2013 Projects – Blind Date with a Book

blinddateI did a Blind Date with a Book display in April, it went over really well.  I was pleased.  The books were wrapped and had a few key words on the cover, to give a sense of the book, without giving too much away.  31 of the 47 books circulating in just over three weeks.  The books were marked as “unavailable” in Polaris, so they needed to be checked in before they were checked out, but patrons and circ staff were fine with the slightly added check out time.

People I spoke with generally seemed to enjoy the idea, even if they did not check out a book off the display.  Strictly in an observational sense, many people stopped and looked at the display.

Total time spent on the display from set up to take down was about 6 hours, so it was time consuming.  Two quick things could make this faster; the first would be to pre-select the books (which I did not do, I just pulled shiny looking books and some of my favorites) and have a page pull them,  and the second would be to enlist volunteers to wrap the materials.

 I think if it is done again in the future it might go over well as a summer reading event or tie it in with February around Valentine’s Day.    I’d also love to do one for teenagers, if given the chance!
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2013 Projects – Books on the Go

lame clipart!  it was free

The best of the lame clip art available for the project.

The biggest project (beside graduating) that I’ve tackled this year was was the revamping of Troy’s Books on the Go book group kits.  Of the previous twenty-odd kits, many had gone missing or were no longer circulating.  The bags were in disarray, and it was generally an underused collection.  When my boss asked me to select some new titles for consideration, it was simply exploratory; I did not expect it to turn out to be such a massive undertaking.

My first steps were to discover what local book clubs, and groups around the country, would be reading the coming year.  I gathered my titles and narrowed it down to about 20 items, sending it off to my boss for her perusal.  I was surprised when she told me she wasn’t going to make any changes, and even more surprised when I was informed to start ordering them!

Hours of time later, I realized that not all 20 items would be possible to get in an affordable fashion.  A decision was made to get things available in paperback only.  I made a few substitutions and ended up with 16 titles from the original twenty, with two titles that we would source from copies we already held.

My boss suggested new bags, which I was more than happy to track down, as the small tote bags from past kits were dingy and looking pretty bad.  By the end of the day I had sent her a list of options, and within a week or two, we had approval to order them  We ended up with these great zipped canvas tote bags that are really going to hold up to a bag of 12 or more books!

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The hardest thing about this project was putting everything together.  The display needed to be set up with a binder of book summaries and discussion questions, processing needed to happen both in Tech Services, and then more on my end.  Barcodes needed to be added to the bags, discussion questions needed to be laminated and added, displays needed setting up.  It took at least two shifts for everything to come together.  Much to my surprise, 7 of the kits already had holds on them!

For those curious, here is a link to the list of the books/binder cover.

I’m really looking forward to getting feedback on this project from patrons, and I hope these kits will hold up over the next few years.

LIS 7850 Final Blog Post

As we close on the semester, I’ve focused a lot on education, community, and social justice within my studies of universal access and library services to people who are disabled and older adults.  I’ve realized that there are many different things that librarians can do to help these populations, but the biggest one is to educate ourselves.

We must educate without belittling or lessening the experiences that others face in their day to day life.  It is important to understand and support, without ever assuming that we truly understand what populations different to us goes through.  We must actively work to change the cultural idea of what “normal” is to include a wider range of people than it currently does, in all levels of society.

This means being aware of what micro-aggression is, and how to avoid behaving in similar ways.  It means having some idea that books written about people who are disabled may not be accurate representations, and therefore perpetuate painful stereotypes.  Educating ourselves also involves and understanding of the resources people have in our communities, and how the library can reach out and harness these resources, to provide a full and engaging experience.  While also keeping aware of the fact that sometimes, the services we provide are not accessible.  However, our education will help us make these services more open.

When I started this class I was asked to write out a handful of assumptions, an assignment I balked at, because I know assumptions are often unsafe to make.  I came up with the following:

1) Disabilities manifest differently for every person.  Two people may have the same disability, but it will manifest with its own unique challenges and issues.

2) Aging presents its own set of issues and challenges that cannot always be addressed in a blanket fashion.

3) Being old, or being a person with a disability does not have to affect your quality of life.

4) There is just as much diversity in aging and disabilities as there is in other identities.

All of my assumptions have remained the same throughout the course of this class.  If anything, the readings, course material, and other assignments of this class has only served to propel these assumptions into firm truths. I have been made aware of a wider range of issues, challenges through this class than I was before.  I am also well on my way to a better understanding of how to counter these issues,  and to create a library environment that is welcoming to a wide range of people of varied abilities

Universal Access

Universal access is the concept that physical buildings, technology, information, and many other things should be open and accessible to those who are physically disabled or have other issues from preventing access in a traditional manner.   It is an idea that needs to take root in society, as even with the technologies and advances we have made, there is still a large barrier when it comes to people who fall outside of a “normal” preconceived notion of ability and ability levels.

Universal access is the concept that buildings should be barrier free, beyond just ADA compliant, but properly accessible to people of all types.  It is the idea the computers should be easily adaptable for people who have low or no vision, and limited mobility.  It also pertains to things like websites, presentations, and documents; that there is an uncomplicated way for people who are disabled to access the information provided on these materials.   The ADA mandates that buildings be accessible, yet there are some situations were buildings can be grandfathered in to be non-compliant.  In other situations, even if the buildings meet ADA codes, does not mean they are practically accessible.

However, in the situations such as educational materials, websites, and virtually everything else, are often not accessible.   This provides the biggest issue for libraries and information agencies.   There are many ways to make buildings more accessible, and things such as furniture and software on computers.  Yet, making buildings more open, including furniture and other settings, are expensive and often hard to retrofit.  Technology is costly to purchase, and hard to retrofit.  On top of that, these items then have to be marketed, which takes staff time and additional funding.

Sadly, this all falls to the clients, leaving them as underserved within the library.  Buildings, even accessible ones, provide different hassles of navigation.  Computer labs will not have the software needed to make computers fully accessible.  If a library does have these services, the marketing might not reach the people who need it most.

As librarian professionals we need to be aware of little changes we can make, and educate ourselves.  This will allow us to look at our workplaces, down to the physical buildings, to the materials that we but out, more open and accessible to a wide range of people.

Outreach and the Library

I’ve addressed my local library and its outreach to seniors in a previous blog post.   So for this post I’m going to turn to a library outside of the Detroit area, Rochester Hills Public Library.  I was exceptionally impressed with RHPL’s library service for older adults.

RHPL has an Outreach Coordinator, who is in charge of services to senior adults, as well as services to the disabled community and is in charge of running a bookmobile service.  They work hard to make sure that older adults are connected to the library and they have services that are geared toward them.

Within the main branch, there is a dedicated room for outreach services, which is where most of the services for the senior community are organized.  This room includes their large print collection, computers, a home health care library, relevant magazines, and assistive devices to aid in reading.  RHPL also has mini-branches in each of the designated senior living complexes in the area that they support.  There is also one located in the community center for older adults.  These branches are run by volunteers within the communities and provide access to large print, audio book materials, as well as bestsellers, DVDS, and other paperbacks.  RHPL have book cards for residences where the patients may be room/bed bound, where they can pick a selection of books, audio, and movie materials off a mobile cart on a twice weekly visit.

These stations are more than just a collection of books, and allow greater access to materials to patrons who might not be able to make it to the main location.  They also provide excellent opportunities for older adults to become engaged in their communities and participating and staying active.  This type of partnership, between the housing complexes and the senior living center is a brilliant partnership that more libraries could think of fostering.

There are additional situations to provide programming directly at these mini-branches, depending on size of the branch.  These could be educational or entertainment events, which will allow people to remain connected to one another and engaged in discussion.  Not only will people be able to enjoy the programming, but they could enlist volunteers from the housing complex and senior centers, which provide an even better opportunity to stay involved.  Nurturing a community is can, and should be, an important role for libraries.

Reaching out to disability culture

Prompt:  Why is knowledge of Disability culture important to library and information professionals/practitioners? What barriers exist in library and information agencies for individuals with disabilities? How can LIS practitioners leverage this knowledge to reduce barriers to information access?

There is one, very large reason that disability culture is important for information professionals to be aware of; to educate ourselves on populations we service.  As I have stated previously, we need to educate ourselves on our library population, including the aged and disabled.  We cannot expect them to be our sole educators, it is not their responsibility.   A culture, be it an ethnic or social culture, should not be held responsible for the ignorance of outsiders.  They should not suffer due to the ignorance of outsiders.

I cannot presume to know what a person with disabilities faces on a daily basis that prevents them from accessing a library or information agency.   However, I can speak with those who are disabled, and have.  Reoccurring themes in my conversations with people are physical barriers.  These range from broken or badly maintained ramps, shelves that are inaccessible, or buildings that are old enough to use ADA loopholes, so they do not have to provide full access to all facilities.

The second set of barriers comes from apathy.   Sydney (a pseudonym) is an older woman who uses an electric wheelchair and a cane to get around, due to chronic pain and other health issues.   In conversations between her and I, she has often lamented that people simply do not want to think about, or care, about disabled people.  They do not find a one inch step into a building an issue, where to her, it means she is not able to access that facility.   She tells me that complaints often go unheard and often with no response.

Making ourselves aware of disability culture should make us aware of the problems and issues that are faced by the members of that culture.   It will provide librarians and information professionals insights into their needs  In addition, if we approach that culture in honest and open communication, a tie can be formed that will help us strengthen our services and facilities.

Reaching out to those active in disability culture will help us find ways to actively change our programing, buildings, and other services so we can meet the needs of a much wider population.   The library, or information agency, can be known as a place people can trust to deliver unbiased and accessible assistance.  If there is a dialog open between the agency and the community, people will know that their comments and concerns are being heard, and give them a forum to address further issues.

Reaching out to a culture can also help remove stereotypes, biases, and other problematic behaviors that people may have (unknowingly or not).    Issues such as micro-aggression can be lessoned, and the library can become a more welcoming environment.

 

Micro-Aggression and Oppression

Morton Deutsch, a sociologist specializing in conflict resolution, defines oppression as such, “Oppression is the experience of repeated, widespread, systemic injustice. It need not be extreme and involve the legal system…[and it need not be] violent” (2006).  Of the definitions of oppression explored, this one is the most applicable to older adults and people with disabilities.  Particularly because the oppression that faces those who are older or disabled in the United States is not carried out with excessive force, but in small acts of micro-aggression.

American Association of People with Disabilities Youth Transitions Fellows Leah Katz-Hernandez and Megan Erasmus define micro-aggressions as such, “Subtle, often automatic, stereotypical, and insensitive behavior or comments or assumptions about a person’s identity, background, ethnicity, or disability. It might be presented politely or negatively” (2012).

Micro-aggression is telling a person who uses a wheelchair “just take the stairs up to the adult services wing.”  A micro-aggression is assuming an elderly patron wants a large print book.  It is people who ask prying personal questions, because an individual does not look “normal”, and they assume they have a right to know about their condition.  We see it every day, but it does not always register as oppression, however, micro-aggression is oppression.  They are small injustice of everyday life.

As information professionals we have an obligation to our patrons to be aware of the cycles of oppression and to counteract them to the best of our abilities.  We must be mindful of our language when speaking with others, and be as inclusive as possible.  When designing programs, our stacks, and other library facilities, librarians must look beyond our own situations and strive or openness.

This goes beyond issues of age and disabilities.  We need to educate ourselves on our library population, including the aged and disabled.  We cannot expect them to be our sole educators, it is not their responsibility.  We must also look beyond our stereotypes, assumptions, and generalizations, so we can provide them with the best library experience.

References:

Deutsch, M. (2006). A framework for thinking about oppression and its change. Social Justice Research, 19(1), 7-41

Katz-Hernandez, L., & Erasmus, M. (2012, January). Micro-Aggression: It’s Bullying. In American Association of People with Disabilities . Retrieved October 19, 2012

Side note:  This post was written in response to a prompt discussion what oppression is, in regards to older people and people who are disabled and libraries.