Project ENABLE (Expanding Non-discriminatory Access By Librarians Everywhere) was created in response to the findings of an IMLS-funded, three-phase research study conducted from 2006-2009 by a team of researchers, led by Dr. Ruth Small, at Syracuse University's Center for Digital Literacy (CDL). The study investigated the impact of a variety of library and information services on student learning and motivation in schools in New York State.
Consistently across all three phases of the research, school librarians rated their services to students with disabilities lowest on all surveys and no librarian reported providing separate instruction to students with individualized education programs (IEPs) (with some stating they didn't even know what an IEP was and many indicating they were often left out of any in-service training the topic of teaching students with disabilities. For further information on the New York State Impact Study, go to School Library Media Research, vols. 12 and 13.
In 2010, a proposal was submitted by to IMLS for funding for a three-year project with the goal to provide in-depth training to school librarians on ways to provide appropriate and effective library and information programs and services to students with disabilities. The funding was received in July 2010 and Project ENABLE was born. The funding allowed Project ENABLE to provide three 5-day workshops in summer 2011. The workshop participants were comprised of 45 3-person teams (school librarian, special educator, general educator) from New York State.
In 2011, IMLS awarded a second grant to CDL to expand Project ENABLE to school librarians nationwide. A second round of in-person workshops were held on the Syracuse University campus for 30 3-person teams and 11 faculty from school library graduate programs nationwide. Teams from 17 states attended the training.
Because the need was so great, the Project ENABLE team realized that face-to-face workshops could not meet this need fast enough so an innovative freely accessible training Web site was created. The site was intended to provide online, self-paced, multimedia and interactive training that simulated much of the workshop content and activities.
Then in 2013, Project ENABLE received a third grant from IMLS to expand the project even further---to public and academic librarians. The site was given a new "look" and new features and functions were added, including the ability for participants to customize their experience to a specific type of library context.
In 2016, we partnered with the Illinois State Library and Dominican University on the Targeting Autism project. Project ENABLE will develop and host a cluster of training mini-modules that focus on training librarians, library directors, and paraprofessionals to better understand autism and how to provide the most effective library and information services, programs, and resources to children and adults on the autism spectrum.
Plans are currently in the works for additional features and customization tools, as well as research to document the impact of Project ENABLE not only on library practice but on the people with disabilities being served.