Five years ago, I wrote an ALSC blog post about using American Sign Language in the Library. Revisiting the topic five years later, we see there are now more public libraries expanding services and programs for deaf individuals and those who speak ASL, such as Montgomery County Public Library and Columbus Metropolitan Library. It’s exciting to know that libraries are working towards enhancing services to all populations of library users, even those who may not have always felt welcome at the library before.
Last month in honor of National Deaf Awareness Month, my library launched a monthly series called American Sign Language Celebration. Co-planned and co-sponsored by community partners from our Metro Deaf School, Minnesota Resource Libraries, and Minnesota State Academy of Deaf, the goal of this program was two-fold. We wanted to recognize and celebrate ASL and Deaf Culture at the Library by sharing information about American Sign Language. We also wanted to develop a program that would intentionally welcome hearing, deaf, and hard of hearing individuals alike in an experience that brings all ages and abilities together.
To help promote the event, the Library worked together with our community partners to develop an ASL Celebration Welcome Video. This video featured our community partner speaking ASL, while a voice-over and closed captions were utilized to share the content of the video to hearing and reading viewers. Utilizing a format that was both audio and visual helped us promote the program broadly and inclusively to all abilities interested in attending. To introduce attendees to what they would expect, we filmed the video in the library location that was hosting the series and featured the program leader on the video introducing himself to the audience–a benefit to those with anxiety or autism spectrum disorder who needed additional preparation.
On the day of the program, attendees were greeted with light refreshments and a variety of ASL themed stations. Community partners, such as Metro Deaf School, Minnesota Resource Libraries, and Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf, worked resource tables for attendees to gather information and learn about their services. Attendees could make an ASL or Libraries Are For Everyone themed button using the library’s button maker. In addition, we had various ASL themed make-and-take crafts. And thanks to local grant funds, the library provided slow-release squishy stress ball fidgets customized with the Library’s new logo as free giveaways.
During the presentation part of the program, our community partner from Metro Deaf School presented an ASL storytelling experience for the audience, along with voice narration by two local interpreters from American Sign Language Interpreting Services (ASLIS). The storytelling was more accessible than a typical storytime program, in that we projected enlarged scanned images of the picture book illustrations. We also provided fidgets, accessible seating options, and had our library’s personal assistive technology devices and FM system available for patrons to use.
For further learning, check out the National Institute of on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders and ASGCLA’s Deaf or Hard of Hearing Tip Sheet. Don’t miss LifePrint.com or Signing Savvy–free, online sign language learning tools.
This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: I. Commitment to Client Group, III. Programming Skills, and V. Outreach and Advocacy.