At the end of each Topic (as at the end of each full module in Project ENABLE), there is a brief, 5-question quiz, randomly generated from a pool of 30 topic-related questions, to assess the trainee's learning of that topic. So, every time you retake a Topic quiz, like the Project ENABLE assessments and quizzes, you are likely to get a completely different set of questions. All 210 questions from the seven Topics are also included in the pool of overall pre-assessment and post-assessment questions that you can take before and after the full Project ENABLE training program.


I also want to mention that our team for this project includes two extraordinary research assistants: Amy Rohmiller, an MSLIS graduate student at Syracuse and Julie Horwat, a recent MSLIS-SM grad and currently school librarian in upstate New York. Amy and Julie are a dynamic duo who go beyond what is asked of them and who have embraced this project with great caring and motivation.


The Future

We have some big plans for future expansion of both Targeting Autism and Project ENABLE. If you have suggestions for things you would like to see on or in conjunction with the site, please let us know, either through this blog or sent directly to my email at We welcome your thoughts and ideas.


See you next month!

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