Keep the Conversation Going – Services and Programs for Individuals with Disabilities

Full disclosure: I am not only a Children’s Librarian who advocates for inclusive programs and services for children with varying abilities, but I am also the parent of a child with a life-limiting genetic syndrome that causes significant developmental delays.  I am motivated to a great extent by my daughter to ensure that libraries across the country have the tools and training needed to create and/or improve their offerings for people with disabilities. It is my goal to have her enjoy visiting the library as much as I did as a child.

Many libraries today are addressing the needs of children with special needs to ensure inclusion in story time programs and successful visits for materials and other resources.  Sensory story times are the most popular offerings, but even a classic story time structure with simple modifications can be offered to include children with special needs.  If you are just getting started with creating inclusive story times and need some basic information to get the ball rolling, there is a great webinar offered through Infopeople that was put together by staff from the Contra Costa County Library (CA) titled, Inclusive Library Programs for People with Intellectual Disabilities. The webinar is fully archived with access to the presentation materials including slides, handouts, and the Q & A Chat with the live participants.  This webinar includes great information on creating inclusive programming for all ages as well as a segment focusing on Inclusive Story Time.

One of the resources suggested in the webinar to help you design appropriate content and develop a better understanding and awareness of the disabilities of children in your community is to connect with parents and professionals.  Communication with parents can be twofold.  It will provide insight into what parents feel are the needed adaptations and/or accommodations for their children to participate in a library story time, as well as create a channel for promoting your inclusive programming within the community.  Parents of children with special needs seek each other out and build strong networks of their own.  Getting the word out through these networks to promote your inclusive programs will help garner the participation and support you’ll need to make your program successful.

I have found many great resources for aiding youth librarians in educating themselves on getting started with programs and services to people with special needs.  One of the common concerns among staff is having the knowledge and understanding for working with children with disabilities.  I wasn’t prepared to be the mother to a child with significant health issues and developmental delays, but the more I worked with my daughter and cared for her, the more I have learned.  This will be true of working with children with special needs in the library.  You will learn more as you do more.  You’ll be thrilled to see how happy parents and local professionals will be to help teach you what you need to know.  Below is a list of several of the online resources I have recently found that can help you prepare for creating an inclusive environment for children of all abilities.

Professional Development:

Info People Webinar (Archived from August 2013), Inclusive Library Programs for People with Intellectual Disabilities

Charlotte Mecklenburg County Library (Online Learning Archive)

Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies: Library Accessibility – What you need to know

SNAILS – Special Needs and Inclusive Library Services, a professional network of librarians in Illinois working towards increasing and improving inclusive services

Resources and Examples:

Brooklyn Public Library – The Child’s Place, Information on programs for children with and without disabilities. Also check out their pamphlet about “Universal Design”.

Skokie (IL) Public Library Resource List; a comprehensive list of print materials for adults and children

Center for Early Literacy Learning, resources for adapting activities during story time


Bethany Lafferty is the Assistant Branch Manager/Youth Services Department Head at Henderson Libraries – Green Valley Branch in Henderson, Nevada.  She can be followed on Twitter with the handle @balaff1.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at

Posted in Blogger Bethany Lafferty, Professional Development, Programming Ideas, Special Needs Awareness, Storytime, Webinars | Leave a comment

The Benefits of Virtual Committees

Over the last few years many ALA divisions, including ALSC, have transitioned to having more committees, tasks forces and other groups operate primarily if not wholly via virtual methods. While ALSC continues to acknowledge the need for several committees to conduct much of their work face to face, several committees have successfully transitioned to entirely virtual, and all committees are encouraged to make use of ALA Connect and other tools to conduct some of their work.

The change toward more virtual work provides numerous benefits to individual members as well the organization and profession as a whole.

• Recruiting a wider pool of members and talent – Many current and potential members do not have the luxury of travelling to conferences regularly. This may be due to cost, family commitments, health restrictions, job restrictions or other possible reasons. Previously some members did not seek appointment or turned down opportunities due to conference attendance requirements. The opportunity to participate regardless of these obstacles provides many members a greater sense of involvement and allows more of ALSC’s many talented members to participate and contribute.

• Recruitment and retention of members – The ability to contribute also encourages more members of the profession to initiate or continue membership.

• Increased productivity – Committees designated as virtual conduct few if any meetings face-to-face but tend to meet frequently – at least once per month. The ability to meet virtually, usually via ALA Connect’s chat feature, enables committees to have brief meetings often as opposed to waiting until conference to meet. Many face-to-face committees take advantage of the ability to meet virtually between conferences as well. The frequent meetings keep projects moving forward and allow committees to accomplish more.

• Better attendance at conference sessions – Members of virtual committees who are able to attend conference will have greater flexibility to attend and present sessions rather than being tied to committee meetings. It also enables members greater flexibility to serve on multiple committees either within ALSC or across divisions by freeing up conference meeting time.

Many virtual chairs and members of committees have had positive experiences serving on virtual committees:

“As co-chair of the Great Websites for Kids Committee (2012-2014), my mission is to work with a committee of nine members in maintaining the ALSC Great Websites site. Working virtually, committee members are able to accomplish a rigorous amount of work while keeping strict deadlines. At the same time we have established an online rapport and have had the luxury of occasionally meeting each other in person at midwinter or annual conferences. Committee members have often remarked how they feel that this committee is particularly unique in that we have been able to accomplish so much each year.” Kimberly Grad, Brooklyn (NY) Public Library

Virtual committees have some unique challenges. One of the biggest concerns virtual committee members mention is the challenge of achieving the rapport and personal connection with each other that people develop during face-to-face interaction. The META team is always seeking advice and tips for virtual committees and maintains a Best Practices resource on the ALSC wiki. If you have a suggestion or success story about developing the connections between virtual teams to share, please send to Jill Bickford at

– JIll Bickford for the Metamorphosis Team Task Force

Posted in Committees, Guest Blogger | Leave a comment

ALSC Online Courses: New Semester Begins Sept 8!

ALSC Online Education

ALSC Online Education (image courtesy of ALSC)

This fall, get back into the swing of professional development. A brand-new semester of ALSC online courses is now open for registration. Classes begin Monday, Sept. 8, 2014.

Registrants will find that ALSC has increased the number of courses offering certified education units (CEUs). The American Library Association (ALA) has been certified to provide CEUs by the IACET. Courses include:

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Programs Made Easy
Four weeks, Sept. 8 – Oct. 3, 2014
CEU Certified Course, 1.2 CEUs

Storytelling with Puppets
Four weeks, Sept. 8 – Oct. 3, 2014

Storytime Tools
Four weeks, Sept. 8 – Oct. 3, 2014
CEU Certified Course, 2 CEUs

Detailed descriptions and registration information is available on the ALSC website at Fees are $115 for personal ALSC members; $165 for personal ALA members; and $185 for non-members. Questions? Please contact ALSC Program Officer for Education, Kristen Sutherland, 1-800-545-2433 ext 4026.

Posted in ALSC Online Courses, Blogger Dan Rude, Professional Development, STEM/STEAM, Storytime | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

District Days

Until September 7th, members of Congress will be at home tending to their constituents.  This time period, known as “District Days,” is a good time to touch base with both your Representatives in the House and your Senators to let them know about the importance of the work you do every day.

I know that most of you are tired, your Summer Reading program has just ended or is ending very soon and the start of the new school year is fast approaching, but here are some simple (and not so simple – for the energetic) things you can do:

  • If your summer reading challenge hasn’t ended yet and a big party to celebrate another successful summer is in the works, invite your legislators to it.  If it is over but you are hosting another event before Sept. 7th, invite them to that event.  You can find contact information for members here. The YALSA District Days site has some great information on how to plan an event and make it effective.
  • If your summer reading program is over, bring a photo album over to local Congressional offices, or if that won’t work, send it to them. You can ask kids to help you make it!  Some things you might include are:
    • Photos (of course) and or links to videos taken,
    • Statistics detailing the number of participants and the number of days, minutes or pages read (whatever measurement you use),
    • Statistics detailing the number of programs presented and the number of participants who attended,
    • Information linking the types of programs offered to their educational value (i.e. STEM programs, early literacy storytimes, etc.).; and click on the “Project Views” link,
    • Information on summer slip
    • Stories or comments from patrons about why they love summer reading and/or the library.
  • Personalized stories and numbers make a great combination. If an album won’t work, ask patrons to send comments individually to their representatives about how essential public libraries are to their daily lives.
  • Remember to check with your library administrators before the outreach begins to make sure everybody is on the same page.

Finally, if it is too late to do any of the above, remember to mark your calendars for a date in early June 2015 so that you can plan to participate next summer.  And, as always, stay tuned to this blog and our Everyday Advocacy weekly challenges for other things you can do during the year to advocate for your library.


Today’s post was written by Helen Bloch, Librarian 2 in Children’s Services at the Oakland Public Library, for the Advocacy and Legislation committee.

Posted in Blogger Advocacy and Legislation Committee | Leave a comment

Hurray for Another Year of Intellectual Freedom!

ALSC Intellectual Freedom Commitee members are looking forward to a third year of BBW 2013contributing to the ALSC Blog. Our blog posts are usually scheduled for the third Saturday of the month and we have a whole pile of interesting topic ideas to work through.

The ALSC Intellectual Freedom Committee serves as a liaison between ALSC and the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee and all other groups within ALA concerned with intellectual freedom; we advise the division on matters before the Office of Intellectual Freedom and their implication for library service to children; we make recommendations to the ALA IF Committee for changes to policies regarding library service to children; and we promote in-service and continuing education.

This year we are planning to follow our blog posts with an intellectual freedom themed discussion on ALSC-L and we are looking at some options for intellectual freedom trainings for youth services librarians. We have a busy year ahead of us!

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns for the ALSC IF Committee. We would love to hear from you!

Heather Acerro, ALSC Intellectual Freedom Committee Chair

Posted in Blogger Intellectual Freedom Committee, Committees, Intellectual Freedom | Leave a comment

ALSC Member of the Month — Beth Munk

Each month, an ALSC member is profiled and we learn a little about their professional life and a bit about their not-so-serious side. Using just a few questions, we try to keep the profiles fun while highlighting the variety of members in our organization. So, without further ado, welcome to our ALSC profile, ten questions with ALSC member, Beth Munk.

photo 1(1)

Photo courtesy of Beth Munk

1. What do you do, and how long have you been doing it?

I am the children’s services manager at the Kendallville Public Library. I have been overseeing programming, collections, and staff here for 10 years.

2. Why did you join ALSC? Do you belong to any other ALA divisions or roundtables?

I joined ALSC around 4 years ago because I wanted to get more involved in the library profession.   I have served on various local and state agencies boards helping organizations to achieve their missions. I’ve been involved in the Indiana Library Federation and Children and Young Person Division (CYPD) conference planning committees for years but was really interested in taking things to the next level.   Joining ALSC has allowed me to connect with librarians across the country and discuss the future of our profession.

3. What motivates you?

Forward movement. People can be divided into two categories – Builders or Maintainers –I’m a builder. Builders are innovators, creators, and explorers. They not only get to create new services, projects, and programs, but they also get to find ways to expand and enhance what is already there.   I heard someone say once that they “hate sameness.” That’s me, I am consistently telling my staff that we did a great job, but what can we do to make it bigger? Better?

4. What are you proudest of having accomplished in your professional career?

The thing I’m most proud of in my professional career is helping to bring the library to LIFE for the youth of Kendallville. I have pushed myself and my staff to be “there” wherever that may be, and promote the connections in our life to what the library has to offer.

5. Favorite age of kids to work with?

I LOVE to work with students in the upper elementary (grades 3-6). This group is able to enjoy a great picture book and a fun activity, but are also able to delve into deep converstations and participate in a multi-step project.

6. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? 

When I was little I went through a variety of careers that I was interested in…the one the stuck around the longest, was that of the sports broadcaster.   I went to Purdue University and received a degree in communications with the hopes of landing an on air job in the news.

7. What’s one “rule” you wished every librarian followed?

I wish every librarian would follow the “rule” to sometimes, “just give them the pickle!” This is a story told by Bob Farrell on the importance of customer service.   Basically, it boils down to sometimes you have to break the “rules.” What’s your “pickle” in your job/library? Is it more important than a happy customer?

8. Movies or plays?

This is a tough one, because I love both.   For many years I have travelled to Stratford, Canada with a group of high school kids to enjoy the Shakespearean festival and I wouldn’t trade those experiences for any movie. BUT there is a time to curl up on the couch with your kids and belt out “Let it Snow,” just one more time.

9. Have you ever photobombed someone?

I do my very best to never ever be photographed for any reason, so I have never photobombed anyone, but almost every time someone sneaks a picture of me there is someone making some face in the background.

10. What do you love about your work?

I love so many things about my work, but probably my favorite part is meeting authors and listening to their stories about why they write, what they used to do, or just the silly things they have been through. This in itself is wonderful, but taking that to a group of 4th graders and getting the feeling that I’m giving them some secret insight into the book or author we’re discussing is awesome!


Thanks, Beth! What a fun continuation to our monthly profile feature!

Do you know someone who would be a good candidate for our ALSC Monthly Profile? Are YOU brave enough to answer our ten questions? Send your name and email address to; we’ll see what we can do.

Posted in ALSC Member Profile, Blogger Mary R. Voors | Leave a comment

Consistency is Key

My library always has a huge turnout for our Summer Reading Program. My branch alone (one of ten in the system) has close to 5,000 kids and teens participate in our Summer Reading Program which means we are busy all summer long. For as long as I’ve worked at the library (eight years) we’ve always brought in hired performers once a week to help take the burden off of staff during a busy programming period. We also continue with our regular storytimes and offer many special programs done by staff.

This summer we decided to try something new. We offered consistent weekly programs for special age groups throughout the summer. We hosted “Monday Madness” for tweens-we defined tweens as grades 4-8. We also added a weekly STEM program called “Science Explorers” for grades K-5. The program was hosted at the same time, but the theme changed every week. Staff did everything from LEGOs and tea parties to the science of spiders, and building catapults.

What we discovered was something we had long suspected-our patrons loved having a consistent day and time set aside for certain age groups. Many parents mentioned how much they loved having a program day and time set aside just for the tweens who often feel left out in other programming. Since we limited registration to 25-30 participants for the Friday events the kids loved having a chance to explore all sorts of science topics in a smaller setting.

Offering weekly programs was a lot to take on in addition to our three days of storytimes a week, Thursday performers and additional programs like our dance party, digital storytimes, and evening storytimes. But it was worth it to add the additional programs to make sure we offered something for everyone all summer long.

We felt like we finally found a great programming formula that worked for our library during Summer Reading Program and we can’t wait to try it again next year.


Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Work and Life

On a recent solo road trip, I grabbed a random book on CD from the 658s and ended up with “The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working: The Four Forgotten Needs That Energize Great Performance” by Tony Schwartz. This book was recently re-published under the title “Be Excellent at Anything: The Four Keys to Transforming the Way We Work and Live”. This was one of the best ways that I could have spent my 10 hours on the road. I’m an exempt employee who loves my job, so I tend to struggle with my work life balance, often leaning towards more work and less life.

The basic idea of the book is that we have four core needs that help us perform at our best: security, self-expression, significance & sustainability. We need to make sure that these needs are met so that we can be more efficient and focused when we are at work.

Significance: This is the “why” of your work. Why do you get up in the morning?

Security: Feeling accepted and appreciated for who you are.

Self-Expression: The ability to use your unique talents and skills.

Sustainability: Taking care of yourself so that you can take care of your work.

Sustainability is definitely my trouble area. Schwartz argues, with research to back him up, that powering through a 12 hour day is less productive than an 8 hour day with plenty of “renewal” breaks. Examples of renewal breaks include reading, taking a nap, going on a run or just getting outside for a walk.

Schwartz also argues that we run through a daytime cycle, similar to the 90 minute sleep cycle and we can only give 90 minutes of focused energy before we have to take a break. After 90 minutes, one becomes less productive. He recommends scheduling meetings for a maximum of 90 minutes and some for only 30 minutes. He said that in a 30 minute meeting, you tend to get more done because you don’t have the luxury of time.

He also talked about the myth of multi-tasking and the idea that we are always distracted, giving only a portion of our attention to any one thing; that we don’t fully engage in anything and definitely don’t spend enough time thinking about long term planning or big picture stuff.

Most importantly he mentions that it is important to turn off work and not check email constantly from home, but to fully engage in other activities in order to be better at work.

After I returned home I shared this book with my colleagues and I picked up a print copy for myself. After skimming through the material again I compiled a thirty-one item list of things to do to improve my work life balance. Change doesn’t happen overnight, so although I have only made half of these improvements, I feel good about my progress.

Right now I am looking very much forward to my second to last vacation of the year. I plan to leave work behind and enjoy my family and the last bit of summer.

If you are struggling to leave work at work, I highly recommend this read (or listen). If you are not sure if you could benefit from the book, take this Energy Audit quiz.

Posted in Blogger Heather Acerro, Books, Professional Development, What I Wasn't Taught in Library School... | 2 Comments