- ALA Annual Conference 2022

Toward Inclusion and Equity for Young Children in Public Library Programs

A Pivot to Crowdsourced Wisdom and Resource Sharing #alaac22

After all the pandemic-related shifts to programming and policy, most folks are weary of the word “pivot,” but there is no better word for what a room full of librarians did at #alaac22 when the presentation they were looking forward to fell through. The topic: accessibility and inclusion for children with disabilities and their caregivers.

The room was prepared well for such an event, with ASL interpreters and on-the-fly closed captioning (which was excellent, by the way) simultaneously available. Upon realizing the presenters would not be arriving, a few intrepid leaders took the mic and suggested we use the time anyway, offering to tap into the collective wisdom in the room. What followed was an inspiring and truly remarkable session, full of ideas, insights, and an amazing sense of community and solidarity.

As we all began to realize what a gift this potential misstep had turned out to be, a special energy took over: someone circulated a piece of paper to gather emails for further sharing; someone else created a shared doc for distributing resources; questions were asked and answered, the mic moving around and through the room for over an hour.


Here are some highlights, with links to ALA, ALSC, and external resources:


Besides all these resources, the conversation was brisk, and many thoughtful ideas were suggested, including the following:

  • Equip Storytime librarians with personal, wearable mics with small, battery-powered speakers to clip on a belt or lanyard to make any Storytime (but especially outdoors!) more accessible
  • Connect with Special Education teachers and administrators in your local school system to offer support in the schools and to connect your library with families
  • Create “Meet Your Local Librarian” profiles to introduce young patrons to you before they come to the library; similarly, create Social Stories (see the Skokie Public Library for example) to acclimate users to your building, your Storytime, or your processes
  • Consider opportunities like the Smithsonian’s Morning at the Museum, which offers sensory-friendly access to the museum before it opens to the public
  • Invite families to schedule one-on-one appointments with a librarian for an introduction to library resources or any other particular needs
  • Offer a speaker series for parents or caregivers, focusing on such topics as navigating the IEP process or transitioning to adulthood as a person with disabilities

The overwhelming message for those working with children of all abilities is that family engagement is central to our success, with one participant recalling the new mantra: “Relationships are the new reference.” Whether you are just embarking on your efforts toward increased inclusivity or years down that road, those words will always serve you well.


In defiance of her childhood dream of providing the voice for the next big Disney movie, Conference guest contributor Sara Beth Coffman (she/her/s) has managed to grow up to be a library services specialist serving youth and children at the Chattanooga Public Library. Also a freelance writer and reviewer, her work has appeared on the ALSC and YALSA blogs, and other outlets such as Chapter 16, The Southern Review of Books, and Library Journal. After several years of virtual conference attendance, she is looking forward to being in-person at ALA Annual, hoping to run into new friends and familiar faces. She previously served as YALSA’s Member-Manager for The Hub and is a member of the 2023 Morris Award Committee. 


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


One comment

  1. Kymberlee Powe

    I just wanted to add that this is the YouTube link to the GELS: Growing Equitable Library Services series.


    Any slides that were made available are embedded into the YouTube description box.

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