The ENABLED Librarian: Reunion Turns Into Collaboration

  February 01, 2018 |    Guest Blogger John Delich, Community Business Development Manager, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Springfield, IL

While staffing the Illinois School Library Media Association Conference in Springfield, Illinois, on behalf of Barnes and Noble, I ran into the parent of a former student of mine. Mary Pelich* and I first met several years ago when I taught her daughter in elementary school and a very positive parent/teacher relationship developed. As time passed, her children grew up, and I eventually retired. In catching up, she mentioned that her youngest was diagnosed with autism a few years back and went on to tell of the challenges in parenting a child with autism and her subsequent work with the Targeting Autism project at the Illinois State Library and her work with other not-for-profit autism organizations. After chatting and exchanging business cards, I suggested we should find a way to work together. In about an hour, Mary was back. She explained how the idea of working together had time to percolate as she walked around the conference exhibit hall. I didn't expect Mary to get back to me that same morning, but maybe I should have… I later read a quote attributed to her, "There are ways to get people to the resources they need, but we have to use our mouths and heads and the knowledge we have." And, that's exactly how we spent the next portion of the morning.


When Mary asked what we might envision for ways we might work together, my Barnes and Noble colleague, Amanda, and I began talking from what was familiar, and what knowledge we had. And, of course we naturally started by talking about books. Reflecting back now as I contribute to this blog, I came across another quote in my reading, "Just about any program you already offer can become autism friendly with some modifications…" attributed to Barbara Klipper at a 2015 Illinois State Library Targeting Autism Forum. I realized both ideas served us well as we began to consider what we already do that might be adapted for children & adults identified with ASD.


Barnes and Noble already has some great programming in place, serving over 600 communities in the United States. One of our very popular and successful community programs is the B & N Storytime. In our Springfield, Illinois store, we currently have two weekly storytimes. Every Wednesday morning we hold a toddler storytime, and every Saturday morning we have our local session of a company-wide storytime, with a featured book. It seemed rather obvious that select storytimes could be easily modified to address the needs of children with ASD, making them a natural first step to help a growing population in our own community begin to feel more welcome in our store. So far we've explored days, quiet times of days, soft seating, reduced lighting, chewbeads® & other stress relief options available in the store. A spring debut for the inclusive sensory-friendly storytimes will allow time to gain additional insight, plan and ensure a successful kick-off.


We are also collaborating to create an autism-specific event scheduled for early April (Autism Awareness Month). One popular and long-standing program well suited for an April autism event is the B & N Bookfair. Many not-for-profit organizations with literacy themed programs, have utilized our bookfairs for fundraising opportunities. We encourage customers to consider the bookfair as a celebration of their organizations. Springfield has more than one organization supporting families living with ASD, and literacy is just one important focus of their support. Along with a celebration, a bookfair is a vehicle to raise awareness and raise funds for literary initiatives and partnerships.


We are excited about the potential of a continued partnership. By next May, and the time of the 2018 Targeting Autism national forum at the Illinois State Library, we hope to have more collaborative experiences to share with readers of the Project ENABLE blog!


*Mary Pelich is Autism Consultant & Trainer at the Illinois State Library, Targeting Autism Training and Education Project.





Editor's Note: John forwarded this article that appeared in the latest Barnes & Noble newsletter. Our deepest thanks to Barnes & Noble, Inc. for allowing us to republish this.



Hurst Store Connects with a Young Booklover

Our store in Hurst, TX (Store 2344), recently welcomed a fellow booklover to the store to talk with ASM Jennifer McGinnis and CBDM Mark Brown. The booklover, a young, autistic boy named Ryan, came to the store to interview Jennifer and Mark about Barnes & Noble and books. Ryan was overjoyed with his experience, and his mother shared details of the day on her blog I am in my head. Below is an excerpt from her blog post:

"I called our local Barnes & Noble last week and I asked if it would be possible for Ryan to interview some of the employees and have a tour of the store. I initially spoke with Jennifer McGinnis, the Assistant Store Manager at the Hurst, TX, Barnes & Noble and then spoke with Mark Brown, the Community Business Development Manager. We set up a date and time of this past Monday at 4 p.m. This worked out great as Grace (Ryan's sister) was able to join us too.

We got to the store a little early and checked in with the Customer Service area. Jennifer and Mark came out to greet us in the Children's area and they pulled up a couple of seats and we began the interview…

What really struck me about this was that Jennifer and Mark were truly engaged in the interview and they did not appear to be rushed or hurrying us. Mark mentioned that he had checked out Ryan's blog prior to our visiting. They talked candidly with the kids and gave them great suggestions on books. They also shared their passion for books and explained what their jobs entailed on a daily basis.

I was so moved by this. When I set up these tours and interviews, I never know how they will go. Most of the time they go well, but a few times they haven't, either because it was rushed or the employee had too much to do. I felt like we could have stayed all day and Jennifer and Mark would have been fine with that. That meant a lot to me as a parent and a customer…

I wanted to end by saying that I will forever be a Barnes & Noble customer. Jennifer and Mark rolled out the "red carpet" for Ryan and Grace. I know that this meant so much to Ryan and it truly meant a lot to me." 


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