The ENABLEd Librarian: A Pre-Service Librarian?s Perspective

  November 01, 2017 |    Guest Blogger: Amy Rohmiller, MSLIS Student, Library & Information Science, School of Information Studies, Syracuse University

In my first semester of library school, one of the first things I learned in my reference class was the American Library Association's Core Values of Librarianship: access, confidentiality/privacy, democracy, diversity, education and lifelong learning, intellectual freedom, the public good, preservation, professionalism, service, and social responsibility. (You can read more about these values on ALA's website.) The values deeply resonated with me and I have kept them in mind throughout the remainder of my program, especially the concept of equal access to materials and services for all library users. 

Project ENABLE has been an invaluable resource in helping me learn more about creating opportunities for equal access. Like many pre-service librarians, I took the existing Project ENABLE training to gain more knowledge about providing effective library and information services to users with a range of disabilities. It gave me a great overview of some common types of disabilities that library users might have. The module on Disability Law & Policy helped give me a background in relevant disability laws beyond the Americans with Disabilities Act, especially Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Though I'm not in the School Media program, I also learned a lot from the section on Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). Probably more importantly, I learned how simple it can be to create an accessible library.  

Before Project ENABLE's training, I knew creating an accessible library was important, but I wasn't sure how to go about it. Project ENABLE clearly explained the process and took a lot of the fear out of it by giving me tools I could see myself implementing in whatever library I end up in.  

This leads to another part of Project ENABLE that is helpful for pre-service librarians. It is very customizable. You can customize the information you're getting in the modules by library type and by state. It's one more way I was getting information that I knew I could use. I'm a distance student, so it was nice to learn about disability services and policies specific to my state, instead of having to go searching for it on my own. I'm interested in academic libraries, so I selected that as my library type but users can also pick from public libraries or school libraries to give them the most relevant information for their future careers.

I was really excited to have the opportunity to help develop the next part of Project ENABLE, a new module that focuses on a specific disability entitled, "Targeting Autism in Libraries." One in 68 children in the United States are estimated to have autism spectrum disorder, and I've seen autism affect several friends. As awareness of autism and its prevalence continues to grow, it's becoming more important than ever for libraries to be accessible to people with autism and their families. The Targeting Autism module will take the fear out of creating an autism-friendly library, just like the rest of Project ENABLE does, by giving pre-service librarians and all librarians usable strategies to implement in their own libraries.  

The Targeting Autism module will include information for librarians on what autism is, its signs and symptoms, some current interventions, and specific information on making libraries inclusive. My favorite topic to work on so far has been Topic 5: Targeting Autism-Friendly Library and Information Programs, Services and Resources. Libraries are doing some really cool things to be inclusive for those with autism! In topic 5 you'll learn about autism-friendly programs librarians have developed for library users of all ages. You'll be able to watch videos of excerpts from a sensory storytime session, and learn about a book club just for people with autism. You'll see how libraries are bringing in therapy dogs and using technology, including robots, to make the library experience for people with autism a good one.

Working on the Targeting Autism in Libraries module has taught me so much about autism and creating an autism-friendly library. I can't wait until we can share it all with you!

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