Blogger Renee Grassi

Empathy and Inclusive Customer Service

I am often asked, “What does inclusive customer service mean?” To me, it’s about providing the same high level of service to everyone regardless of who that person is or what their abilities might be.  And there’s one component that’s key in practicing inclusive customer service.  Empathy. Empathy is not a switch you simply turn on when you need it. Empathy is something that needs to be developed, nurtured, and practiced.  Empathy is the experience of understanding another person’s thoughts, feelings, and point of view. Empathy helps us communicate with one another and, as a result, helps us show compassion towards other people. Why is empathy important for librarians? Our library communities are becoming more diverse–not only racially or ethnically diverse, but more diverse in ability, gender expression, age, education level and background, and sexual orientation. With this diversity comes a richness in perspective and life experience.  We librarians need…

Blogger Renee Grassi

Visual Schedules: Making Programs Accessible for All

I’ve been using visual schedules in my Sensory Storytime programming for years. It’s a tip I gathered by observing teachers working with special education students in their classrooms.  During my classroom observation, I listened as the teacher directed the students through each activity on the large group schedule, using “First… Then…” language.  Each student had their own individual group schedule, which replicated the large group schedule on the board.  As the group completed each activity, the teacher would return to the large group schedule at the front of the room, remove the visual pertaining to the completed activity, and then direct the students to the next activity.  Each student then replicated this on their own individual schedule. Working with those special education teachers, who mentored me in my very first Sensory Storytime, I learned how to create visuals and adapt my technique incorporating this practice into my storytime. I quickly…

Blogger Renee Grassi

Make it Okay: Mental Health Awareness Month

                            Did you know? One in five children today has a diagnosable mental health condition. One half of all chronic mental illness begins by the age of fourteen. Nearly one in ten children have an anxiety disorder. 37% of students with a mental health condition ages fourteen and older drop out of school–the highest rate of any disability group. Why is mental health important to the work we do in libraries? Mental health is an essential part of children’s overall health and a key indicator for lifelong success. It has a complex relationship with kids’ physical health and their ability to succeed in school, at work and in society. However, if a child is experiencing a mental illness, a person can’t tell just by looking. If mental illness goes untreated, the implications are severe for the a child’s quality of…

Blogger Renee Grassi

A Librarian’s Open Letter to Jacqueline Laurita

Hi Jacqueline, First off, I have a confession to make. I have never watched an episode of The Real Housewives of New Jersey, nor have I watched any of the Real Housewife series or spin offs.  It’s just not my cup of tea. In fact, there are probably many other librarians out there who share my opinion. And that’s perfectly okay because that’s not why I’m writing this open letter to you today. This is not the first time a children’s librarian used this blog before to broadcast their message to a celebrity. In 2012, I fangirled my adoration for Glee’s Chris Colfer for writing a book and encouraging children to read.  That same year, Susan Baeir penned an open letter to Kourtney Kardashian about how she admired Kourtney’s commitment to reading and literacy in raising her son. I’m not sure if you, Chris Colfer, and Kourtney Kardashian share many things in…

Blogger Renee Grassi

Improving Outcomes for Children with Disabilities in Libraries

When libraries are looking to improve an area of service, such as service to children with disabilities and their families, it’s important to start with answering the question–why? It seems like a simple question with a simple answer. Libraries should serve children with disabilities because libraries are for everyone.  It’s the right thing to do. It’s in the spirit of public libraries as public institutions, which are for all. All of these statements are absolutely true, but sometimes it’s not enough to justify the existence of a new collection, program, or service.  So, let’s consider other reasons why libraries should serve children with disabilities and their families. First and foremost, it’s the law. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law in 1990.  The ADA makes it illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities in jobs, schools, transportation, and all experiences that are open to the public.  In…

Blogger Renee Grassi

Community Assessment for Inclusive Library Services

Leveraging partnerships is essential to supporting the development and growth of new programs and services for children with disabilities. One of the best things you can do when serving an undeserved population like families with children with disabilities is to collaborate with other local organizations to gather community feedback about people’s perceptions and experiences of your library. Whether you decide to take a more formal or an informal approach in gathering information, performing a comprehensive community assessment is a necessary first step in growing this area of service.  Assessing your community helps identify opportunities and gaps in service for different age groups. It can help you learn about what types of programs your library could be offering to families with children with disabilities.  This process can also help you determine what the best and most accessible mode of communication is for families, or identify areas for improvement in your library’s…

Blogger Renee Grassi

ALSC Community Forum: Inclusive Spaces and Services for Children of All Abilities

          ALSC Community Forum January 10, 2018 @ 3PM (Central) Topic: Inclusive Spaces and Services for Children of All Abilities Jason Driver, Renee Grassi, Eva Thaler-Sroussi, and ALSC President Nina Lindsay will be hosting an ALSC Community Forum live chat on the topic of Inclusive Spaces and Services for Children of All Abilities.  This forum will include a live text discussion with the opportunity to ask questions to our presenters. In the past 5 years alone, the topic of inclusion, accessibility, and youth librarianship has moved forward in positive and innovative ways. This discussion will focus on tangible practices for inclusion of children of all abilities in library spaces and services.  What can we do to make our youth departments, our branches, or our libraries more welcoming to children and their families?  What have we learned from our successes and our failures in programs and services?…

Blogger Renee Grassi

Rethinking Summer Library Programs….in November

Summer 2017 may be over, but Summer 2018 planning has only just begun…we know it to be true!  Our Summer Library Programs may be just 10 weeks out of the year, but program planning is perennial.  We design our summer library programs to be engaging and impactful, and we care deeply that the kids in our communities have a positive experience.  But let’s face it–it takes time to do that effectively. So, earlier this month, 60 passionate Youth Librarians in Wisconsin got a jump-start on rethinking their summer library programs.  And it was at their annual YS workshop where I had the pleasure of facilitating a lively discussion about accessibility and inclusion for youth with disabilities in summer library programs. Before redesigning your library’s summer program, it’s important to consider the big picture at the very beginning of planning.  What is your overall goal in providing this summer library program…