As library people, our code of ethics pushes us to strongly respect and defend the intellectual freedom of the communities we serve. You can see this commitment across the American Library Association, including at the Office of Intellectual Freedom.
CMLE Headquarters likewise is passionate about this topic, so we are passing on some news from the ALA. We are copying their material here this month so you can see what is going on right now; but you can always go to their site yourself and get familiar with the issues facing us across the profession. You do not need to be an ALA member – this is for all of us in libraries to know and to share.
We are the guardians of free access to information for our communities; it’s not a responsibility to take lightly. Let’s all get familiar with these topics, so we are ready before problems come to our library!
Accessibility for individuals with disabilities is an important topic for any library. Not only is this a legal requirement for virtually all libraries, but it is also important to ensure that our libraries are welcoming and inclusive for all members of the community. This is particularly important when considering the way you offer your online materials. The four resources below make accessibility improvements approachable, no matter the staffing level of your library or the level of technical experience that you have.
ARL’s Web Accessibility Toolkit – Though created and maintained by the Association of Research Libraries, this toolkit has resources that will be useful to those working in any kind of library. The toolkit includes definitions and background information as well as best practices and a step-by-step process for fostering accessibility at your library. In addition, it has a resources section that includes a detailed page on best practices and resources for adding captions to your library’s video content.
WAVE (Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool) – WebAIM offers a wide array of web accessibility tools, information, and resources, but if I had to pick just one to recommend, it would be WAVE. This tool makes it simple to do a quick accessibility test of any website for which you have the URL. The resulting report provides detailed information in a way that is easy to read. While this tool might not catch every single potential problem on your site, it is an excellent way to find particularly troublesome issues.
Contrast Checker – One frequently overlooked aspect of accessibility is color contrast. This is important not only to those who are colorblind, but also for users who have low vision or are reading in low light. But, despite the fact that contrast is important to a large number of users, it is frequently ignored in the name of design aesthetics. This tool will not only allow you to check specific colors to ensure that they meet accessibility standards but will also let you save and share color pairs that work well (or poorly).
The Principles of Universal Design poster by NC State University College of Design – This resource moves a bit beyond basic accessibility to the concept of Universal Design, which is design that is “usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without adaptation or specialized design.” The poster sets forth the seven principles that are central to Universal Design and offers multiple examples for each principle. Implementing these principles will not only help to make your library more accessible, but will also make it welcoming for the widest possible range of users from those who are in a rush or have their hands full to those for whom English is not their first language and beyond. This poster is a great crash course on the topic and will almost certainly spark ideas for ways to make your library more inclusive.
I hope these resources will help you to improve your library’s accessibility and introduce you to new tools that will streamline your processes. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments or contact me on Twitter where I’m @CarliSpina.
This is such a nice library! The design, the services, the materials – all have been designed to connect to their patrons. That care taken in libraries for the needs of patrons is always impressive! On this trip I was escorted around the building by Vi Bergquist, CIO for SCTCC – and Treasurer for the CMLE Board.
If you do not think “comfortable seating” in a library is important – you are missing an important element of good service! In a research study I did across the state of Illinois, this came up as one of the big things patrons wanted. In this setting, the furniture not only looks well designed and comfortable, but they have thought about user needs. You can see the entrance just behind the couch; these high backs help to block out noise and to let students continue to converse and work together. Great planning like this leads to great results for patrons!
I absolutely loved this! As the daughter of a Vietnam Veteran, I know some of the struggles veterans and their families face. The work this school is doing to reach out to veterans in the community is truly impressive! This table, part of a national tradition of remembrance, was set up in the common area, for everyone to see and to reflect. They have a Veteran Services department in the school, which can really help out veterans and family members. A couple of meaningful awards are listed on their page:
“The Military Times Best for Vets distinction recognizes St. Cloud Technical & Community College for its commitment to providing opportunities to America’s veterans.”
“G.I. Jobs, the premier magazine for military personnel transitioning into civilian life, has awarded St. Cloud Technical & Community College the designation of Military Friendly School® for the third year in a row.”
Do you ever just want to see some really cool libraries?
Then feast your eyes on these! The American Institute of Architects has announced the seven winners of the 2016 Library Building Awards. All designed by US-licensed architects, these buildings highlight how libraries are adapting to serve the ever evolving needs of their communities.
One of the winners is close to home, the Hennepin County Walker Library. The design was made to be similar to the surroundings in the Uptown neighborhood. Check out their Flickr album showing the building process and finished product!
Many of the other winners of the award have included sustainable features in their buildings that make them eco-friendly. They also aim to be more accessible to their communities. In Kansas, the Lawrence Public Library Renovation and Expansion project has met this goal – after re-opening, visits increased by 55%!
Image credit: http://tinyurl.com/pofwmxw, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
TO: Minnesota Libraries
FROM: State Library Services
DATE: January 8, 2014
SUBJECT: Grant Announcement
Public Library Accessibility and Improvement Grants Awarded
State Library Services is pleased to announce the Round Two 2013 Public Library Accessibility and Improvement grant awardees. With $608,700 in funds available, five completed applications totaling more $1.1 million in requests were received by State Library Services. The two applications receiving top average scores by an independent review committee were approved for funding by Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius.
Anoka County will receive a grant of $150,000 toward the renovation of the Northtown branch in Blaine. The project will improve the accessibility of the building with an improved entrance, adapt the children’s area and other building spaces. Robert D. Thistle, Anoka County Library Board President noted that “the Library Board is pleased to receive this grant … the funds will allow us to make the service desk, restrooms and book returns accessible to all.”
The city of Ely will receive a grant of $458,699 toward building a new accessible library building. The current library, housed in Ely’s Community Center, has outgrown its space and is not accessible to people with mobility impairments. The new building will bring the library into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility guidelines. Rachel Heinrich, director of the Ely Public Library, noted that the grant will help “this ‘end of the road’ community to improve library service to the area residents without a significant tax increase by bridging the gap between cost savings gained by the new building and the payments on the building’s construction.”
The Public Library Accessibility and Improvement Grant program is a one-to-one matching construction grant program intended to support the renovation and construction of public libraries, with a special interest in ensuring accessibility for people with disabilities. The program is funded biennially by an appropriation from the Minnesota Legislature.