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June
The ENABLEd Librarian
by: Ruth V. Small, Ph.D., Director, Project ENABLE

Hello and welcome to the first issue of the Project ENABLE website's monthly blog, The ENABLEd Librarian. My name is Ruth Small and I am director of Project ENABLE.

You are at this website and reading this blog because you want to provide the most effective programs, services, tools, and resources to the patrons with disabilities who visit your library. So, each month we'll cover topics of interest related to creating inclusive and accessible libraries and services to meet the needs of all of your library's users. This blog provides a platform for sharing your ideas, experiences and best practices and for posing questions and exploring new ideas with colleagues, researchers and experts in the area of providing accessible and inclusive library and information services, programs, resources, and tools.

While I am authoring this first blog post, we will be hosting a variety of guest bloggers in the months to come, including researchers, librarians, and experts in the area of disabilities. We hope you'll make a habit of reading and participating in this interactive exchange of thoughts and ideas on this critical topic. 

For this first post, I'd like to begin by providing a little history, describing how and why Project ENABLE was created. Ten years ago, our Center for Digital Literacy at Syracuse University conducted a research study, funded by a National Leadership Grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum & Library Services (IMLS), on the impact of New York State's school libraries and librarians on student learning and motivation. At the time, we had no idea that one of the most startling findings from this research would indicate that only 3% (34) of the more than 1600 school librarians surveyed in Phase I of the study reported having any kind of pre-service special education training, were often excluded from in-service professional development in this area, and, as a result, they devoted little time and attention to providing adequate physical accessibility, instructional accommodations, or access to assistive technologies for their students with disabilities. When we saw this finding, we asked participants in the study's Phase II follow-up, in-depth survey to rate their competence in a number of areas and, again, school librarians rated their ability to provide inclusive programs and services lowest. In later surveys, similar results were found for both academic and public librarians. This was both troubling and a call to action and, thanks to continuing support from IMLS, Project ENABLE, a free, multi-media, interactive and engaging set of self-paced learning modules on library and information services to patrons with disabilities, was born!

If you have already participated in the Project ENABLE training, you have discovered that it provides librarians with a broad foundation, including the vocabulary, laws, and issues that underlie this critical area of professional knowledge. Through this training, we hope that all librarians will begin to develop their competence and confidence for creating accessible library facilities, delivering inclusive and accessible library and information programs and services, and providing the resources and technologies that level the information playing field for the children and adults of varying abilities who visit their libraries.

Since its inception in 2010, Project ENABLE has been a labor of love, a project that has spurred passion and a deep commitment from all who have worked on and with it. It also has inspired other projects nationwide, including the Targeting Autism project, led by a team at the Illinois State University. Now we are proud and very excited to announce that we are partnering with the Targeting Autism project team, under the leadership of project director Suzanne Schriar, to build on and expand their face-to-face workshops and one-on-one coaching sessions offered exclusively to librarians in the State of Illinois, by creating our first set of Project ENABLE online learning mini-modules with an in-depth focus on a single, multifaceted disability---autism spectrum disorder--- and available to librarians nationwide. 

As you read this and future ENABLEd Librarian blog posts, feel free to participate by commenting on any of the topics covered or sharing with us your Project ENABLE stories on ways you have applied what you have learned to your own libraries and library services, issues you've encountered, and library users whose lives you have impacted. Also, we'd like to hear what topics you'd like us to include on this blog and perhaps even some recommendations for guest bloggers.

Thanks and see you next month!