I’ve been thinking a lot lately about serving adults with special needs as a children’s librarian. I work at a large urban library and we have the luxury of having a specific children’s library area. Our policy states that you must be with a child or using children’s materials to be in the children’s library. This policy makes it clear that an adult with special needs can come into look for materials, but does allow for some grey areas. Here are a few related questions I’ve been pondering…
- What if an adult with special needs doesn’t feel comfortable in the adult parts of the library and would rather hang out in the children’s area?
- What if they want to attend a storytime that might be developmentally appropriate, but not age appropriate? How about registering for a developmentally appropriate summer reading program?
- Should we let them use our children-only internet computers or play on our iPads and AWE touchscreens?
- What happens if an adult makes a caregiver or child uncomfortable?
Serving adults with special needs can be difficult in many situations because the individuals without guidance are often in the most need of programming and services. In addition, some may be experiencing homelessness, adding another layer to the equation. Other barriers to providing targeted programming can include transportation, variety of developmental abilities, and marketing.
All of this makes me wonder…
- How does your library handle the information and service needs of this special population?
- How do you balance the needs and comfort of children/families with those of adults with special needs?
- Do you have a designated person who provides programming for this population?
- Do you have programs targeting this special population or do you make your regular children’s offerings more inclusive? (For an excellent example of targeted programming, check out the Sensory Storytime for Special Needs Adults provided by Durham County Library, NC.)
I don’t have the answers to these questions, as they are community-, library-, individual-specific. But I’m interested to hear how you handle situations such as these in your children’s areas. What other kinds of challenges or successes have you come across? Any words of advice for other librarians?
Amy has her MLS from Texas Woman’s University and is a children’s librarian at the Denver Public Library. She is always on the look out for creative ways to incorporate the arts into children’s services and programming to extend books beyond the page. Check out Amy’s blogs: http://picturebookaday.blogspot.com/ & http://chapterbookexplorer.blogspot.com/
Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.