This post is by guest blogger Ivy Kuhrman, the Young Adult Librarian at the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library in New York City. The ALSC Children and Technology committee invited Ivy to write this piece to share information about the Andrew Heiskell Library’s innovative use of accessible technology in their youth services.
The Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library provides free library services to patrons living in New York City and Long Island who are blind, low vision, or otherwise unable to read standard print. In addition to free and accessible reading materials in both braille and audio formats and a robust calendar of library programming for all ages, we offer access to a wealth of accessible technology for patrons at the library and beyond!
While patrons of all ages are welcome to use our resources of their own accord, many young people visit our branch, located in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, for the first time as part of a school or day camp visit.
These group visits always include tours of the Dimensions Lab for tactile creation. We all need to understand maps, diagrams, images and other spatial information. For people who learn and work nonvisually, getting access to quality graphics and 3D models can be hard. The Dimensions Lab empowers library patrons to make access happen with free, hands-on training about best practices in tactile design and free, accessible hardware and software that anyone can use to start designing.
Visiting students get to experience examples of maps generated by Tactile Maps Automated Production (TMAP), charts and graphs, and images of anything from hand drawn doodles to famous works of art, and they have the opportunity to make their own creations to take with them. The Lab is home to many tools, including a braille embosser that raises dots so they can be felt, a Swellform machine that raises lines drawn or printed on special paper with high carbon ink, and a 3D printer for creating or duplicating 3D objects.
Patrons who know how to use these machines and their accompanying software can make appointments to pursue their own projects in the Lab, and those who want to learn can take advantage of the library’s free one-on-one tech coaching.
Upon request, groups of students can also schedule accessible creative coding workshops at the library using our sets of Snap Circuits Jr. and Micro:bit for MicroPython.
For teens, our tech offerings go beyond the library’s walls! Tweens and teens aged 10 to 18 can receive a free Kindle Fire to keep. They just need to complete an orientation to the device and to using BARD Mobile, an app that provides eligible patrons with downloadable braille and audio reading material.
The Andrew Heiskell Library is located at 40 West 20th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenue, in New York, NY. For more information about all of our offerings, visit our website: https://talkingbooks.nypl.org. For general questions, call 212-206-5400 or email us at email@example.com. To learn about the free tech coaching we offer or to make an appointment, please call 212-206-5400 and select option 3.
Today’s guest blogger is Ivy Kuhrman, the Young Adult Librarian at the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library. Prior to her current role serving teens, she worked as a Children’s Librarian at Queens Public Library.