Services for library patrons with low vision or hearing loss

This training was held on March 26, 2015; I typed up notes to share with my co-workers but didn’t write a blog post at the time.

Perkins Solutions hosted a “Library In-Service” at the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown to help make libraries more accessible. I went to learn more about what kinds of difficulties and obstacles patrons with disabilities face in libraries and what libraries can do to help alleviate those and make the library more welcoming and easier to use. After all, the Library Code of Ethics states, “We provide the highest level of service to all library users through appropriate and usefully organized resources; equitable service policies; equitable access; and accurate, unbiased, and courteous responses to all requests” (emphasis added).

Here are some takeaways from the training:

Navigating the library for blind patrons (physical and online)

  • Offer to help if it looks like someone needs it, but do not touch them; the courteous thing to do is ask, e.g. “How can I help you best today?” They may want to take your arm (don’t take theirs) or they may not want physical contact.
  • If they have a guide dog, do not pet it; the dog is working. It’s nice to have a water dish for dogs, especially in the summer.
  • Websites are important; accessibility is key, but there is a difference between ADA compliance and true usefulness and efficiency.

Assistive Technology: Low-vision people are an “unseen, underserved” population. The technology has gotten very advanced; now it’s our job to catch up to technology, and do outreach to bring these potential patrons into the library.

  • CCTV (video) magnifiers: the reading material is placed flat on an X-Y tray (it moves on an X-Y axis, up and down and side to side), and the text is magnified on a screen. This is a “live” view of original material. Another version has a trackpad instead of the X-Y tray.
  • Handheld video magnifiers: These are good for scanning or skimming, not for long in-depth reading. They are portable and have more accessibility features than a simple magnifying glass.
  • OCR devices/magnifiers: This device presents a digital view by using OCR [optical character recognition] to capture the text and present it on the screen, but the original context and layout are lost.
  • Large print keyboards, keyboard guards: Large print keyboards (sometimes color-coded) can help low-vision people type. Keyboard guards can help those with fine motor control issues (e.g. Parkinson’s) choose one key at a time without accidentally pressing others.
  • iPads: iPads are very accessible!

Digital Accessibility: Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act applies to all agencies that receive any federal funding. There are three easy-to-check pieces of HTML code that will make your website more accessible:

  • Check that every page has a title (e.g. <title>Using the Library – Robbins Library</title>)
  • Check that the language is set to English (lang=”en”)
  • Use alt-text to caption images. If an image is decorative, like a border or a line, hide it by using alt=””. Otherwise, describe the images, e.g. alt=”Children listening to a librarian during a storytime in the Community Room”

Screen reading software such as MAGic or JAWS can also help patrons with low vision or blindness.

Patrons with hearing loss

  • One out of six Baby Boomers have hearing loss. In Massachusetts there are an estimated 546,022 people living with hearing loss.
  • To communicate with a person who has hearing loss, get their attention before speaking. Make eye contact. Try to avoid background noise, backlighting, or darkness (anything that makes it hard to see your face).
  • Ask the person for their preferred method of communication. Writing back and forth on paper or a whiteboard, or typing back and forth, is one good method. If you’re speaking, keep your hands away from your mouth, speak at a moderate pace without exaggerating or shouting, don’t overemphasize lip movements. Use short sentences. Rephrase as necessary.
  • Walk people to the area they’re looking for, draw a map, or give directions by hand signal.
  • Relax and be patient. Don’t ignore the person and have a conversation with someone else.
  • Don’t comment on how people communicate, even “compliments.” Don’t assume deaf people know sign language.
  • Keep a large-print, step-by-step “how-to” guide for the catalog, library databases, etc.

Assistive devices

  • Assistive listening devices (ALD) amplify sound for people with impaired hearing. Can keep at reference desk (make sure it’s charged!) and/or use during programs: the speaker wears a mic, the receiver wears headphones and a pocket device.
  • Assistive Listening Systems and Induction Loop: this is a loop built in to the perimeter of a room so that people with hearing aids or an ALD can “tap in.”
  • Text Telephone (TTY) Services (e.g. Sorenson, Purple, Convo, ZVRS) may be used by some deaf people to make phone calls; an ASL interpreter will facilitate the call.
  • Online chat reference should be accessible (large print, subject to screen reader software)

Perkins Braille and Talking Book Library Services

Perkins Library also offers resources directly to patrons; anyone with a print disability can be a member. (Keep applications [PDF] at the reference desk!). They can also contact visually impaired people in the library’s community, and help set up volunteer programs in libraries to help patrons learn how to use assistive technology.

What assistive technology does your library offer? Are there specific outreach efforts to promote these services? What barriers to access remain?

 

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A year of read-alikes

readalike logo/graphic, made in Canva
Logo designed in Canva

This year on the library blog, I started writing a new monthly post suggesting “readalikes” for one of our most popular books that month. It’s been a useful readers’ advisory tool, both for readers eager to read the most popular books, and for those who have already read them and are looking for similar titles.

Of the most popular books each month, I   featured books from different categories or genres, from literary fiction to nonfiction, young adult fiction to cookbooks.

January: The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware – a psychological thriller

February: Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance – a personal account of growing up as part of the declining white working class

March: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles – a popular work of literary historical fiction set in the Metropol hotel in Moscow in the 1920s, by the author of Rules of Civility

April: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – YA fiction inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and racial inequality

May: Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout – short stories by the author of My Name is Lucy Barton

June: Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan – literary fiction about a complicated family, set in Ireland and Boston

July: Al Franken, Giant of the Senate by Al Franken – a leftist political humor memoir (note: Franken has since resigned from the Senate after accusations of sexual harassment)

August: Dying by Cory Taylor and The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs – memoirs and other nonfiction on the topic of death and dying

September: What She Ate by Laura Shapiro – culinary historian Shapiro looks at three famous women through the lens of food and cooking

October: Glass Houses by Louise Penny – the newest Three Pines mystery featuring Armand Gamache

November: Smitten Kitchen Every Day by Deb Perelman – a second cookbook by the blogger with a dedicated following

December: Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan – a new work of historical fiction by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Visit From the Goon Squad, set in WWII-era New York

 

 

Early literacy and 1000 Books Before Kindergarten

1000 Books Before Kindergarten logoThe 1000 Books Before Kindergarten initiative is one I first heard about via the Cambridge Public Library. Like all the best arts & crafts projects and recipes, it looks wildly impressive, but is actually quite simple and manageable. As their mission statement says, “Numerous studies estimate that as many as one in five children have difficulties learning to read. Reading has been associated as an early indicator of academic success. Public formal education does not typically start until ages 5-6. Before then, parents and caregivers are the first education providers during the 0-5 early critical years.” The goals of the organization are simply “to promote reading to newborns, infants, and toddlers” and “to encourage parent and child bonding through reading.”

A thousand books sounds like a lot, but remember that picture books are short, and board books are really short. If you read just one book a day, that’s 365 books in one year, 730 books in two years, 1,095 books in three years, and 1,460 books in four years. It doesn’t have to be a thousand unique books, either; young children love (and learn from) repetition, growing more familiar with words, rhymes, and patterns.

If your parents, caregivers, and teachers read to you when you were a young child, then you’ve already shared this experience and it will be easier for you to model it from the other side. If reading aloud to/with a child isn’t as natural for you, or if you aren’t sure why it is important, here are some resources to help:

  • Reading Tips for Parents from the Department of Education (in English and Spanish)
  • Early Learning tips from the Hennepin County Library: “Learn how all family members and your public library can help prepare young children to be readers with five early literacy activities [talk, sing, read, write, play] that are fun yet powerful ways to encourage early learning.”
  • The Six Early Literacy Skills [PDF] from Every Child Ready to Read (ECRR)

If you don’t know what books to read to (or with) your child, librarians can help! If you can get to a storytime, that’s great – a good storytime librarian will model great read-aloud strategies, and for younger ages will often include fingerplay, songs, and rhymes; reasonable people don’t expect two-year-olds to sit still and listen quietly for half an hour! A decent bookstore is also likely to have a weekly storytime, and staff who can recommend great books for little ones.

If you can’t get to a storytime, just ask a librarian or bookseller what they recommend, and they should be able to give suggestions based on your child’s age and interests. Here are some other resources for finding great books to share with your child:

Does your library, bookstore, school, or other organization support 1000 Books Before Kindergarten? Have you participated with your child? There are participation resources on the site, from reading logs to certificates to apps to hashtags, though my favorite idea is keeping a handwritten reading journal. In general I don’t like incentives (e.g. “if you read 100 books you get a sticker”) because reading is its own reward (intrinsic motivation), but I like the T-shirt – it reflects pride in an accomplishment, and helps spread the word about the program.

1000 Books Before Kindergarten display at the Guilford (CT) Public Library
1000 Books Before Kindergarten display at the Guilford (CT) Public Library (names and faces obscured for privacy purposes)

What do people do all day?

Cover image of What Do People Do All Day? by Richard Scarry
What Do People Do All Day?

What do librarians do all day?

The scope of library jobs has expanded over the years. In many places, “reference librarians” are now called “adult services” or “information services” librarians to reflect the additional tasks and responsibilities we’ve taken on. Reference services are still a core part of the job, as is collection management (someone has to buy new books…and get rid of old ones). We plan programs, too, and of course, there are always “other duties as assigned.”

At the reference desk: Now that we have the Internet, what kinds of questions do librarians answer?

We still answer the occasional “ready reference” or simple question about a fact (spelling, grammar, geography, phone number lookup). We answer questions about library services: our hours, where the restrooms are located, how to reserve a museum pass or study room, where to find books/music/movies. We answer LOTS of tech questions and do a lot of troubleshooting: we help people use library apps like OverDrive, we help them print and make copies, we help them scan, we help them check out laptops and use library software, we show them library databases.

We answer questions about books and recommend books based on reader’s preferences (those are my favorite questions!). We help people navigate the internet to find information they need, whether it’s looking for an apartment on Craigslist, looking for love on a dating website, or applying for a job online. We help people in languages other than English. We help people doing research for school projects and college classes, and help people make Inter-Library Loan (ILL) requests for books that are not in our library network. We answer local history questions and connect people with unique local history resources.

Collection development: Where do the books come from (and where do they go)?

“Collection management” or “collection development” is the library term for acquiring new materials and deaccessioning (a.k.a. weeding) others, to maintain a collection that is current and interesting to our users. There is more collection development work now than there used to be, because there are more formats – not just fiction and nonfiction books, and magazines and newspapers, but paperbacks, foreign language materials, large print books, graphic novels and manga, audiobooks on CD and Playaway, digital content (e-books and digital audiobooks), movies and documentaries on DVD, music on CD, electronic databases, streaming services, video games, and more.

Library users may not think about where library materials come from, but someone has to select every title in every format. It’s a bigger job than it used to be, and it takes a lot of time: time to read (or skim) reviews in at least one review source (though there are many – Kirkus, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, School Library Journal, to name a few, and VOYA and The Horn Book for teens and children’s books), time to make lists and order the materials, time to keep track of spending so you’re neither under- nor over-budget by the end of the fiscal year.

 

Making things happen: What’s involved in planning a program?

You may well ask! “Program” is a bland word. A library program can be almost anything: a book group (and we have five of these, three of which are run by librarians, one of which – mine! – is a cookbook club that does a potluck), a lecture or author talk, a crafting project, a music concert, a film screening, a theater performance, a dance lesson, a tech petting zoo. We have offered computer classes, drop-in tech help sessions, resume and cover letter workshops, holiday card writing stations, game nights, and singalongs (not just for kids! Les Miserables and Pitch Perfect were very popular with adults).

For every program, there is a whole checklist of tasks to complete, in many different places (physical and digital):

  • Reserve event space on the library’s internal calendar (Google calendar)
  • Create the event on the library website calendar (WordPress)
  • If there is an outside performer/presenter, set a date and time and agree on payment or travel costs (e-mail or phone)
  • Add the event to our monthly press release (Google docs)
  • Create a flyer to post in the library (Publisher or Canva)
  • Make another version of the flyer to fit our digital sign (Publisher and Paint or Canva) and upload (Dropbox)
  • Make additional promo materials (e.g. bookmarks or half- or quarter-sheet handouts)
  • Write a blog post (WordPress)
  • Promote on social media (Facebook and Twitter via Hootsuite)
  • Set up event registration, if using, and send a reminder to participants (Eventbrite)

And that’s all before the day of the program itself. On that day, there is the time of the program itself, plus setup and cleanup, remembering to take a head count of attendees, and perhaps asking them to fill out a feedback form to help improve future programming.

The work of program planning, collection development, and creating displays largely takes place during our off-desk hours (the time that we are not at the reference desk), because, as they say, reports of our death have been greatly exaggerated; the library is busier than ever.

Other duties as assigned

Reference service, collection development, and program planning are three big chunks of the adult services librarian job. What else do we do? This varies from library to library. Here, we create displays (we have three display tables, and we create new displays every month, which means that our team of five full-time librarians creates thirty-six displays each year), write for the library blog, offer a variety of “readers’ advisory” services (from our staff picks shelf to our Goodreads account to handouts on specific topics or genres), contribute to the library’s social media accounts (Facebook and Twitter), attend monthly department meetings and other meetings for various committees and groups, and attend the occasional conference or other professional development activity. And of course, there are little tasks that take up time, such as refilling office supplies, cleaning up messes, watering the office plants, and anything else that arises.

So that’s what librarians do all day. Do you work in a library? What parts of your job do you think would surprise people?

 

Quotes from books, part VIII

Continuing the “quotes from books” series, this batch of quotes is from books I read between May 2017 and August 2017. The tenth quote here sums up the year pretty nicely.

  1.  “My mother always said that kindness was love in disguise.”Dodger, Terry Pratchett
  2.  “Every act of communication is a miracle of translation.” -from the preface of The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories, Ken Liu
  3.  “I am not one thing. I am everyone and everything that has touched me. This is the basic principle of forensic science: every contact leaves a trace.” (accompanied by an illustration)You Are Here, Jenny Lawson
  4.  “It’s not moving on…it’s moving differently.”Holding Up the Universe, Jennifer Niven
  5.  From “A Short History of Silence” in The Mother of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit: (a) “If the right to speak, if having credibility, if being heard is a kind of wealth, that wealth is now being redistributed”; (b) “Silence protects violence.”
  6.  From Elizabeth Wein’s author’s note at the end of The Pearl Thief: “This is what authors do: we make up stuff that might be true.”
  7.  Quoted in Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places: “We do not remember days, we remember moments.” (Cesare Pavese)Cover image of Among Others
  8.  “It is hard to see who a person is, through all of those memories of who they were.” –When the English Fall, David Williams
  9.  “How terribly hard it is to accept that other people feel what we feel.” –Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give, Ada Calhoun
  10.  “There are some awful things in the world, it’s true, but there are also some great books.” –Among Others, Jo Walton

See previous installments in this series here:

Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI | Part VII

Top Ten Mix and Match

Skimming the list of Top Ten Tuesday topics at The Broke and the Bookish, I noticed several for which I had a single instant answer, but not a list of ten. So I decided I’d make a list of ten of the Top Ten Tuesday topics for which I had one (okay, one-ish) answer each:

  1. Most Intimidating Books: Anything over 600 pages, really. It makes no sense – it just means reading one book instead of two in the same amount of time – but it’s a deterrent nevertheless.
  2. Books I Wish I Read As A Kid: Alanna and the whole Song of the Lioness quartet by Tamora Pierce. And Adulting by Kelly Williams Brown would have been useful right after college.
  3. Characters (and Literary Figures) That I Would Did Name My Children After: Lyra from The Golden Compass. (Also strongly considered Clare, from The Time Traveler’s Wife.)
  4. Hilarious Book Titles: I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley

    Book cover of Maine
    NOT an accurate representation of the novel Maine.
  5. Book Covers I Wish I Could Redesign: Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan. The photo of a young woman in a bathing suit on a beach does not represent this book AT ALL. I didn’t love the paperback cover for Gold by Chris Cleave, either, but the hardcover design was great.
  6. Books That Broke Your Heart: The Amber Spyglass was the first book I remember reading where I got to the end and thought the exact word heartbreaking.
  7. Most Frustrating Characters: Harry Potter in the fifth book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, was so whiny and angsty, and so terrible to Ron and Hermione, that I actually hated reading some parts of the book, no matter how realistic his behavior for a character that age. Be better, Harry!
  8. Series I’d Like to Start, but Haven’t Yet: The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin, and the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor. Maybe also something by Leigh Bardugo. I’m taking suggestions…
  9. Sequels We Can’t Wait to Get Our Hands On: I’m eager for the next book in any good series I start…but I remember being particularly desperate for each new book in Maggie Steifvater’s Raven Cycle, and I’ve been waiting for the second volume in The Book of Dust since the moment I read the last page of the first volume, La Belle Sauvage.
  10. Book Covers I’d Frame As Pieces of Art: I actually have two (2) pieces of Time Traveler’s Wife-related art on my walls: a Litograph, and an acrylic painting of the cover, done by a good friend. I wouldn’t mind a Litograph of Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride, either. Oh, and we have Mo Willems’ Pigeon, as well. I probably could come up with ten pieces of bookish art I’d want…