Friday, December 7, 2012

Final Reflections

Final Reflections
The end of the semester has arrived and along with it the time for reflection. This semester has greatly broadened by perspective and understanding of many issues regarding universal access both inside and outside of the library and information science community.
More than anything else, this course has inspired me to question what I can bring to the library community and how I can improve universal access on a local level. Much of the information provided in this course centered on the ideas of national efforts, but it’s the local stories that will truly shape our profession. Patrons living in rural and urban areas all face unique universal access challenges, but we, as library and information science professionals, all have the capacity to be inquisitive, creative, and informative in our observations and efforts to truly make the library an accessible place for all. Sometimes it’s the most unique and out-of-the-box ideas that really bring change. Keeping an open mind is key.
Coming into this course, I expected to learn the specific requirements of the American Disabilities Association that libraries must follow. And, although I did learn a lot about ADA requirements, I learned much more about opening my eyes to the barriers that individuals with disabilities face everywhere, every day. Through my group project which examined services being provided at two Urban Public Libraries, I realized just how far the profession is from providing a high level of service to this community. The Detroit Public Library does not even provide automatic doors! Let alone many of the more overlooked aspects of the everyday life and challenges of an individuals with a disability! Before taking this course I falsely assumed that all public libraries were required by law to meet all ADA requirements. I know realize how far from the truth this is. Many libraries, even some major urban libraries, do not make even the most obvious of accessibility concessions. It truly is saddening.
Yet, one cannot simply be pessimistic and sad about this. As I learned in this course, library professionals must take an active role in facilitating change. Without the efforts of librarians across the nation, many libraries would not be able to serve entire populations. Taking the time to take and share the results of a thorough Universal Access SWOT is one of the first steps that librarians can take to facilitate change.
As I look back upon what this class really taught me, I can passionately declare that it taught me the importance of activism for universal access in our profession. Without open eyes and ears to the needs of all individuals in our communities, libraries risk dis-serving entire populations, which is completely unacceptable.

Bridging the Digital Divide

Bridging the Digital Divide
Being able to successfully bridge the digital divide is one of the most pressing and important challenges that the librarians of the twenty-first century face. One of the most interesting studies that I have examined about this diverse topic comes from Colorado scholar Tammi Moe and is titled, Bridging the Digital Divide in Colorado Libraries. Moe defines the digital divide by stating,
“The "Digital Divide" is the mainstream buzzword for technology inequality. Since
the late 1990s, research has determined that the Digital Divide is an international phenomenon
with far-reaching effects and broad definitions. (Moe, 2004).”
It doesn’t take a genius to realize that financial and geographical barriers exist in our country which often limits individual’s experiences using technology. It’s shocking to think that many areas of our own country do not offer high speed internet access in the year 2012. One of the goals of modern librarianship is to provide access and education about new technologies to patrons.
 In a single hour at any public library one can encounter individuals of all technology skill levels. From the displaced auto worker using a computer for the first time to fill out unemployment applications to the tech savvy college student, the modern librarian must be able to assist patrons of all skill levels. Libraries can play a huge part in educating individuals about technology usage and purchasing decisions.
When reopening after the holiday break, I encountered a large number of individuals who received tech items as holiday gifts but were unfamiliar with how to set them up and use them. From Kindles to iPod’s the variety of items was staggering. Yet, all of these individuals viewed the library as a place to educate themselves about new technologies. This was very complementary and is important! When libraries become behind in their knowledge and abilities to help patrons with new technology, we become one step closer to being viewed as irrelevant by patrons and that is dangerous.
Bridging the digital divide is something that librarians strive for in their efforts every day. Hopefully in the future, more individuals will come to view librarians as tech experts as well as information providers!
Work Cited
Moe, T. (2004). Bridging the “Digital Divide” in Colorado Libraries: Survey Results from the Colorado Public Libraries and the “Digital Divide” 2002 Study. Public Libraries, 43(4), 227-232.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Mid-Semester Reflection


Looking back upon many of my writing this semester: both in this journal and in my pop culture blog, one thing really strikes me: how unaware I was before this course of the necessary accommodations that businesses and organizations must meet to effectively serve individuals with disabilities and the number of individuals with disabilities.

 Not only was I uninformed about these accommodations and this population, I was just plain naive. Now, having broadened my perspective, I notice when access areas don’t have automatic doors or ramps. I notice the young woman struggling to use a cane on an unpaved parking lot. I look for the computer access terminal where a wheelchair could comfortably fit. I notice the sign that has no imagery for the illiterate.

I now realize just how unaware of these important accommodations I was. I also know that it is not enough to simply notice, I must vocalize my observations in an attempt to create change. It’s not enough for the able-bodied individual to rely upon disabled individuals to voice their disappointment when access is not provided. The able-bodied must join with them in voice and vocalize these discrepancies.  It’s not only the right thing to do; it’s our responsibility as members of the greater library and information science community.

Outreach & Programming

Outreach & Programming

For this portion of the journal, I visited the Lenawee County Library, a public library system in Southeast Michigan. I was impressed by the wide variety of programs that the library offered to various groups including children, teens, adults, and seniors. The library also has a traveling bookmobile that visits various organizations and has public stops at several rural locations. The bookmobile visits several senior living facilities and a center for mentally challenged individuals.  Here are some examples of the different types of programs that they are offering this month:

Children’s Programs

·        Prime Time: a family storytelling program for all ages. This program offers translations services for Spanish Speaking patrons.

·        Library Treat Program: a program where children can have a treat if they visit the library during selected hours.

·        Family Morning Movie: Families can watch a popular movie together

Teen Programs

·        Gaming Program: featuring both video and board games

·        Teen Bookclub and Movie Night

Adult & Senior Programs

·        Origami group:  make Origami creations

·        Lenawee Weavers: a group of crafty individuals who weave their own creations.

·        Various Adult Bookclubs

·        Lenawee PC User Group: a group for computer users.

The library promotes inclusion through its wide variety of programs targeting a wide variety of patrons with various interests. The library also hosts most of the programs in a handicap accessible room. All programming is free and most programs provide any needed supplies.

There is not one specific individual who plans programming at Lenawee County Library. Each department (Youth Services, Adult Services, Bookmobile) plans activities to target their specific population. Most programs have an all age’s audience and can accommodate various levels of comprehension.

The bookmobile is one of the libraries true gems for outreach to seniors and individuals with disabilities. Various craft programs are offered as are storytelling’s on the bookmobile and in the senior centers where they visit.  Also the library provides a delivery service to patrons who cannot physically visit the library.

Overall the Lenawee County Library does a fantastic job of serving a wide variety of patrons in Lenawee County, including seniors and individuals with disabilities.

Universal Access

Universal Access

Universal Access is a term that seems very straightforward at first but upon closer examination reveals it’s true complexity. Every good librarian wants their library to be universally accessible. We all want all individuals to have the ability to utilize our resources and our facilities in a seamless manner. But sometimes this proves to be incredibly challenging. Being able to accommodate all users in an equal manner is often challenging for large and well funded libraries. But for smaller library systems including rural locations, this can be nearly impossible.

Erin Krake discusses the attempt to create a universally accessible library system throughout the state of Washington in her article, Universal Access: Statewide Vision or Pipe Dream (Krake, 2008). Some of the goals that the state of Washington created to move towards it’s vision of universal access are:

·        Any Washington resident can use the physical assets of any other library.

·        Every Washington resident has access to a one-stop shop on the internet that provides access to all resources available through the statewide library card.

·        Online databases are available statewide to every library, along with an easy-to0use federated search tool tailored to different age groups.

(Krake, 2008).

Krake describes this vision as everyone having access to everything, regardless of where they live or what taxes they pay (Krake, 2008).

Having experience working in several public and one academic library, I immediately thought off statistics. Each library that I worked at keep detailed statistics about circulation, internet usage, and overall headcounts. Under this type of system, it seems that statistics would be much less important. All libraries would essentially be the same, so only total statistics would matter.

Coming from a rather rural area of Michigan, I have visited several urban libraries while traveling. I can say that all libraries are not created equally! The vast amount of funding and resources available at many of the larger library systems makes many rural library systems seem almost archaic in comparison. Therefore, I believe that a statewide system like the one that Krake describes would highly benefit the universal accessibility of many rural locations.

Keeping in mind the complex differences between library systems, one must weigh both the costs and the benefits of universal access to determine it’s true complexity. Although we all strive for universal access, sometimes it comes at a large cost.

Work Cited

Krake, E. (2008). Universal Access: Statewide Vision or Pipe Dream?. Alki, 24(1), 8-30.




Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Media Representations

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Season 2, Episode 1, “Charlie Get’s Crippled.”
                One of my favorite television programs is the popular FX comedy, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Each episode finds a gang of young adult friends facing new adventures as they attempt to successfully manage a bar in urban Philadelphia. Recently, I watched an episode that explored many stereotypes about individuals who use wheelchairs titled, Charlie Get’s Crippled.
                In this episode, four able-bodied characters examine what treatment they would receive from the public if they had a visible disability. Although numerous aspects of disabilities are explored, the most memorable scenes in the episode occur when two able-bodied characters, Dennis and Mack, get into wheelchairs and explore a local shopping mall. There they encounter an individual who is using an actual wheelchair to facilitate his disability, who approaches them to chat. Dennis and Mack immediately overemphasize their pretend disabilities, claiming that they have polio. Although this scene is comical in nature, it does raise an important question: “Why can’t many able-bodied individuals accept those with disabilities as real people?”
                Having watched this episode before taking this course, I would not have examined this idea before. Sometimes it takes a comedy to raise important questions that other mediums may not be brave enough to explore.

Work Cited

McElhenney, R. (2006, June 29). It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Charlie Get's Crippled.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Reflections on Election Day

Reflections on Election Day

Today was Election Day. It’s a hectic day for many Americans as they head to the polls, often times enduring long waits and heavy traffic to be able to cast their ballot. In previous elections, I have always considered the experience of voting to be rather simple. But today, as I headed to the polls, I considered what casting a ballot may be like for an individual who is a member of the culture of disabilities or an older American. Here are a few observations that I made.

First and foremost I considered that all individuals have the right to cast an absentee ballot. Therefore, no American is required to actually visit the polls to vote. That being said, I strongly believe that all Americans who wish to vote on Election Day at a physical polling location should be able to as long as reasonable accommodations can be made.

Secondly, I considered that in order to physically get to the polling location in my community, most individuals would have to drive or be driven. Therefore individuals who cannot find a ride or drive themselves would not be able to make it.

Thirdly, I noticed when pulling into the polling location there were signs directing voters to their precincts. If an individual could not see or read, these signs would be little to no help.

The parking lot at the polling location was not paved; it was all gravel, making using a wheelchair much more challenging. Also, I did not find any directions to handicapped parking.

When voters enter the building to cast their ballot, they are again divided by precinct. Large signs indicated what number the line was for, but without being able to see or read, these signs would be useless.

While waiting in line to vote, I noticed that there were dividers put up to keep the line orderly. These divisions were quite narrow and many larger individuals or individuals who used a cane or wheelchair may be unable to fit. Also individuals who have a helper with them would most likely be unable to stand abreast to their helper.

When I examined the ballot, I noticed how small the print was and that being able to successfully use a pen to fill in bubbles is required. An older adult with arthritis or another condition that makes manual dexterity tasks challenging could really struggle to fill in these bubbles. Also, anyone with poor eyesight could struggle to read the ballot. An individual without reading or comprehension skills may be unable to physically read the ballot.

As I cast my ballot and left the polling location, I could not help but think how much more challenging casting a ballot would be for those with disabilities. I realized while voting today, how much this course has broadened my thinking. The observations that I made today were not made for an assignment, they were just my thoughts as I was voting. I am thankful to be able to vote and I am also thankful for the education that I received which has broadened my perspective and understanding of the culture of disabilities.