Where do I begin? That’s a question a lot of librarians ask themselves as they begin expanding services to children with special needs at their library. That’s where SNAILS comes in. SNAILS, Special Needs and Inclusive Library Services, is a new networking group made up of Illinois youth services librarians and staff, young adult librarians, and LTA and MLS students. Holly Jin, Youth Services Librarian from the Skokie Public Library, and I began this networking group to connect library staff across the state around this topic. As we each began new programs and services for patrons with disabilities at our own respective libraries, we struggled finding other librarians in this state to learn from that had found success in this area of outreach. So, we wanted to create a network so that other librarians who were interested in this topic could gather ideas, ask questions, and learn from each other.
SNAILS will meet in person on a quarterly basis, and in between meetings, will connect virtually using a blog. We decided to utilize a blog so that representatives from member libraries could write guest posts and contribute content about best library practices. We also wanted to have a virtual presence so as to continue learning, knowing that not all of our group’s members might be able to visit libraries for the in-person meetings. One important aspect of the blog is our list of resources . This the start of a bibliography of resources, which include articles, blog posts, videos, and professional literature, that will help librarians in their process of creating new programs and services. Our hope is this resource guide will expand and grow, as members share what resources have been most useful for them.
What are some of the group’s goals?
- To learn, share ideas, and grow professionally in disability awareness
- To connect librarians and library staff with each other to help expand library services to children and young adults with special needs
- To bring awareness to non-users about what libraries are doing to expand programs and services to people with disabilities
- To advocate for public libraries statewide to the larger special needs community
What do we hope to learn?
- What types of programs and services exist at other libraries for children and young adults with special needs?
- How can assistive technologies help patrons with disabilities?
- How can we as library staff assess the need for special needs outreach in library communities?
- How can we as library staff better promote and advertise existing programs and services to the special needs community?
- Which local agencies and organizations in the larger special needs community partner with to expand services and programming?
- What print and online resources are available for serving children and teens with special needs?
- Where can we as library staff receive in-person and online training to expand our knowledge about disability awareness and people with special needs?
And this is just the beginning…! Stay tuned for more exciting updates about SNAILS!
Does your state have a library networking group to connect other librarians and library staff about expanding library services to children with special needs? If so, leave a comment in the field below. We’d love to learn from you!