Opening access to public libraries for children with special needs and their families

Joanne Kaeding, University of South Australia

Concurrent session 10
Wednesday 31 August 2016, 11:30am - 11:55am

 

 

Abstract

Public libraries are safe and trusted public spaces where everyone is welcome... (Australian Library and Information Association Public Libraries Advisory Committee 2012, p.5).

Unfortunately, this is not always the experience of children with special needs and their families. 

With scholarships from ALIA, the State Government of South Australia and Libraries SA I visited eighteen public libraries and two cultural institutions in the United States and Canada. This presentation is the results of that research. The objectives were to:

  • Identify what public libraries are currently doing to improve access for children with special needs and their families.
  • Identify the barriers to access for children with special needs from the perspective of the public librarian.
  • Identify the barriers public libraries face in addressing the issue of access for this group of the community.
  • Make recommendations of strategies that public libraries can employ to improve access for children with special and their families.

A mixed method of qualitative and quantitative approaches was conducted. Participants took part in a semi-structured, one-to-one interview and an online questionnaire. The data was analysed and used to develop a model of an inclusive public library.

Results of data showed:

  • Library staff attitudes and sensitivities were considered by library staff be the greatest barrier to access for children with special needs and their families.
  • Lack of knowledge on how to address access issues for children with special needs was listed as the greatest barrier for libraries.
  • Libraries had attempted to address the issue of inclusive programs above all other barriers to access for this group.
  • Staff training in disability was listed as having the greatest impact on increasing access.
  • In the majority of libraries, management were very supportive of developing an inclusive library.

The research found there were five common elements that libraries focussed on when addressing issues of accessibility for children with special needs and their families. These elements were:

  • Collections
  • Programs
  • Partnerships
  • Physical barriers (space and equipment)
  • Training.

The elements were used to create an inclusive library model. The foundation of this model is supportive management.

The inclusive libraries model provides an entry point and structure for public libraries wanting to improve access for children with special needs and their families. 

Paper - Now available.

Presentation - Now available.

 

Creative Commons Licence

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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