iSchool Researchers at the University of Washington Release Autism Toolkit For Libraries
From the University of Washington iSchool:
Libraries aren’t as quiet as they used to be, and librarians don’t go around shushing people, but patrons still typically expect everyone to go about their business silently and calmly.
That is not always easy and might be especially hard for an autistic child who might need to express their excitement or move around, giving their parents and caregivers a difficult choice: Go to the library and potentially face scorn from librarians and other patrons or stay away and have their kids miss out on storytimes and everything else the library has to offer for kids.
Librarians don’t want families to have to make that choice, said Hala Annabi, an associate professor at the University of Washington Information School. “The librarians say, ‘We want to be inclusive and welcoming, but we don’t always know how to be. How do we identify and change problematic normative expectations and design programs to welcome and better serve autistic children and their families in our libraries?’” Annabi said.
In response, Annabi and iSchool Ph.D. candidate Milly Romeijn-Stout envisioned a research project to develop the Autism-Ready Libraries Toolkit, a free, online resource released in May. It equips librarians across the country with research-based strategies to conduct inclusive programming, change their library environments, and learn how to interact with neurodistinct children.
In more than two years of research developing the toolkit, the team worked closely with Pierce County libraries, the King County Library System and Timberland Regional Library. They also reached out nationwide and incorporated feedback from librarians in 42 states.
As part of the rollout of the toolkit, the library partners will receive sensory kits with items such as noise-canceling headphones, sunglasses and Fidgets to help make libraries more accessible for autistic children and their families. The researchers are launching an email campaign and partnering with the American Library Association to promote the toolkit to library systems across the country.
Direct to Autism-Ready Libraries Toolkit
About Gary Price
Gary Price (email@example.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com.