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IMLS Grant Extends Project ENABLE Work Into 2014

By: Diane Stirling
(315) 443-8975

Funding of $237,973 from the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian grant at the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) has again been awarded to Project ENABLE, a collaborative effort by the School of Information Studies (iSchool) and the Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University.

This year’s grant allows broadening of the existing program, extending “a high-quality, comprehensive continuing education program for school librarians to help them better serve the library and information needs of preschool students with disabilities,” according to the IMLS announcement. The effort involves 30 teams of general educators, special educators, and school librarians who collaboratively study types of disabilities, disability law, assistive technology, the Individualized Education Program process, accessibility, and Universal Design for Learning.  Project ENABLE stands for “Expanding Non-Discriminatory Access by Librarians Everywhere.”

Of 27 proposals submitted for a continuation grant, the iSchool program is one of only three to receive an ongoing award in 2012, according to Ruth V. Small, Ph.D., principal investigator for the project, and the iSchool’s Laura J. & L. Douglas Meredith Professor and director of the iSchool’s School Media Program. Initially funded in 2010, the effort has received recurring grants to implement additional phases.

“We are incredibly honored to have been one of only three proposals awarded this continuation grant,” Small noted. “To me, this demonstrates IMLS’ confidence in and support of the work we’re doing.”

Another year of funding will permit Project ENABLE to expand its reach beyond New York State to the entire United States, she said.  The next phase will begin this fall with planning for another series of workshops to be held the following summer.  Planners intend to recruit 30, three-person teams from throughout the country to participate by working with colleagues at other higher education institutions that prepare school librarians, Small explained. At the end of the workshop, participant teams will implement action plans for their schools, including conducting workshops for school librarian colleagues in their home districts.

In addition, the project’s web site will be further developed this fall for training purposes and its content incorporated into next summer’s training. New features and functions will be added to increase interaction and to permit application of learning to exercises and activities on the site. The enhancements will make the project’s free training much more widely accessible, and in the coming year, the availability of the training information will be publicized to librarians nationwide, according to Small.

The project also will extend its research arm by collecting data before, during, and after the face-to-face workshops. This will include surveys, interviews, observations, and the collection of artifacts produced by participants.

The professor acknowledged that the Project ENABLE’s outcomes have exceeded initial expectations. “Because we based the proposal for the project on findings from our study of the impact of New York’s school librarians on student learning and motivation, we knew that there was a need for training to help school librarians better serve their students with disabilities, and we knew that [the program] would be well received,” Small noted. “What we didn’t expect was the overwhelming positive comments and acknowledgements of our efforts.” 

Co-principal investigators are Renee Franklin Hill, Ph.D., professor in the School of Information Studies, and William Myhill, M.Ed., J.D., director of legal research and writing at the Burton Blatt Institute and an adjunct professor of law at Syracuse University. 

For information on the project, go to: http://projectenable.syr.edu.

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